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Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice

Faith and Secularism in Contestation

CCRJ will be holding a Workshop called  "Shared Sovereignty:  Rights, Religion, and the Problem of Authority". This is part of the Centre's work on religion and secularism. Religious faith and human rights are often construed as universal value systems that inform comprehensive forms of authority. How are notions of sovereignty negotiated and, then, shared in spaces where authority is contested? In family law in Africa and the Middle East, for example, there
is often a three-way negotiation between religious authorities, human rights principles and state officials all competing for primacy over appropriate social norms. With conservative strands of Islam and Christianity increasingly visible as a social force, such contestation will only increase. This Workshop is the first stage of this project which will examine negotiations involving actors who claim alternative bases of religious and human rights (secular legal) authority. How do they understand the limits of their ethical, legal, and political jurisdictions (if they see any limits at all)? How do they conceive of parallel, overlapping, or shared jurisdictions? We seek to illuminate diverse efforts to accommodate or restrict competing authority claims in a variety of international and domestic political contexts, engaging scholars of international relations, comparative politics, and political theory working on religious and secular notions of sovereignty both theoretically and empirically.

CCRJ is pursuing research on the relationship between faith based and secular actors in a range of areas including humanitarianism, human rights, law, education, migration, and transitional justice.  Steve Hopgood and Leslie Vinjamuri are collaborating on a project that investigates the resurgence of faith-based humanitarianism and the more competitive dynamic this has created in the market to attract humanitarian funding and members. Their work is part of a project funded by the Luce Foundation and Directed by Professor Michael Barnett, of the University of Minnesota.  Leslie Vinjamuri is also pursuing an ongoing research project (with Aaron Boesenecker, American University) that conceptualises the role of faith-based and secular actors engaged in constructing transitional justice norms and practices.  Aspects of this work is part of a collaborative research project on restorative justice directed by Professor Daniel Philpott, at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, and Professor Jennifer Llewellyn, of Dalhousie Law School.