2007, Thu, Sep 20

The Nation with the Soul of a Church - The Strange Career of Religion in America

Paul S. Boyer and José Casanova

Renowned historian of religion Paul S. Boyer of the University of Wisconsin examines the questions of why the increasingly diverse new Christian religious communities have become an important political force in the USA and why this phenomenon remains puzzling to Europeans. With regard to European attitudes to religion, the Sociologist José Casanova (Budapest/New York) posits a provocative thesis: Europeans' unease toward the Muslims in their midst reflects a more general divide between the Continent's secular elite and its religious citizenry.


Discussion with Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson of the Amerika-Institut of the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich.

Moderated by Berndt Ostendorf, Amerika-Institut of the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich.


Paul S. Boyer is Merle Curti Professor of History Emeritus and former director (1993-2001) of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Boyer’s research interests are in American cultural and intellectual history as well as American religious history. He has received Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of American Historians, and the American Antiquarian Society. Before coming to Wisconsin in 1980, he taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (1967-1980). Boyer has lectured at some 90 colleges and universities in the United States, Western Europe, and Israel.


José Casanova is a professor of sociology at New School for Social Research in New York. His research focuses on religion, democratization, transnational migration, and globalization. He studied philosophy at Seminario Metropolitano in Saragossa, Spain and has a Master’s in theology from University Innsbruck (1973) as well as in sociology from New School for Social Research (1977), where he also received a PhD in sociology. From 2005 to 2006 Casanova was a Fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, on whose Academic Advisory Board he sits since 2006. Furthermore, since 2006 he is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest and member of CEU’s Advisory Board of Religious Studies Program. His most recent publications include „Rethinking Secularization: A Global Comparative Perspective” in The Hedgehog Review (2006) and “Catholic and Muslim Politics in Comparative Perspective” in The Taiwan Journal of Democracy (2005).


Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson is an academic councilor at the American Institute of Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, where, since mid-1990s, she teaches US cultural history. Her research interests are mainly in African-American history, US social and religious history, and transatlantic relations. Some of her most important publications include: Gegenspieler: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X (2007), Europe and America: Cultures in Translation (2006), and Christian Science im Lande Luthers: Zur Entwicklung einer amerikanischen Religionsgemeinschaft in Deutschland (forthcoming 2008).


The Transatlantic Dialogues are put on jointly by the House of World Cultures, the Federal Agency for Civic Education, and the American Academy in Berlin.