Welcome to the Religion and US Empire Project

Welcome to the Religion and US Empire Project

The US has not merely existed as an empire. Rather, since the end of the Second World War, it has succeeded Britain to become the world’s most powerful hegemon. The public discourse about this imperial role has continually shifted from open acknowledgment in the early 1800s (e.g., Thomas Jefferson boasted that the US was an “empire for liberty”) to denial during the War of 1898 to more widespread acknowledgment by academic experts in the years since 9/11. At no point, however, has a critical mass of religion scholars seriously examined the massive data about US religion in light of the imperial status of the American state. Instead, with few exceptions, scholars routinely write about American religion as if the nation’s imperial status were of no consequence. It is still unusual for scholars of American religion to refer to the US as an empire. And scholars in various fields who do focus on the imperial status of the US typically ignore the substantial role of religion. It seems evident that the scholarship on American religious history is shaped by an informal consensus that US empire is either non-existent or immaterial to studying and interpreting the nation’s religious history. This is precisely the problem we aim to address. By forming a national team of fifteen researchers, we aim to collaborate to promote major research agenda that engage centrally with the intersection of religion and US empire.

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