Category Archives: News

Video and Text of Rached Ghannouchi’s Talk Now Available

Rached Ghannouchi event photo

Rached Ghannouchi, co-founder and president of the Ennahdah Movement, spoke on “Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World” on Wednesday, October 1 at the Italian Academy. Full text of his talk is now available here.

This event was sponsored by the IRCPL and co-sponsored by the World Leaders Forum, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, and the Middle East Institute.

Professor Mamadou Diouf awarded French Legion of Honor

IRCPL faculty news - photo of Professor Diouf receiving the French Legion of Honor award

The Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life (IRCPL) congratulates Professor Mamadou Diouf on his being awarded the insignia of the Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion of Honor at the French embassy in New York on September 22nd. France honored Professor Diouf for his role in engaging students from around the world in dialogue and debate about history and the present. Sony Pictures Classics co-founders and co-presidents, Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, were also honored at the event.  The award was presented by the French Minister, Laurent Fabius, who said, “These individuals are breaking down the barriers of national borders and creating bridges between intellectual and cultural spheres while also enriching a transcontinental cultural dialogue.”

The order of the Legion of Honor is the highest award bestowed by the French government. The national order was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize outstanding achievement in the military as well as public and private sectors. Recipients are named by decree and signed by the President of the Republic. The Legion of Honor may be awarded to foreign citizens, though such recognition is relatively rare. Previous honorees include Bob Dylan, Walt Disney, and Toni Morrison.

For more information on this distinguished order see La grande chancellerie (French).

Karen Barkey interviewed for the BBC’s “The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors”

IRCPL faculty - Karen Barkey BBC interview image

In the BBC’s three-part series,”The Ottomans,” Rageh Omaar examines the history of the Ottoman Empire. IRCPL Director Karen Barkey, an expert in toleration and religion in the Ottoman Empire, was interviewed for the program.

“Religious extremism has given us this image of Islam as intolerant,” Barkey says.  “So the Ottoman Empire is a very good example of tolerant Islam for a very long time.  On the other hand, the end of the Ottoman Empire was horrendous – where massacres happened, where populations were eliminated.”

More information on the series, including a schedule of future showings, is available at

Josef Sorett Named New IRCPL Associate Director


The Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life is excited to announce that Josef Sorett will serve as Associate Director beginning July 2014.

Professor Sorett, Assistant Professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Columbia University, is already an active member of the IRCPL board and a co-organizer of the Religion and Culture in American Public Life lecture series for 2014-15.  He is an interdisciplinary historian of religion in America, with a particular focus on black communities and cultures in the United States. His research and teaching interests include American religious history; African American religions; hip hop, popular culture, and the arts; gender and sexuality; and the role of religion in public life. Professor Sorett earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies from Harvard University and he holds a B.S. from Oral Roberts University and an M.Div. from Boston University. In support of his research, Josef has received fellowships from the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion, The Fund for Theological Education, Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for American History, and Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies. He has published essays and reviews in Culture and Religion, Callaloo, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and PNEUMA: Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. Josef’s current book project, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (under contract with Oxford University Press) illumines how religion has figured into debates about black art and culture. He is also editing a volume that explores the sexual politics of black churches.

Alfred Stepan speaks about the “twin tolerations” on ResetDOC

Alfred Stepan, IRCPL and CDTR, on "Twin Tolerations"

“What does democracy need and require from religious institutions and people? And, on the other side, what is the minimum religious people can legitimately expect from democracy?” asks Professor Alfred Stepan.  “For democracy to function,” he explains, “religious individuals and institutions have to respect and tolerate the results of democratic processes, as well as the right – indeed the sovereignty – of democratic institutions to write laws. And on the other hand - and this has often been undertheorized by secularists - we are talking about citizens, about individuals: what if these individuals are deeply religious? What rights should they expect from democracy?” The solution to these questions could be found in what Professor Stepan defines as “twin tolerations.”

Watch the full two-part video interview, conducted by Nina zu Fürstenberg, at

stepan reset 2


Professor Courtney Bender discusses growing segment of “spiritual but not religious” Americans in New York Times


According to a recent article in the New York Times:

In the 2012 survey by the Pew Religion and Public Life Project, nearly a fifth of those polled said that they were not religiously affiliated — and nearly 37 percent of that group said they were “spiritual” but not “religious.” It was 7 percent of all Americans, a bigger group than atheists, and way bigger than Jews, Muslims or Episcopalians.

Though the S.B.N.R.s, as they are sometimes known, is, as a growing segment of the population, receiving much study and attention, there seems to be quite a bit of disagreement around exactly what their beliefs are and where they come from – even among the S.B.N.R.s themselves.  Courtney Bender “complicates the stereotype” of these people in her book, The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination, by exposing some of these contradictions and misconceptions.

Read the full article at

IRCPL’s Year-End Report for 2013-14 now available

annual report cover

The Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life would like to thank the many scholars, students, and community members who helped to make our 2013-14 academic year so successful, through their support of our public programming, research projects, academic centers, and other work.

Our full report on what we’ve accomplished during the past year is now available here, or pick up your copy at the IRCPL offices at 80 Claremont Avenue.