Religions & Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics


Religions and Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics seeks to engage faculty, students, and visiting scholars and practitioners on questions concerning the interplay of different religious communities across time and geography.  This initiative is a collaboration among Duke Divinity School, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

The initiative has a specific interest in the ways in which religions’ histories and contemporary practices form and influence institutions at both the local and global level—from minority diasporia communities to the many institutions with global reach that seek to organize compassion for strangers into orchestrated efforts of relief and development. The initiative serves as an interdisciplinary platform that puts scholars, students, and practitioners in conversation with one another through collaborative research, innovative teaching, and community engagement, with the aim of exploring how the institutional expression of religions in contact and communication with each other contributes both to the formation of moral lives, and to the public spheres in which  those lives are lived. Current programs and projects fall within one of the following thematic emphases:

  • Jews/Muslims/Christians in Europe and Beyond
  • Religions and Migration
  • Religions and Politics

Jews/Muslims/Christians in Europe and Beyond: This series of projects engages research on the interaction of religious Diasporas, the transmission of religious cultures across national and continental boundaries, and the hybridity of religious and national identities.  The projects invite reflection on the commonalities of historical and contemporary experiences of Jewish and Muslim diasporic communities in majority-Christian and majority-secular Europe and beyond.   A faculty working group will be conducting monthly seminars, featuring invited speakers and work in progress.  It will coordinate its work with The Society of Scholars, a competitively selected group of graduate students sponsored by Religions and Public Life, CES, and Jewish Studies, who conduct research in this issue area and organize their own student-led seminars.  The projects have also led to a fledgling international collaboration with European and Israeli universities focusing on interreligious dialogue.

Religions and Migration:This series of projects explores the role of religions in context of the global refugee crisis and longstanding humanitarian concerns. One area engages the role of belief communities among internally displaced and refugee people groups, especially as they relate to hope, resilience, and community identity. Another branch of work looks at the complex contribution of religious-affiliated humanitarian organizations in addressing both acute and chronic humanitarian and human rights needs.

Religions and Politics:Religions and Public Life organizes events highlighting the role of religions in politics, historical and contemporary. With diverse topics including the US elections to conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia to free exercise questions around the world, the goal is to create a nuanced discussion of religion in domestic and international affairs, involving both the university and local communities.