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International politics after secularism


At the height of the influence of the secularisation thesis religion was understood to be absent from affairs of state and the law, including international politics and international law. As the critique of secularisation gained momentum this master narrative fell apart, and a new consensus began to take shape. The notion that religion had been ignored and should be ‘brought back in’ to International Relations took centre stage among many academics and practitioners. The assumption is that restoring religion in the right way will help address the problems associated with having ignored religion in IR, paving the way for the marginalisation of violent religion and globalisation of religious freedom. This article undertakes a critical analysis of this restorative narrative and the religious and political world it is creating. It then proposes a different approach to the intersection of religion and world politics after secularism. This approach draws attention to the authority of transnational actors such as the United States, United Nations, and European Union to shape the public administration of religious affairs globally. Channels through which this is accomplished include the promotion of religious freedom, humanitarian intervention, foreign aid, nation building and democratisation, counterterrorism and peace-building efforts, and the pronouncements of supra-national courts.

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Jonathan Fox and Shmuel Sandler , Bringing Religion into International Relations (New York: Palgrave, 2004)

Robert M. Bosco , ‘Persistent Orientalisms: The Concept of Religion in International Relations’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 12:1 (2009), p. 108

Erin K. Wilson , After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

Michael Barnett and Janice Gross Stein (eds), Sacred Aid: Faith and Humanitarianism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)

Scott M. Thomas , 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)

Philip Gorski , John Torpey , David Kim , and Jonathan VanAntwerpen , The Post-Secular in Question: Religion in Contemporary Society (New York: New York University Press, 2012)

Gerard Clarke and Michael Jennings (eds), Development, Civil Society and Faith-Based Organizations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

Stephen Hopgood and Leslie Vinjamuri , ‘Faith in Markets’, in Michael Barnett and Janice Stein (eds), Sacred Aid (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 3764

Gerard Clarke , ‘Agents of Transformation? Donors, Faith-Based Organisations and International Development’, Third World Quarterly, 28:1 (2007), p. 82

Talal Asad , ‘Response to Gil Anidjar’, interventions, 11:3 (2009), p. 398

Nadia Marzouki , ‘Conversion as Statelessness: A Study of Contemporary Algerian Conversions to Evangelical Christianity’, Middle East Law and Governance, 4 (2012), pp. 69105

Malcolm Evans and Peter Petkoff , ‘A Separation of Convenience? The Concept of Neutrality in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights’, Religion, State and Society, 36:3 (September2008), p. 212

Ilana Feldman , Governing Gaza: Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule 1917–1967 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008)

Tomoko Masuzawa , The Invention of World Religions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005)

William E. Connolly , ‘Taylor, Foucault, and Otherness’, Political Theory, 13 (1985), p. 371

Hussein Agrama , ‘Asking the Right Questions: Two Engagements with Islam and Modernity’, Political Theory, 34:5 (October2006), p. 655

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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