Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion: Columbia University

  • NY

About Us

The Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion (CDTR) was founded in 2006, when the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) won a competitive grant to develop a new program in international affairs and religion. CDTR is led by Director Alfred Stepan, the Wallace Sayre Professor of Government at Columbia University, a member of the American Academy and of the British Academy, and a former Dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Professor Stepan is co-chair of a major Social Science Research Council (SSRC) committee on Religion and International Affairs, so CDTR works closely with SSRC on a number of projects.

Located in the School of International and Public Affairs, CDTR examines the role of religion in world politics. Our overarching goals are to identify how tolerance between religious and secular actors can be better theorized, and to aid in the development of new strategies for promoting religious-secular tolerance. To this end, we work toward building a new subfield on religion and international affairs, in which novel research and policy solutions can be formulated.

To foster the development of young academics and practitioners in this growing subfield, the Center supports graduate courses, post-doctoral training, and student-faculty research initiatives. We also host fifty events each year—ranging from intimate closed meetings to widely-attended international conferences—in order to promote the broadening research networks on religion and politics.

While global in scope, CDTR’s work has particularly focused on Islam and international affairs, on variants of secularism, and on how these variants have affected coexistence in different states. Many of our activities focus on Indonesia, which is the world’s largest Muslim democracy; on Turkey, which has a strong “assertive” secularist tradition; and on India, which is democratic notwithstanding its deep religious, linguistic, and ethnic diversity. We hope that our research can help to bring about sufficient tolerance between religious and secular actors such that societal peace, a rights-respecting democratic polity, and sustainable people-oriented development become mutually reinforcing goals.


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