Political scientist receives Religion and International Studies Distinguished Scholar Award

Author: Josh Weinhold

Daniel Philpott, a University of Notre Dame professor of political science, has received the 2021 Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Studies Association’s Religion and International Relations Section.

Philpott, the section’s awards committee noted, is a key figure in the first generation of scholars to incorporate religion into the study of international relations. His research focuses on the relationship between religion and democracy, ethics, peace-building, reconciliation and religious freedom.

A quarter-century ago, Philpott said, few political scientists were studying religion and global politics — a theory of secularization was dominant, arguing that religion was exiting the stage of history. The 9/11 terrorist attacks changed all of that, he said, and brought religion back to the forefront of the study of world affairs.

“My research, however, has not focused on religion’s capacity for violence, though I have looked at that. Rather, I study religion’s capacity for peace and justice, particularly in the areas of peacebuilding, reconciliation, religious freedom and democratization,” Philpott said. “There is much evidence that religious leaders and communities have made a big difference in all of these ways over the years.”

Beyond research, Philpott has pursued service work and activism around the globe, including working with religious leaders in Kashmir and Central Africa on peace and reconciliation, and he conducted a major study of forgiveness in the wake of armed violence in Uganda.

“The selection committee has high hopes about Professor Philpott’s intellectual influence into the future, on the next generation of [international relations] and religion scholars,” the committee wrote. “The [international relations] discipline is now global, [and] interreligious dialogue on global political issues is a part of a globalizing world.”

Philpott earned his doctorate in 1996 from Harvard University, then spent five years on the faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara before coming to Notre Dame in 2001. His monographs include “Revolutions in Sovereignty” (Princeton, 2001), “God’s Century: Resurgent Religion in Global Politics” (Norton, 2011, co-authored with Monica Duffy Toft and Timothy Samuel Shah), “Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation” (Oxford, 2012) and “Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World” (Oxford, 2019). 

Philpott was honored by the ISA section at its annual conference earlier this month, which included a panel discussion on Philpott’s work and influence by eight other scholars from the field. 

“Receiving an award such as this makes me reflect on all those on whom my studies have depended so thoroughly — parents, family, friends, teachers, students, colleagues, and indeed the grace of God,” Philpott said. “I am immensely grateful to have worked at Notre Dame over the past two decades, an ideal setting in which to study religion and global politics.”

Originally published by Josh Weinhold at al.nd.edu on April 21.