Brussels Attacks

Militants carried out attacks in Brussels this morning, exploding two bombs at the airport and another at a subway station during the busy rush hour commute. Dozens of people have been killed and injured by the explosions.


ISIS (the Islamic State organization) has claimed responsibility for the attacks, stating “we are promising the Crusader nations which have aligned themselves against the Islamic State that dark days are coming,” according to the New York Times.

The New York Times provides an analysis of recent ISIS attacks:


Le Soir, one of the major Brussels newspapers, reports on the Brussels attacks in French.

Le Monde and Libération have French language reporting from Paris, which is still recovering from a series of major attacks by ISIS in November 2015.

The New York Times and BBC have extensive reporting on the Brussels attacks in English.


Posted in Islam and Religious Violence, Religious Militants, Religious Politics, Religious Terrorism, Religious Violence, Religious Violence in the Media | 1 Comment

Mutual Imaginings of Europe and the Middle East Conference

Mutual Imaginings of Europe and the Middle East (800-1700)

A conference is being organized at Barnard College on “Beyond Borders: Mutual Imaginings of Europe and the Middle East (800-1700).” Faculty and graduate students in medieval early modern European and Mediterranean history may be interested in this conference.

Northern Illinois University graduate students who participated in my seminar on Religious Violence from 1500 to Today last semester may want to consider submitting a proposal.

Here is the conference call for papers:


Paper proposals are being accepted for Barnard College’s 25th Biannual Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference, “Beyond Borders: Mutual Imaginings of Europe and the Middle East (800-1700),” to be held at Barnard College (New York NY) on Saturday 3 December 2016.

Recent scholarship is challenging the stark border between Europe and the Middle East during the long period between 800-1700.  Rather than thinking of these areas in isolation, scholars are revealing the depth of their mutual influence. Trade, war, migration, and scholarly exchange connected Europe and the Middle East in ways both cooperative and adversarial. The distant world was not only an object of aggression, but also, inextricably, of fantasy and longing. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian thinkers looked to each other to understand their own cultural histories and to imagine their futures.

Bringing together art historians, literary scholars, historians, scholars of the history of science, and scholars of religious thought, this interdisciplinary conference will explore the real and imaginary cultural interchanges between Europe and the Middle East during their formative periods.

The conference will feature plenary lectures by
Professors Nancy Bisaha of Vassar College, and
Nabil Matar of the University of Minnesota.

This conference is being organized by
Professors Rachel Eisendrath, Najam Haider, and Laurie Postlewate of Barnard College.

Please send an abstract (with title) of approximately 200 words and CV to
Presentations should be 20 minutes.
Deadline: April 10 2016

Posted in Christian-Muslim Violence, Christianity and Religious Violence, Conferences, Islam and Religious Violence, Judaism and Religious Violence, Religious Violence | 1 Comment

Graduate Conference on the Experience of Violence

Graduate students in History at Northern Illinois University may be interested in an upcoming conference on the history of violence.   Students who participated in my graduate reading seminar on HIST 640 Religious Violence, 1500 to Today during the Fall 2015 semester may want to consider submitting a paper to the conference organizers. Here is the call for papers:

Call for Papers:

Blood and Mortar: The Experience of Violence and its Aftermaths in History

11th Annual History Graduate Student Association Conference

Co-Sponsored by the Miller Center for Historical Studies

University of Maryland, College Park

March 4, 2016

Violence and the troubled aftermaths of violence have been constants of human experience since our emergence as a species. But the ways in which humans have carried out violence, experienced it, dealt with its effects, conceived its meaning, its value, its uses, and sought to limit it, have all varied immensely across history and human societies. We continue to struggle with past and present violence in contemporary societies, from the legacies of bitter civil wars, to institutional and structural violence, to the trauma of interpersonal violence, which is itself bound up in historical and social realities and patterns. This conference will grapple with this vast nexus of past and present acts and systems of violence and the unfolding of history, human and non-human.

Violence, as we understand it here, need not be physical, nor must it only involve human actors: rather, we encourage submissions dealing with violence and its aftermaths as enveloped within a broad continuum of further specifications: physical, military, rhetorical, discursive, structural, spontaneous, sexual, ecological, economic—the list goes on. We are especially interested in papers dealing with the intersection of urban history and violence: for instance, in what ways has violence–whether state, private, ecological, economic, or other forms–been constructive and destructive of urban life? How does urban life both constrict and expand the possibilities of violence in human and animal life? That said, we encourage submissions dealing with all facets of violence in history, from diverse disciplinary and methodological approaches, and hope to form panels that will reflect more specific themes–-such as religion and violence, ecology and violence, and so on. The conference will also include an address by our keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Miner, Professor and Director of the Contemporary History Institute at Ohio University, and author of various works including Stalin’s Holy War: Religion, Nationalism, and Alliance Politics, 1941-1945.

We welcome submissions from all sub-disciplines of history, as well as from graduate students working on history-related topics elsewhere in the humanities and social sciences. Since we aim for a genuine interdisciplinary dialogue about this topic, we strongly encourage graduate students from non-history disciplines to apply. We encourage submissions dealing with any period or place, from ancient to modern, America to East Asia and everywhere in between.

Paper proposals should be submitted by December 21, 2015. Proposal abstracts must be no more than 300 words and should include scholar’s name, home institution, e-mail address, the fundamental research question addressed in the paper, the evidence and methodological approaches to be used, and the argument to be made. Though conclusions need not be final, the areas of inquiry must be consistent between proposal and presentation.

If selected, participants will be asked to submit a ten to fifteen page final version of their paper by January 30, 2016. The best paper presented at the conference will receive a cash prize.

Submit proposals and questions by email to:

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Graduate Student Conference at the Newberry Library

There is a great opportunity at the Newberry Library for graduate students working on religious violence in the Renaissance and early modern periods. The Center for Renaissance Studies holds an annual Graduate Student Conference at the Newberry.


The call for papers reads:

“The Center for Renaissance Studies’ annual graduate student conference, organized and run by advanced doctoral students, has become a premier opportunity for emerging scholars to present papers, participate in discussions, and develop collaborations across the field of medieval, Renaissance, and early modern studies.

“Participants from a wide variety of disciplines find a supportive and collegial forum for their work, meet future colleagues from other institutions and disciplines, and become familiar with the Newberry Library and its resources. This year’s conference will comprise twenty-four sessions with three twenty-minute papers each, for a total of seventy-two presenters.”

The deadline to submit a proposal is 15 October 2015.

Northern Illinois University graduate students can receive funding to facilitate participation in the conference, since NIU is a Newberry Consortium institution. I would strongly encourage graduate students in my HIST 640 Reading Seminar on Religious Violence, 1500 to Today to consider submitting a proposal.

See the Newberry Library website for the full call for papers and further information.


Posted in Conferences, Graduate Studies of Religious Violence | 1 Comment

Wars of Religion: Past and Present

Brian Sandberg: Historical Perspectives

I will be participating in an upcoming conference on Wars of Religion: Past and Present at Princeton University on 23-24 April 2015. The conference is organized by the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at Princeton and includes researchers and analysts from various disciplines.


I will be presenting a paper on “New Wars of Religion: Rethinking Contemporary Violence through the French Wars of Religion.”

I look forward to discussing the problem of religious warfare in detail with other conference participants and colleagues at Princeton.

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Religious Violence against Students in Kenya

Al-Shabab gunmen carried out a brutal massacre of Christian students at a university in Kenya yesterday.  “Somali militants burst into a university in eastern Kenya on Thursday and killed nearly 150 students,” according to the New York Times.


The New York Times reports that “a small group of militants, most likely between four and 10, roved from dorm to dorm, separating Christian from Muslim students and killing the Christians, the authorities said. Students described being awakened before dawn by the sound of gunfire and fleeing for their lives as masked attackers closed in.”

Al-Shabab [also referred to as Shabab or al-Shabaab], a Islamist military organization from Somalia, has previously launched attacks into Kenya.

The New York Times and the Guardian report on the religious violence in Kenya.

Posted in Atrocities, Christian-Muslim Violence, Christianity and Religious Violence, Islam and Religious Violence, Religious Militants, Religious Terrorism, Religious Violence | Leave a comment

Religion and the Teaching of the Holocaust

Religious issues present complicated dilemmas in the teaching of many subjects. Instructors teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides confront complex histories , contentious politics, and traumatic legacies.

The New York Times profiles Mehnaz M. Afridi, an Assistant Professor of Religion at Manhattan College, who teaches about the Holocaust from a Muslim perspective.

Professor Afridi has been viewed “both a valued intermediary and a visible target in the troubled relations between Muslims and Jews,” according to the New York Times. “As her research unflinchingly shows, a strain of Holocaust denial runs deep in the Arab-Muslim world. Holocaust recognition among Arabs and Muslims, less noticed but equally divisive, has also served as a means of delegitimizing Israel and Zionism. By this line of reasoning, which ignores the historical ties of Jews to Israel, the Holocaust was a crime inflicted by Europeans for which Palestinians paid the price.”

The New York Times indicates that “while Dr. Afridi is an observant Muslim, praying daily and fasting during Ramadan, she is seen by Muslim critics as disloyal or naïve for putting her scholarly work at least partly in the service of chronicling a Jewish tragedy, rather than the defeat and dispossession that Palestinians call the Nakba. Moreover, she has studied in Israel and expressed support in her writings for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.”

The New York Times reports on teaching the Holocaust from Muslim perspectives. Researchers working on religion, violence, and genocide studies will be interested to read more about Professor Afridi’s approaches to studying the Holocaust, as well as the broader issues of teaching about religious violence and comparative genocides.

Posted in Ethics and Violence, Genocides, Historiography of Religious Violence, Holocaust, Islam and Religious Violence, Judaism and Religious Violence, Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Research on Religious Violence | Leave a comment