CFA: Conference on Public Life and Religious Diversity, University of Oxford

Department of Politics and International Relations and Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford

Location and date: Harris Manchester College, 7-9 September 2017

Academic convenors: Teresa Bejan, Simon Caney, Elizabeth Frazer


In the past two decades, there has been much talk in political theory about the role of religion in the public sphere. The resulting discussions of public reason and its limits, secularism and disestablishment, the nature of toleration, and the scope of religious exemptions have been invaluable. For many theorists, however, the fundamental worry remains: can the tensions between the demands of liberalism and the obligations of faith be negotiated? Or will containing—or constraining—religion within the bounds of a liberal polity always infringe upon the freedom of conscience ostensibly at liberalism’s core?

Today, these concerns have only grown in the face of new and pressing practical challenges, and our theories of public life and religious diversity must evolve to meet them. The increasing diversity of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices; the phenomenon (and fear) of ‘religious extremism’; the complex interplay between religions, gender, and sexuality; the many different ways that social institutions engage with religious practice, all call for new thinking in political theory.

This conference will explore what the next steps should be for research on religious diversity and public life by bringing perspectives from political theory, philosophy and the history of political thought to bear on the pressing political questions of our age. Through it, we hope to generate new understandings and original proposals that will set the agenda for new research avenues in the field of religion and politics and provide a forum for critical discussion.

Keynote speakers

Cécile Laborde (DPIR, Oxford)

Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

Joseph Chan (The University of Hong Kong)

Panels – call for papers

We invite proposals for presentations in the following panel sessions:

  • Andrew March, chair: Private and public ethics. Possible topics include: controversies about forms of establishment, the limits of legislation, exemptions for economic, cultural, and social institutions.
  • Stephen Macedo, chair: Religious diversity and education. Possible topics include: controversies about separation and integration in education, curriculum debates, the nature and limits of public authority, and student and parental freedom.
  • Lisa Fishbayn and Sylvia Neil, chair and discussant: Gender, sexuality and religion.

Possible topics include: controversies over reproductive rights, marriage, sexual culture, religious feminisms, religious justifications of discrimination.

  • Jocelyn Maclure, chair: Accommodation of religious diversity in democratic polities.

Possible topics include: religion as justification of legislation, exemptions, legal recognition; questions of democratic majoritarianism.

We also welcome proposals for papers that aim to explore new research avenues related to religious diversity and public life. Possible topics include: the ethics and politics of interfaith relations; concepts of religious moderation, extremism, fundamentalism, radicalization; public ethics in contexts of antagonism or separation.

Please send us:

  • A proposal of about 300 words including title, prepared for blind review
  • A separate document including your name, paper title, your institutional affiliation, and full contact details.


Workshops – call for convenors

We invite proposals from potential workshop convenors. We will fund up to 6 participants per workshop (additional non-funded participants may also be considered). Workshops will be able to convene privately for three sessions in the first two days of the conference, and should prepare to present material from their sessions at a round table session with an audience of conference participants, towards the end of the conference. Workshop proposals should include a brief account of the intellectual and academic justification of the work; an indication of likely participants; and an indication of the anticipated outcomes of the workshop. We are particularly interested in hosting workshops which generate programmes for future research, public engagement, and publications. Proposals should consider the allocation of time between presentations and discussions of work in progress, and plenary discussion.


Please contact us at an early stage to discuss ideas for workshops. The organisers are aiming to have finalised submissions for workshops by 30 December 2016.

All proposals should be sent to:

We are able to pay travel expenses and full accommodation for speakers, presenters, and up to 6 workshop participants.

For further details or queries please contact Élise Rouméas:


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About Andrei Poama

Assistant Professor Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs Institute of Public Administration Leiden University
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