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How does religion matter? Pathways to religion in International Relations


This article contributes to the growing subfield of research on religion and International Relations (IR) by discussing ways to take substantial and sui generis aspects of religion into account. It is argued that IR scholars need more critical methodological and conceptual reflection on how to integrate religion in order to navigate between two typical analytical positions: either focusing on the instrumental relevance of religion only or treating religion as an unchangeable meta-category and delinking it from its practitioners or context. The article first discusses why there is a need to be attentive to distinctive aspects of religion and then moves on to scrutinise three IR-relevant pathways to include these aspects of religion in analysis, namely religion as belief community, religion as power, and religion as speech act. It appears that future research along these lines can contribute significantly to the way IR scholars habitually think about key issues such as parameters of behaviour, standards of legitimacy, and the dynamics of conflicts.

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1 See for example the important contributions made in Johnston, Douglas and Sampson, Cynthia, Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Appleby, Scott R., The Ambivalence of the Sacred (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999); Gopin, Marc, Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence, and Peacemaking (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Dark, Ken R., Religion and International Relations (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000); Carlson, John and Owens, Erik, The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics (Georgetown: Georgetown University Press, 2003); Petito, Fabio and Hatzopoulos, Pavlos, Religion in International Relations: The Return from Exile (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Johnston, Douglas, Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); Fox, Jonathan and Sandler, Shmuel, Bringing Religion into International Relations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Philpott, Daniel, The Politics of Past Evil – Religion, Reconciliation and the Dilemmas of Transitional Justice (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).

2 For example, the American Social Science Research Council's (SSRC) working group on Religion and International Affairs, which aims at sharpening both scholarly and public attention on religion's place in international affairs. It brings together Talal Asad, Charles Taylor, Jose Casanova, Alfred Stepan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Peter Katzenstein, Scott Appleby, Cecilia Lynch, John Esposito, Craig Calhoun, Saba Mahmood and Mark Juergensmeyer. The Luce Foundation's Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, announced in June 2005, supports this and various other projects at different educational institutions in the US. Articles, essays and commentaries on the topic are also disseminated through academic blogs, for example, the Immanent Frame run by the SSRC group, and the Program on Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations at the Liechtenstein Institute on Self Determination, initiated by Princeton University.

3 Cf. Thomas, Scott M., The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations. The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Hurd, Elizabeth, The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007); Hurd, Elizabeth, ‘Theorizing Religious Resurgence’, International Politics, 44 (2007), pp. 647–65.

4 It should be stressed that religion is relevant for IR not only when it comes to issues of terrorism and violence but also when it comes to issues of diplomacy and conflict-resolution as noted in the introductory lines. Other relevant areas are development studies, the study of democracy and globalisation. However the conceptual and methodological questions discussed in the present article are also relevant for these other empirical fields.

5 Philpott's survey of four major IR journals shows that six of 1,600 articles published between 1980–99 included religion as an influential factor. Philpott, Daniel, ‘The Challenge of September 11 to Secularism in International Relations’, World Politics, 55 (2002), pp. 6695.

6 Wald, Kenneth and Wilcox, Clyde, ‘Getting Religion: Has Political Science Rediscovered the Faith Factor?’, American Political Science Review, 100:4 (2006), pp. 523–9.

7 Jonathan Fox, ‘The Multiple Impacts of Religion on International Relations: Perceptions and Reality’. Available at: {} accessed 10 August 2011.

8 Petito, Fabio and Hatzopoulos, Pavlos, Religion in International Relations; José Casanova, ‘Political challenges from religion in the 21st century’, paper presented at Religion in the 21st Century: Transformations, Significance and Challenges (Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen (September 2007).

9 Bellin, Eva, ‘Faith in Politics – New Trends in the Study of Religion and Politics’, World Politics, 60 (2008), pp. 315–47.

10 Wald, Kenneth and Wilcox, Clyde, Getting Religion.

11 For example, Thomas, Scott, ‘Taking Religious and Cultural Pluralism Seriously: The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Society’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 29:3 (2000), pp. 815–41; Lynch, Cecelia, ‘Acting on Belief: Christian Perspectives on Suffering and Violence’, Ethics & International Affairs, 14 (2000), pp. 8397; Nukhet Sandal and Patrick James, ‘Religion and IR Theory: Towards a Mutual Understanding’, paper presented at ISA's 50th annual convention, Exploring the past, anticipating the future (New York City, 15 February 2009).

12 Laustsen, Carsten Bagge and Wæver, Ole, ‘In Defence of Religion: Sacred Referent Objects for Securitization’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 29:3, pp. 705–39. Reprinted in Religion in International Relations: The Return from Exile (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Thomas, Scott, ‘Faith, History, and Martin Wight: the Role of Religion in the Historical Sociology of the English School of International Relations’, International Affairs, 77:4 (2001), pp. 905–29; Sharp, Paul, ‘Herbert Butterfield, the English School and the Civilizing Virtues of Diplomacy’, International Affairs, 79:4 (2003), pp. 855–78.

13 Thomas, Faith, History, and Martin Wight, p. 926.

14 Lynch, Cecelia, ‘A neo-Weberian Approach to Religion in International Politics’, International Theory, 1:3 (2009), pp. 381408.

15 For a review of the debate on Huntington's theory, see Fox, Jonathan, Religion, Civilization and Civil War: 1945 Through the New Millennium (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004).

16 See, for example, Rudolph, Susann H. and Piscatori, James P., Transnational Religion and Fading States (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997); Lynch, Acting on Belief; and the contributions in the special 2000 edition of Millennium on religion and international politics.

17 Jonathan Fox argues that it is not the reality on the ground that has changed since 2001, but our perception of the same facts, see Fox, The Multiple Impacts of Religion. In other words, religion has not been absent and then suddenly reappeared, as many observers suggest under breaking headlines such as the ‘De-secularization of the World’, ‘The Return from Exile’ or ‘The Revenge of God’. Cf. Berger, Peter L., The Desecularization of the World (Washington DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1999); Keppel, Gilles, The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World (London: Polity Press, 1994); Petito, and Hatzopoulos, , Religion in International Relations: The Return from Exile.

18 Bellin, Faith in Politics. Bellin points out two trends within the comparative politics literature that engage with religion, but as dependent variables. One is the ‘religious economy school’ focusing on rational calculations of organisational interest to explain the behaviour of religious institutions. The second is exemplified by the statistical studies by Norris and Ingelhart, seeking to explain fluctuations in religiosity around the world by arguing for the correlation between religiosity and the human need for security and predictability. See Norris, Pippa and Inglehart, Ronald, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

19 In comparison to other social sciences, which have also been influenced by modern rationalist discourse, IR scholarship has only recently begun to focus on religion ‘again’. Already from the 1970s there were voices among political scientists and sociologist who questioned the rejection of religion and the validity of the secularisation theories put forward by thinkers like Karl Marx, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, August Comte and Emile Durkheim, see Fox, The Multiple Impacts of Religion.

20 Many years ago Mark Juergensmeyer labelled this conflict a new cold war between religious nationalist and the secular state, see Juergensmeyer, Mark, The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). Today this conflict can best be seen as multidimensional, since religion and secularism confront each other on different scenes with different connotations. See also Sheikh, Mona K. and Wæver, Ole, ‘Western Secularisms: Variation in a Doctrine and its Practice’, in Tickner, Arlene B. and Blaney, David L. (eds), Thinking International Relations Differently (London: Routledge, 2012); and Juergensmeyer, Mark, Global Rebellion. Religious Challenges to the Secular State, From Christian Militias to Al Qaeda (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008).

21 Caroline de Muckadell Schaffalitzky, ‘On Defining Religion: Between Scylla and Charybdis’, unpublished manuscript (Odense: University of Southern Denmark, 2007), p. 3.

22 See also Buzan, Barry and Wæver, Ole, ‘Slippery? Contradictory? Sociologically Untenable? The Copenhagen School Replies’, Review of International Studies, 23:2 (1997), pp. 241–50.

23 Juergensmeyer, Mark and Sheikh, Mona Kanwal, ‘A Sociotheological Approach to understanding Religious Violence’, in Jerryson, Michael, Juergensmeyer, Mark and Kitts, Margo (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence (Oxford, Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

24 For comprehensive historical accounts of defining religion, see Wilson, Brian C., ‘From the Lexical to the Polythetic: A Brief History of the Definition of Religion’, in Idinopulos, Thomas A., and Wilson, Brian C. (eds), What is Religion? (Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. 141–62; and Strenski, Ivan, Thinking about Religion – A Historical Introduction to Theories of Religion (Malden Mass: Blackwell, 2006). For different perspectives on how to define and conceptualise religion see Segal, Robert, ‘Diagnosing Religion’, in Idinopulos, Thomas A., and Wilson, Brian C. (eds), What is Religion? (Leiden: Brill, 1998); Smith, Jonathan Z., Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982); Beyer, Peter, ‘Conceptions of Religion: On Distinguishing Scientific, Theological, and ‘Official’ Meanings’, Social Compass, 50 (2003), pp. 141–60; McKinnon, Andrew M., ‘Sociological Definitions, Language Games and the ‘Essence’ of Religion’, Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 14:1 (2002), pp. 6183. Pals, Daniel L., ‘Is Religion a Sui Generis Phenomenon?’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, LV:2 (1987), pp. 259–84.

25 See Segal, Diagnosing Religion.

26 Spiro, Melford E., ‘Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation’, in Banton, Michael (ed.), Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion (London: Tavistock Publications, 1978), pp. 85126.

27 Pals, Is Religion a Sui Generis Phenomenon?

28 Lynch, A Neo-Weberian Approach to Religion.

29 In religious studies the very question of defining the ‘being’ of religion has been challenged since the 1980s by a constructivist and post-structuralist trend, see, for example, Smith, Imagining Religion; McCutcheon, Russel T., ‘Redescribing “Religion” as a Social Formation: Toward a Social Theory of Religion’, in Idinopulos, Thomas A., and Wilson, Brian C. (eds), What is Religion? (Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. 5171; McCutcheon, Russel T., The Discipline of Religion. Structure, Meaning, Rhetoric (New York: Routledge, 2003); Fitzgerald, Timothy, The Ideology of Religious Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). Voices from this camp have argued for a shift in the field's focus, from religion as the object of study to religion as an analytical implication. Within this approach, religion is first and foremost the creation of the scholar and serves the purpose of analysis. This post-structuralist orientation towards discourses, representational practices, and the definitional process thus rejects the possibility of finding a universal or singular definition of religion. See also Asad, Talal, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993). Such thinking has mostly been forwarded as an ‘anti-imperialistic’ critique in order to deconstruct hegemonic constructions of religion and point out that religion is a negotiable, contested, and historically affected category which appears with different connotations in different times and geographical settings.

30 Cavanaugh, William, ‘Does Religion Cause Violence’, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, 35 (2007), pp. 2235.

31 Beckford, James A., Religion and Advanced Industrial Society (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989).

32 Fox, Jonathan, ‘Religion as an Overlooked Element of International Relations’, International Studies Review, 3:3 (2001), pp. 5373. See p. 59.

33 Fox, Jonathan, Ethnoreligious Conflict in the Late Twentieth Century (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2002).

34 Thomas, Scott, ‘Religion and International Conflict’, in Dark, K. (ed.), Religion and International Relations (London: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 123; Thomas, Taking Religious and Cultural Pluralism Seriously.

35 Haynes, Jeffrey, An Introduction to International Relations and Religions (Harlow: Pearson Education, 2007).

36 According to Haynes this foundation has four pillars: 1) states are the sole legitimate actors; 2) governments do not interfere in how other countries organise their religion-politics relation; 3) religious authorities have limited political functions; and 4) church and state are separated. Haynes, An Introduction.

37 Arguably these categories also cover the aspects of religion pointed out by Fox, Thomas and Haynes. Religion as belief community cover the belief-oriented analyses, religion as power cover the legitimacy-oriented analyses and religion as speech-act cover the effect-oriented analyses of religion.

38 Hasenclever, Andreas and Rittberger, Volker, ‘Does Religion Make a Difference? Theoretical Approaches to the Impact of Faith on Political Conflict’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 29:3 (2000), pp. 641–74.

39 For the difference between primordialist, instrumentalist and constructivist approaches to the role of religion in conflict, see Hasenclever and Rittberger, Does Religion Make a Difference?

40 Thomas, Scott M., The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations. The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

41 Juergensmeyer, Mark, ‘Religion as a Cause of Terrorism’, in Richardson, Louise (ed.), The Roots of Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 2006), pp. 133–44.

42 For a review of this approach see Crone, Manni, Gad, Ulrik Pram, and Sheikh, Mona Kanwal, ‘Review Essay: Dusting for Fingerprints: The Aarhus Approach to Islamism’, Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 17 (2008), pp. 189203.

43 This understanding also reflects cynical view of speech as mere rhetoric or as only a strategic tool to advance the hidden ‘real’ interests of the actor. An example of this view is the approach advocated by Pauletta J. Otis. In order to unravel the relationship between religion and warfare she argues for a focus on the motives, aims, and capabilities of religious actors. Speech is excluded since it is only ‘popular in the press’ and cannot say anything about the ‘actual threat’ (cf. presentation under the title ‘Religion and Violence in the 21st century’ at the International Studies Association 46th convention, 1–5 March 2005). See also Otis, Pauletta, ‘Religion and War in the 21st Century’, in Seiple, Robert and Hoover, Dennis (eds), Religion and Security: the New Nexus in International Relations (Pennsylvania: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004).

44 Illustrative of a trend that approaches religion in such a detached way is that part of research on Islamism and terrorism that builds the entire analysis upon religious texts and the reading of classical Islamist texts (by authors who are dead and gone) only to conclude – without further methodological reflections on the link between text and practice – that Islamism constitutes a present danger. For a critical review of this approach to Islamism, see Manni Crone et al., Dusting for Fingerprints.

45 Following book is an example: Avalos, Hector, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence (New York: Promethus Books, 2005).

46 For this point see also Crone et al., Dusting for Fingerprints.

47 Philpott, Daniel, ‘Explaining the Political Ambivalence of Religion’, American Political Science Review, 101:3 (2007), pp. 506–25.

48 Lynch, A neo-Weberian Approach to Religion, p. 405.

49 Ibid., p. 399.

50 Ibid., p. 402.

51 Lindbeck, George A., The Nature of Doctrine: Religion Theology in a Postliberal Age (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1984), p. 37.

52 This approach is also congruent with those strands of discursive psychology or social psychology that dissolve the mind-body dichotomy. For example, Edwards, Derek and Potter, Jonathan, Discursive Psychology (London: Sage, 1992); Harré, Horace R. and Gillett, Grant, The Discursive Mind (London: Sage, 1994); Gee, James P., The Social Mind (New York: Bergin and Garvey, 1992). Scholars within these traditions do not see discourse as the product or expression of thoughts/the mind lying behind it, but rather these are immanent in discursive practice. This view is part of what has been called the ‘second cognitive revolution’ that challenged the idea that mental and psychological entities exists in a self-contained way. Instead it brought forward the idea of ‘socio-mental practice’ and positioned these seemingly psychological entities out in ‘the social world of action and interaction’. Thus beliefs or doctrines can not be isolated or identified out of the context in which they are expressed, and as argued by Harré and Gillet, the mind (for example, beliefs, emotions, attitudes, intentions) only come into existence ‘in the performance of actions’ (p. 22). The mind with all that it contains instead of being a separate entity is actualised through ‘the telling’ (Gee, The Social Mind, p. 60) and this speech-act perspective facilitates a more dynamic view on the relationship between psychological entities and the social world.

53 Toft, Monica Duffy, ‘Getting Religion? The Puzzling Case of Islam and Civil War’, International Security, 30 (2007), pp. 97131.

54 Ibid., p. 15.

55 In Bellin, Faith in Politics these approaches are treated under the label of a ‘religious economy school’ and include Kalyvas, Stathis, The Rise of Christian Democracy in Europe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996); Gill, Anthony, Rendering unto Caesar: The Catholic Church and the State in Latin America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Warner, Carolyn, Confessions of an Interest Group: The Catholic Church and Political Parties in Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

56 Kubalkova, Vendulka, ‘Towards an international political theology’, Millenium, 29:3 (2000), pp. 675704.

57 Moghadam, Assaf, ‘Motives for Matyredom – Al-Qaida, Salafi Jihad, and the Spread of Suicide Attacks’, International Security, 33:3 (2008), pp. 4678.

58 Mark Juergensmeyer and Mona Kanwal Sheikh, A Sociotheological Approach to understanding Religious Violence.

59 Kubalkova, Towards an international political theology.

60 Juergensmeyer, Global Rebellion.

61 Mark Juergensmeyer has among others notes that Osama Bin Laden also explained his views with references to the defence of freedom, justice and order. For him 9/11 was a reaction against ‘aggressive American’ polices in the Muslim world and the world ‘already in war’. See Juergensmeyer, Mark, Terror in the mind of God, the global rise of religious violence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 145.

62 The Copenhagen School of security studies is a school of security-theoretical thought with origins in International Relations theorist Barry Buzan's book People, States and Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations, first published in 1983. The main theorists associated with the school include Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver and Jaap de Wilde. The primary book of the Copenhagen School is Buzan, Barry, Wæver, Ole and de Wilde, Jaap, Security: A New Framework for Analysis (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1997). Since 2007 the Copenhagen School has been institutionalised in the Center for Advanced Security Theory headed by Ole Wæver, who developed the securitisation theory, at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen.

63 Wæver, Ole, ‘Securitization and Desecuritization’, in Lipschutz, Ronnie D. (ed.), On Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 4686, see p. 55.

64 Buzan et al., Security: A New Framework, pp. 23–6.

65 For instance, in the environmental sector, pollution is identified as a threat while the environment or civilisation as such is the referent objects of security. In the same manner immigration or EU integration are identified as threats to identity or the national ‘we’ in the societal sector. See Buzan et al., Security: A New Framework.

66 Among scholars engaged in security studies there has long been a debate on whether conceptual clarification comes before an analysis or should be part of the result of an analysis. Advocating for policy relevance, David Baldwin argues for integrating the discipline of security studies with the field of foreign policy. According to Baldwin, the way to make the discipline of security studies policy-relevant – and thus answer why questions – is exactly by defining clear-cut concepts of security: ‘Without clear concepts … scholars are apt to talk past each other, and policymakers find it difficult to distinguish between alternative policies.’ See p. 6 in Baldwin, Daniel, ‘The Concept of Security’, Review of International Studies, 23 (1997), pp. 526. Whereas this approach stresses the importance of clear definitions of concepts and their objects of reference, the post-structuralist approach points to the importance of opening up different households of meaning within the same concept. In opposition to the argument put forward by Baldwin, Ole Wæver stresses that opening up different meanings of the same concept also opens up the possibility for alternative lines of action and thus also remains policy relevant. See Wæver, Ole, ‘Détente between Conceptual Analysis and Conceptual History’, in Hallenberg, J., Nygren, B., and Robertson, A. (eds), Transitions. In honour of Kjell Goldmann (Stockholm: Department of Political Science), pp. 85107.

67 Wæver, Securitization and Desecuritization.

68 Laustsen and Wæver, In Defence of Religion.

69 Ibid., p. 710. Laustsen and Wæver further describe this as three main dimensions of religion: ‘It has faith as the guiding principle of discourse. This faith is only possible due to a distinction between immanent and transcendent, and this distinction is finally reinterpreted as a distinction between sacred and profane.’ (p. 718).

70 Laustsen and Wæver (2003 edition), p. 166.

71 Laustsen and Wæver, In Defence of religion, p. 725.

72 Laustsen and Wæver (2003 edition), p. 166.

73 That it is the ‘Islamic blend’ of religion and politics, which is problematic, appeared, for instance, as the conclusion in two reports published by the influential American think tank RAND after 2001: ‘The Muslim World after 9/11’ (2004) was prepared for the United States Air Force while ‘Civil Democratic Islam’ (2003) was prepared for the RAND National Security Research Division. The tendency to frame the values of the Enlightenment, reason, and secularism in opposition to religion and traditionalism is apparent in both RAND reports. In their representations modernity is grounded in the ability to separate religion and politics, while traditionalism is made antithetical to the basic requirements of a modern democratic mind-set, defined by critical thinking, individual liberty, and secularism. The way to confront terrorism and Islamism is to promote secularised versions of Islam, as stated in one of the reports: Islam must be influenced to adopt the values of the West, Christianity and secularism: ‘… it is no easy matter to transform a major world religion. If “nation-building” is a daunting task, “religion-building” is immeasurably more perilous and complex’ (RAND, 2003, p. 3).

74 Anthropologist Benson Saler also argues that religion is a Western folk-category that requires clarification if it is to become an analytically useful concept, which is able to facilitate transcultural research and understanding. See Saler, Benson, Conceptualizing Religion: Immanent Anthropologists, Transcendent Natives, and Unbounded Categories (Leiden: Brill, 1993).

75 Smart, Ninian, Dimensions of the Sacred: An Anatomy of the World's Beliefs (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

76 See, for example, Mona Kanwal Sheikh, ‘Guadians of God – understanding the religious violence of Pakistan's Taliban’, Dissertation (Copenhagen: Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, 2011).

77 This also nuances the idea put forward by Laustsen and Wæver that religion is especially prone to securitisation due to the religious practices and doctrines of its believers that, according to the argument, bridge the transcendent/immanent gap. See Laustsen and Wæver, In defence of Religion. Instead it brings in the idea that within different faith traditions and contexts some aspects of religion can be easier to securitise than others.

78 See also Buzan, Barry and Wæver, Ole, ‘Macrosecuritization and Security Constellations: Reconsidering Scale in Securitization Theory’, Review of International Studies, 35 (2009), pp. 253–76.

79 Wight, Martin, Power Politics, 2nd edn (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1986), p. 139.

80 Carr, Edward Hallett, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919–1939. An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London: MacMillan, 1962).

81 According to Laustsen and Wæver (2003 version) being – defined as a fundamental identity – is the criterion for survival in the religion sector (p. 158). This is however again a very abstract and philosophical notion, hard to apply (and recognise) in concrete analysis and also difficult to find evidence for in literature dealing with religious violence.

82 Brian C. Wilson describes polytheic definitions of religion, as those that are based on a set of characteristics that do not all have to be present in order for something to qualify for religion. The definition of Wæver and Laustsen amounts to a ‘prototypical polytheic’ definition where one of the members of the religion concept functions as the prototype and has all of the characteristics. This enables the term quasi-religion. Another way to do this is through ‘open polytheic definitions’ where none of the members of the concept have all characteristics. See Wilson, From the Lexical to the Polythetic.

83 Juergensmeyer, Religion as a Cause of Terrorism, pp. 133–44.

84 Asad, Talal, ‘Reflections on blasphemy and secular criticism’, in De Vries, Hent (ed.), Religion: Beyond a Concept (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), p. 585.

* This article was drafted during my research stay at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at UCSB. I am grateful to the Center for hosting me, and in particular I am thankful to the programme director, Dr. Victor Faessel, for his facilitation. An earlier version of the article was presented at the ISA's 50th annual convention held in New York City, February 2009, and I am thankful for the various inputs received at this occasion. I am also indebted to Prof. Scott Appleby, Prof. Mark Juergensmeyer, Prof. Cecelia Lynch, Prof. Dan Philpott, and Prof. Ole Wæver for their helpful comments on earlier drafts and ideas. Finally I am grateful for the very concrete suggestions provided by the anonymous reviewers. Insofar as the article succeeds in illuminating different pathways to religion in IR, it is due to the fingerprints of this helpful lot.

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