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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses a neglected theoretical issue in the academic debate on religion and violence, namely, that of systemic violence and state-sponsored terror. It contends that an understanding of the state’s role in conflict, and in particular a critical appraisal of how it obtains its legitimacy and exercises its “monopoly of violence,” is crucial to a more nuanced grasp of the relationship between religion and violence. As the cases of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the “communal” conflict in the Gujarat state of India in 2002 show, the state often plays a role in religious violence. Furthermore, religion in turn can sanctify state-sponsored violence. Going beyond conventional Eurocentric formulations, the chapter advances a polycentric theory of religion, violence, and the state that expands and deepens our understanding of religious conflict and provides new resources for peacebuilding.

Keywords: religious violence, conflict, state violence, systemic violence, peacebuilding, apartheid, Bosnia, Gujarat

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