What is the role of religious actors in the democratization processes of Muslim-majority countries? The only five countries categorized as democratic and free/partly free by Freedom House, the BTI and Polity IV as part of the Third and Fourth Waves of Democratization are Albania, Indonesia, Mali, Senegal and Turkey. The talk will provide an overview of the common patterns and factors that have prompted religious actors to support or obstruct processes of democratization and de-democratization in these countries. Professor Kunkler will clarify whether the role of Islamic actors and organizations in democratic transition processes has been substantively different from that in Christian-majority contexts in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
Mirjam Künkler (PhD, Political Science, Columbia University) is Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Her research interests concern religion-state relations and Islamic thought in 20th century Iran and Indonesia. Mirjam Künkler has edited two books: with Julia Leininger, Zur Rolle von Religion in Demokratisierungsprozessen (On the Role of Religious Actors in Democratization Processes), VS-Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften (2009); and with Alfred Stepan, Indonesia, Islam and Democracy, Columbia University Press, 2012. She has completed a monograph that analyzes the impact of contemporary Islamic thought and social movement activism on the transformation of authoritarian rule in Iran (1989-2005) and Indonesia (1974-1998). In her next project, she turns to questions around the rule of law, and the transformation of the legal system in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and an edited volume on New Jurisprudential Approaches to the Question of Government in Iran. Künkler is co-PI of the project on “Migration, Participation, and Democratic Governance in the U.S., Europe, and the Muslim World” funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, and co-PI of the Iran Social Science Data Portal funded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). She is teaching the CSR-sponsored senior seminar POL/REL/NES 418 “Religion-State Relations in Comparative Perspective” and in May 2011 convened the CSR-sponsored conference “Law, Religion and Democracy,” which comparatively investigated socio-legal secularization processes outside the West.