Framing Religious Conflict and Violence: An Historical Institutionalist Approach

10 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2016

Date Written: March 31, 2016


With the unexpected and disconcerting reemergence of religion as a first order cleavage in global politics, scholars and policy makers have been scrambling to bring some analytical order to the phenomenon. Most of the approaches that have been articulated by scholars and in the public domain fall into one of two broad categories: 1) in academic circles, “Liberal” approaches predominate in which the emphasis is on the “political” nature of “religious” conflict and violence; and 2) in the public domain the “theological” and “micro-individual level” approach is predominant in which the emphasis is on explicating possible causality between theology and individual motivations to engage in “religious” violence. In this article I seek to show why the existing approaches to religious violence are limited in their explanatory value. In the first approach, there is a denial of the significance of religious cleavages writ large. In the second approach there is an excessive emphasis on theology and individual motivations. Instead, in this article I offer an approach derived from historical institutionalism and argue that this approach generates a useful and different frame within which to understand the phenomenon of religious conflict and violence.

Keywords: Religion, Conflict, Violence, Historical Institutionalism

Suggested Citation

Sharma, Vivek, Framing Religious Conflict and Violence: An Historical Institutionalist Approach (March 31, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Vivek Sharma (Contact Author)

Pomona College ( email )

Claremont, CA 91711
United States

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