Category Archives: News

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

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

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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

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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.

New Capitalism in Turkey: The Relationship between Politics, Religion and Business

new capitalism in turkey

New, from Edward Elgar Publishing, New Capitalism in Turkey, by Ayşe Buğra and Osman Savaşkan, Bogazici University, Turkey, explores the changing relationship between politics, religion and business through an analysis of the contemporary Turkish business environment.

This book focuses on the developments that have transformed the economic, political and cultural coordinates of business activity; led to new forms of interest representation; and changed the relationship between government and business in Turkey in the post-1980 period. Ayşe Buğra and Osman Savaşkan argue that political action plays a crucial role in shaping the configuration of the business community, influencing the patterns of business development, and informing the emergence of rival models of capitalist development and political change endorsed by different groups of entrepreneurs. Moreover, the book explores the idea that whilst the use of religion as a strategic resource by some business associations serves to create bonds of trust and solidarity among their members, it also contributes to the polarization of the business community.

For more information or to order online, go to:

Karen Barkey interviewed by Nina zu Fürstenberg for Reset-DoC


“I think this is an incredibly important moment to think and to talk about the history of the Ottoman Empire, and that is why I am making an effort to put it out there,” says IRCPL Director Karen Barkey, in this interview for Reset-DoC.

“We are living, in the Middle East, through a transition towards new democratic societies that is coming at the same time as the rise of Islamism and new Islamic political parties, so that the transitions are happening when the people are rethinking the role of Islam within the context of democracy. They are also looking at their past and at all the traditional ways of thinking about Islam and how to use it in modern, contemporary societies. Therefore, they are looking for usable pasts. I think that the Ottoman Empire is a really interesting usable past, because — even though it was explained and historically described as an Islamic empire — it was really an empire where religion was very much balanced within a lot of dualities that made it possible for it not to be hegemonic.”

Nina zu Fürstenberg, founder and Chair of Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations Foundation, interviewed Professor Barkey during Reset-DoC’s Istanbul Seminars 2013.

More information, including the full transcript of this interview, is available at

IRCPL Celebrates its 5th Anniversary

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This year, the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life celebrated its fifth anniversary.  This milestone coincided with the publication of Boundaries of Toleration, edited by Alfred Stepan and Charles Taylor, the latest volume in the Religion, Culture, and Public Life series with Columbia University Press.

boundaries of toleration good titleBoundaries of Toleration is the product of work originally presented at the IRCPL’s launch five years ago, and includes essays by Karen Barkey, Rajeev Bhargava, Akeel Bilgrami, Ira Katznelson, Sudipta Kaviraj, Alfred Stepan, and Nadia Urbinati, and Charles Taylor, and a conversation between Salman Rushdie and Gauri Viswanathan.

This past March 2014, we celebrated these achievements at a small gathering with friends and colleagues, where IRCPL Director Karen Barkey formally presented Boundaries of Toleration to Mark Kingdon, to whom the book was dedicated.

More photos from the Anniversary Celebration are available here on IRCPL’s facebook page.