Category Archives: Upcoming Events

“Historicizing the Global Politics of Religious Freedom” Prof Matthias Koenig (October 23, 2018)

October 23, 2018

“Historicizing the Global politics of Religious Freedom”

Professor Matthias Koenig (University of Göttingen)
12:00pm to 2:00pm, Room 318 Jackman Humanities Building
Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

RSVP Required:

Religion has become an increasingly salient marker of symbolic and social boundaries in nation-states across the world. In both immigration and post-colonial settings, state authorities and social activists struggle over the public recognition of religious differences and the accommodation of religious minorities. These struggles, whether inside or outside the courtroom, widely draw upon scripts of religious freedom and minority rights as institutionalized in constitutional and international law. In an attempt to historicize neo-institutional world polity theory, this paper scrutinizes the transregional entanglements in which these scripts emerged. Drawing on a relational dataset of bilateral treaties in the long 19th century, it describes how norms of religious freedom and minority rights, spreading through the network of sovereign states, were universalized and institutionalized in international law. It shows that this process was highly influenced by power configurations between empires, nation-states and social movements, including missionary organizations, ethno-religious minorities, and transnational associations. As these configurations have left traces in competing interpretations of global scripts, their knowledge is indispensable for understanding contemporary politics of religious difference.

Matthias Koenig is Full Professor of Sociology at the University of Göttingen and Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. He has held visiting positions at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, the University of Toronto, the University of Michigan, and Harvard University. He has published widely on sociological theory, human rights, religion and immigrant integration; his most recent book is Religion and National Identities in an Enlarging Europe (co-edited with W. Knöbl & W. Spohn, Palgrave 2015).


“Reforming Islamic Family Law in Lebanon: A Political Anthropology of Religion” Dr Jean-Michel Landry (November 21, 2018)

November 21, 2018

“Reforming Islamic Family Law in Lebanon: A Political Anthropology of Religion”

Dr Jean-Michel Landry (McGill University)
12:30pm to 2:00pm, Room 2027 Osgoode Hall Law School

RSVP Required:

What does legal activism tell us about the way Islamic family law is constructed and applied in the Middle East? Over the last decades, the problem of gender-based custody allocation has sparked intense mobilizations across the region. In Lebanon, Sunni and Shi‘i citizens led two parallel campaigns to modify the shari‘a-derived norms enforced in custody disputes. Their efforts produced perplexing results: while Sunnis Lebanese succeed in modifying the legislation, the Shi‘a failed to bring about even a modicum of change. How could two parallel campaigns mobilized around the same issue, launched in the same country, and executed at the same time produce such opposite results? By following courses of action taken by Sunni and Shi‘i activists, paying attention to their mistakes, failures and achievements, we gain a new perspective on the making of religion-based family law, and its entanglement with the legal grammar of secularism.

Jean-Michel Landry is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at McGill University and an affiliated researcher at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2016.  His work focuses on secularism, religion, gender and political anthropology. He received the 2016 Best Dissertation Award from the Association of Middle East Anthropology for his dissertation, entitled The Practice of Shi‘i Jurisprudence in Contemporary Lebanon.