Dr Naomi Haynes
There can be no doubt that we live in a world where religion has taken on a great deal of political importance. The rise of Hindu nationalism in India, debates about the Christian character of the European Union, and the implementation of Sharia law in several Nigerian states all point to the fact that famous social scientific predictions that secularism would follow modernity have not come to pass. These examples, as well as numerous others from across the globe, raise some important questions: What are the political effects of religious nationalism? How do changes in the political status of a religion impact ritual life, belief, and practice? Is it possible for a religious state to protect the rights of all of its citizens, including those that fall outside the religious boundaries it creates? And, perhaps most fundamentally, what role should religion play in public life? This project explores these broad questions through a specific case study: Zambia, the only African country to make a state-sponsored declaration that it is a Christian nation. Drawing on a mixture of established ethnographic tools and innovative, community-based methodologies, this research will not only expand academic knowledge, but will also provide the public with stronger evidence for decision-making about the future role of religion in public life.