Dr. Jonathan Laurence discusses his recent book, Coping with Defeat: Sunni Islam, Roman Catholicism, and the Modern State (2021; Princeton). This important work presents a historical panorama of the Islamic and Catholic political-religious empires and how they responded to three major shocks: religious reformation, the rise of the nation-state, and mass migration. Dr. Laurence argues that whereas early Christianity and Islam were characterized by missionary expansion, religious institutions forged in the modern era are primarily defensive in nature. They respond to the simple but overlooked imperative to adapt to political defeat while fighting off ideological challenges to their spiritual authority. Examining upheavals in geography, politics, and demography, Coping with Defeat considers how centralized religions cope with the loss of prestige.
Dr. Ovamir Anjum (Professor of Islamic studies at the University of Toledo, Ohio) and Dr. Abdullah Al-Arian (Associate professor of History at Georgetown University in Qatar) respond, followed by an open floor discussion.
Jonathan Laurence is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Clough Center for Constitutional Democracy at Boston College. His principal areas of teaching and research are comparative politics and religion and politics in Western Europe, Turkey, and North Africa. He is also the author of The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims (2012).