Alderman Stacks

Religion, Politics, and Conflict

The Forum on Religion, Politics, and Conflict will enable you to participate in UVA’s unique examination of one of the greatest crises of our world today: religion-related violent conflict. You will be invited to learn and work alongside faculty who help lead UVA’s current research initiative in Religion, Politics, and Conflict (RPC).

The Forum will train you to analyze and assess violent conflict worldwide, with particular attention to the diverse roles played by religious actors, traditions and institutions. The program will treat religion as a specific focus of inquiry within the theory and practice of peacebuilding, conflict analysis, conflict resolution, violence and nonviolence, ethnicity and nationalism, politics and political theory, diplomacy, literary studies, and human development. The Forum will also address the history of religion and conflict, recent peacebuilding theories, predictive models, and the roles religions may play in transforming conflict and building peace. You will examine religion, politics, and global society through disciplinary practices culled from across the University. By drawing on a diverse range of disciplines in the sciences and humanities, from systems engineering and quantum logic to literature and religion, RPC will train you in quantitative and qualitative methods applied to real-world crises.

A Note on the RPC Research Initiative, which will serve as a major resource for the Forum. RPC engages approximately 30 UVA faculty members from across the College and the Schools of the University, accompanied by PhD Research Associates, 13+ participants in the new RPC MA, and a sizable contingent of BA Research Interns. RPC examines the religious dimension of ongoing violent conflicts in ways that are not yet pursued by any other university or peace-building program internationally. RPC’s first premise is that this religion-dimension has of yet received little attention by foreign affairs analysts and diplomats in the U.S and internationally. RPC’s second premise is that the analysts and diplomats are further discouraged by the prevailing reports from out of each discipline of the academy: that discipline-specific studies fail to uncover significant evidence of religion-specific features of ongoing conflicts. RPC’s third premise is that there is, indeed, an academically disciplined way to examine this religious dimension. It is to examine violent conflict by analyzing and comparing the results of a broad set of discipline-specific inquires. The unique approach of RPC is, therefore, transdisciplinary: integrating contributions from UVA scholars of the various literatures, politics, religion, sociology, history, nursing, data science, business, and more. The results are new approaches to diagnosing religion group contributions to both conflict and peace, constructing computational approaches to analysis of religious texts, to reexamining the political and cultural histories underlying ongoing conflicts, to tracing the performative effects of spoken and written words on human affect and action, to tracing the political-economic consequence of religion-specific banking and charitable work.


Ahmed Al-Rahim, Religious Studies
Maya Boutaghou, French
Peter Ochs, Religious Studies
Jonathan Teubner, Religious Studies
Mark Schwartz, Politcs

Navigating the Forum

In the First Semester you will enroll in FORU 1500: Introduction to Religion, Politics, and Conflict. This course will focus on the thickly interwoven spheres of religion and politics in the pre-modern Mediterranean world, this course will assess and evaluate the different ways that religion, politics and conflict have been constellated. The course will train you in methods of text historical study of the foundational literatures of the three Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Special attention will be paid to discourse that emerges at the intersection of religion, politics and conflict in the Islamic and Christian traditions in their respective ‘medieval’ periods, and the ways in which their encounters, sometimes violent in nature, shaped their practices of interpreting sacred and authoritative writings.

In the Fourth Semester you will enroll in FORU 2500: Forum Capstone. The capstone will enable you to apply their three semesters of learning to the contemporary setting of research in Religion, Politics, and Conflict: the crisis of ethno-religious conflict in the contemporary world, examined through the lenses of literary, historical, and philosophic study. You will examine documents, words, rhetorical strategies, and literatures particular to illustrative crises of interreligious conflict: the Algerian War of Independence, Religion and Conflict in Contemporary Israel/Palestine and the Middle East, and Religion and Conflict in Southeast Asia, and comparative studies of postcolonial independence movements. The course theory will then be applied to one extended case study: the construction of negative or positive values of Islam in France during the modern and contemporary period.

Outside of the introductory course and capstone, you will take courses across five categories:

  1. The Modern State
  2. Ethnicities and Cultures in Conflict
  3. Literary Studies in Affect and Performance
  4. Traditions of Scripture and of Religion and the Transformation of Cultural Values
  5. Natural Science


Competency Requirements

  • First Writing Requirement (3 credits)
  • Second Writing Requirement (3 credits)
  • World Langugages (0-14 credits)

Core Required Courses (8 credits)

  • FORU 1500 Introduction to Religion, Politics, and Conflict (3 credits – Fall ’18)
  • FORU 1510 Continuing the Forum (1 credit - Spring ’19 and Fall ’19)
  • FORU 2500 Capstone Seminar (3 credits - Spring ’20)

Category 1 - 4 (18 Credits, pick 2 courses (6 credits) in two of the following categories and pick 1 course (3 credits) in the other two categories)

Category 1. The Modern State: Issues of Poverty, Aid, Conflict, Security in Politics and History

  • ANTH 2250 Nationalism, Racism, Multiculturalism
  • ANTH 2820 The Emergence of States and Cities
  • GSGS 2559 Global Resistance and Student Activism
  • HIME 2002 Middle East and North Africa 1500 to Present
  • HIME 2002 Making the Modern Middle East
  • HISA 1501 AFPAK: Civl Soc & Insurgency
  • HISA 1501 Free Speech and Blasphemy
  • PLAD 2500 Politics, Poverty, and Health
  • PLAP 2030 Politics, Science and Values: An Introduction to Environmental Policy
  • PLCP 1010 Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • PLCP 3012 The Politics of Developing Areas
  • PLCP 3410 Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
  • PLIR 1010 International Relations
  • PLIR 3310 Ethics and Human Rights in World Politics
  • PLIR 3400 Foreign Policy of the United States
  • WGS 2897 Gender Violence and Social Justice

Category 2. Ethnicities and Cultures in Conflict

  • ANTH 2120 The Concept of Culture
  • ANTH 2230 Fantasy and Social Values
  • ANTH 2590 Social and Cultural Anthropology: Gender in the Middle East
  • ANTH 2590 Social and Cultural Anthropology: Everyday Resistance
  • FRTR 2552 Islam in France, Images, Films, Texts, and Political Value 
  • HIAF 1501 Africa and Virginia
  • HIEA 1501 Thought & Relig Imperial China
  • HILA 1501 Migrations in Latin America
  • HIME 1501 Water/Energy in Middle East
  • MESA 1000 From Genghis Khan to Stalin: Invasions and Empires of Central Asia
  • PSYC 1010 Intro to Psych
  • PSYC 2600 Introduction to Social Psychology
  • RELJ 2024  Jewish-Muslim Relations
  • SOC 2220 Social Problems
  • SOC 2442 Systems of Inequality
  • SOC 2595 Immigration and Society

Category 3. Literary Studies in Affect and Performance (including peace, conflict, inter-group politics)

  • ANTH 2400 Language and Culture
  • ANTH 2410- Sociolinguistics
  • ANTH 2420 Language and Gender
  • ANTH 2430- Languages of the World
  • ANTH 2541 Language, Culture and Healing
  • ARTR 3290 Modern Arabic Literature in Translation
  • ARTR 3559 Introduction to Arab Women's Literature
  • ENLT 2524 Studies in Drama: Political Theater
  • ENLT 2530 Caribean Literature
  • FRTR 2580 Blackness in French
  • MDST 2000 Introduction to Media Studies
  • MDST 3402 War and the Media
  • MESA 2300 Crossing Borders: Middle East and South Asia
  • MESA 3559 Environment Middle East & South Asia
  • MEST 3470/ANTH 3470 Language and Culture in the Middle East
  • MEST 3559 A Changing Middle East
  • MEST 3559/JWST 3559 Israeli Art and Culture
  • MEST 3559/JWST 3559 Arab-Jewish Conflict 1881-1949

Category 4. Traditions of Scripture and of Religion and the Transformation of Cultural Values

  • GSVS 2210 Religion, Ethics, and Global Environments
  • HIEU 2101 Jewish History I: The Ancient and Medieval Experience
  • JWST 3559 Memory in Israel/ Palestine
  • MEST 2470 Reflections of Exile: Jewish Languages and their Communities
  • PHIL 2770 Political Philosophy
  • RELC 1210 Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
  • RELC 2215 Mormonism and American Culture
  • RELG 3559 Peace & Justice in America
  • RELC 2360 Elements of Christian Thought
  • RELG 2210 Religion, Ethics, & Global Environment
  • RELG 2660 Spiritual but not Religious:Spirituality in America
  • RELG 2820 Jerusalem
  • RELG 3360 Conquests and Religious in the Americas, 1400s-1830s
  • RELG 3559 Scriptural Reasoning (this topic only)
  • RELG 3605 Religion, Violence and Strategy: How to Stop Killing in the Name of God
  • RELG 3800 African American Religious History
  • RELH 3559 Hinduism and Ecology (this topic only)
  • RELI 2070 Classical Islam
  • RELI 2080 Global Islam
  • RELI 2085 Modern Islam: From the Age of Empires to the Present

Category 5 (6 credits, choose 2 courses)

  • ASTR 1210  Introduction to Sky and Solar System
  • ASTR 1220  Introduction to Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe
  • ASTR 1230  Introduction to Astronomical Observation
  • ASTR 1250 Alien Worlds
  • BIOL 1210 Human Biology and Disease
  • BIOL 2100 Intro with labs
  • BIOL 2200 Intro with labs
  • EVSC 1010 Introduction to Environmental Sciences
  • EVSC 1020 Practical Concepts in Environmental Sciences
  • EVSC 1080 Resources and the Environment
  • EVSC 1200- Earth’s Weather and Climate
  • EVSC 1450 An Inconveneitn Truce: Climate, You, and CO2
  • EVSC 2010 Materials That Shape Civilization
  • EVSC 2030 Politics, Science, and Values: An Introduction to Environmental Policy
  • EVSC 2200 Plants, People, and Culture
  • EVSC 2220 Conservation Ecology: Biodiversity and Beyond
  • MATH 1210/1310 Calculus
  • PHYS 1010 The Physical Universe
  • PHYS 1050 or 1060 How Things Work
  • PHYS 1425 or 1710 Mechanics and Thermodynamics
  • STAT 1100 Chance: Intro to Stats.
  • STAT 1601 Intro Data Science with R
  • STAT 2120 Intro to Statistical Analysis