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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Religion in America: A Political History

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

painting of Puritans gathered

Denis Lacorne
CERI, Sciences-Po (France)

Date: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Time: 12:00-1:15PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Rd

Abstract:  America is unique in that its political institutions preceded its development of national identity. In his book Religion in America, Denis Lacorne identifies two competing narratives of American history: as an Enlightenment-inspired effort to separate religion from politics in order to preserve political freedom, and as a progression toward religious freedom that culminated in the colonies of Puritan New England. Lacorne outlines the role of religion in making these narratives and, against this backdrop, examines how key historians, philosophers, novelists, and intellectuals situate religion in American politics.

Denis Lacorne

Denis Lacorne is senior fellow and professor at Sciences Po's Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA-Sciences Po). Prof. Lacorne joined CERI (Centre d’Etudes et de Researches Internationales) in 1982. A frequent commentator on American politics in the French press and on French television, his books include With Us or Against Us: Studies in Global Anti-Americanism and Language, Nation, and State: Identity Politics in a Multilingual Age, both with Tony Judt. Among his other books are L'Invention de la République Américaine (Hachette Littératures) and La Crise de l'Identité Américaine: Du Melting Pot au Multiculturalisme (2003). His research concerns construction of national identities, American multiculturalism, religion and secularism, U.S. elections, foreign policy of the United States, and urban violence and ethnic identities in the U.S. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California at Irvine, the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C., New York University, and the Institute Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva. He has also been a visiting scholar at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, New York University, Columbia University, and Waseda University in Tokyo. Lacorne graduated from Sciences Po and earned a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University.

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In the News

This month, the Supreme Court hears the case of a Christian schoolteacher fired in a dispute over a disability and church doctrine. In a Christian Science Monitor article, the editors argue that the justices should be careful about allowing government to judge a faith's teachings. On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Denis Lacorne discussed the Puritan and the Enlightenment influences on American religious freedom and the separation of church and state.