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How Shall We Study Religion and Conflict? Challenges and Opportunities in the Early Twenty-first Century

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When a major international publication like The Economist publishes an eighteen-page special report dedicated to 'the new wars of religion,' as it did it in its November 3, 2007 issue, scholars of religion and an array of disciplines sit up and take notice. The eye-catching cover certainly helps—an ominous hand descends from foreboding grey clouds, index finger slightly extended, suggesting a menacing—presumably monotheistic—deity delivering orders to his followers below. The image vividly captures religion's notoriously explosive potential, for clasped within the heavenly hand is a grenade, the pin still in place. What was striking to some of us who study religion, particularly its political and conflictual dimensions, is that, overall, the articles within are laced with the nuance and subtlety often found wanting in many journalistic treatments of religion and conflict. The frequent lament among scholars of religion—that the mainstream media peddles patchy stereotypes because it just 'doesn't "get" religion'—may not hold in the case of The Economist’s special report. One possible explanation for this development is that in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, religion—at least religion's relation to war, violence, and large-scale public conflict—has ceased to be the province of specialists. More than ever, religion seems to impact other fields and disciplines outside the formal study of religion. Perhaps, it is now, crudely put, everyone's concern. ...

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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