Berkley Center Senior Fellow Jocelyne Cesari is editor-in-chief of the new journal Brill Research Perspectives in Religion and Politics. The idea of the journal was born out of a need to bring scholars of political science and religious studies together.
“There is a need to be educated in both political science and religion if you want to understand the challenges of today," Cesari said.
In the last five years, the way to make this interdisciplinary approach more and more concrete and visible and efficient has been to create places where people can work together.
Cesari realized that it is difficult to publish on topics related to religion as a scholar of political science and vice versa, as this intersection is often not the priority of existing journals. Thus, the new journal makes a call for scholars to submit on topics that relate to both areas. It also encourages scholars outside of the West to contribute.
“Ideally what we would like is scholars of religion and politics teaming up to write together. I’ve tried this experience myself, and it’s not easy but it’s worth it. We also want to attract scholars who are outside western Europe and America, because there are lots of interesting debates, for example on secularism in India, that we would want to include,” Cesari said.
The first text in the journal, “Global Religious and Secular Dynamics: The Modern System of Classification” by renowned sociologist José Casanova, addresses the current and somewhat conflicting categories used by scholars from different disciplines.
When asked how the journal will challenge other existing conventions of these disciplines, Cesari pointed to the false notion that secularism in the West is reflective of secularism elsewhere around the world. This first article demonstrates how the religious-secular dichotomy has different meanings in other countries.
“The goal would be to convince people that if they want to understand secular versus religious, they have to get away from a very ideological perspective and crystallizing only the Western experience,” Cesari explained.
Cesari also hopes the journal will have an impact on public policy, but that will require scholars to translate their findings into something accessible for politicians. In addition, there is a need to convince policymakers that they have to take religion seriously.
Today, everyone would say that religion matters, but they don’t know how it matters.
Cesari explained that politicians look at situations where religion is involved by relying on their personal experience instead of reading the scholarship on the issue. Thus, Brill Research Perspectives in Religion and Politics can serve as a place to give people new perspectives and findings.
“We tend to apply our personal framework on personal situations, if we have not been trained to look at religion in different ways," she noted. "Most policymakers have been trained in the language and framework of political science, but they are confronted more and more with religious issues and they don’t have the resources to understand it.”
As Cesari looks ahead to future issues, she urges more young scholars who want to bridge the gap between political science and religion to consider Brill Research Perspectives and the unique perspective it can bring in tackling complex global issues.