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Religious Populisms, Right and Left, in Europe and the Americas

September 28, 2017 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Populism and Religion Pt. I, José Casanova:
Religious Populisms, Right and Left, in Europe and the Americas

We are witnessing a global emergence of populist movements throughout the world, reacting diversely to discontents connected with ongoing processes of globalization and with the crisis of representation of liberal democracy. Most of the populisms are not per se “religious” but there are some intriguing religious dimensions to many of them. In Europe, one can discern various combinations of anti-EU and anti-globalist nationalist populisms, anti-immigrant nativist populisms, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic Christian and secularist populisms, and paradoxically the formation of transnational alliances of right-wing anti-liberal, anti-feminist and anti-gay religious populisms sponsored by Putin’s Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate. In the US, a country with an old historical tradition of WASP nativist populism, we witnessed diverse forms of right-wing religious and not-religious populism coalescing in the election of Trump. A comparison with the left-wing populism of Bernie Sanders, with transnational popular movements such as the 3 T’s (Tierra, Techo y Trabajo) or the pan-Amazonian indigenous movements sponsored by Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in Latin America, or the anti-liberal and anti-parliamentarian populism of the Italian Five Star movement, Spanish Podemos or the Catalan CUP( Candidatura d’Unitat Popular) points to the global crisis of legitimation of liberal democracy.

A note from Jean Cohen, project organizer:
Everyone seems to be writing on populism these days, which is unsurprising given the global rise of populist movements, parties, and leaders. But the relationship of populism to religion remains understudied. In response, IRCPL has organized a three-part speaker series on Populism and Religion. With this series, we aim to illuminate the broad yet distinctive nature of populism(s) by analyzing their region-specific histories, the religious posturing of populist groups on both sides of the political spectrum, and the unique rhetorics used by populist movements to appeal to the general public.



José Casanova is Professor of Sociology, Theology, and Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, where he heads the Program on Religion, Globalization, and the Secular. Previously he served as Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York and has held visiting appointments at various American, European and Australian universities. He has published widely in the areas of sociological theory, religion and politics, transnational migration, and globalization. His best-known work, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago, 1994) has become a modern classic in the field and has been translated into various languages, including Japanese, Arabic, and Turkish, and is forthcoming in Indonesian, Farsi, and Chinese. His most recent work has focused on global religious and secular dynamics beyond the West. Among his recent publications, Thomas Banchoff and José Casanova, ed., The Jesuits and Globalization (Georgetown UP, 2016) and Jocelyne Cesari and José Casanova, ed., Islam, Gender and Democracy in Comparative Perspective (Oxford UP, 2017).


Columbia University International Affairs Building
420 West 118th Street Room 707, New York, NY 10027
New York, NY 10027 US
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