RPP Colloquium Series: Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Works: Highlighting the Power of Spiritually-Engaged Communities in Movements for Sustainable Peace


Thursday, February 8, 2018, 6:00pm to 8:30pm


Havard Divinity School, Sperry Room, Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave.
Sponsor Religions and the Practice of Peace, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at HDS
Contact Laura Krueger

Space is limited. RSVP is required.

This colloquium explores some of the key challenges that nonviolent resistance movements face, including obstacles to building and maintaining movement cohesion, ensuring effective communication, and gaining political leverage; how advocates of principled nonviolence (who promote nonviolence on a moral basis) often clash with advocates of civil resistance (who promote nonviolent action on a strategic or utilitarian basis); the ongoing debate on diversity of tactics; and the ways in which power and privilege undermine solidarity. The colloquium highlights the power of women in these movements and addresses ways in which spiritually-engaged communities are well-positioned to address many of these key movement challenges.


  • Erica Chenoweth, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver; and Fellow, One Earth Future Foundation 
Moderator and Respondent 
  • Jocelyne Cesari, PhD, Professor and Chair of Religion and Politics at the University of Birmingham, UK; Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center on Religion, Peace, and World Affairs; Professorial Fellow at the Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society at the Australian Catholic University; and Visiting Professor of Religion and Politics at Harvard Divinity School 
Erica Chenoweth, PhD, is an internationally recognized authority on political violence and its alternatives. She is Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Foreign Policy magazine ranked her among the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013. She won the 2014 Karl Deutsch Award, given annually by the International Studies Association to the scholar under 40 who has made the most significant impact on the field of international politics or peace research. Her book (with Maria J. Stephan), Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order and the 2012 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award. Chenoweth has authored or edited four books, including The Politics of Terror (Oxford, 2018) with Pauline Moore; Rethinking Violence: States and Non-State Actors in Conflict (MIT, 2010) with Adria Lawrence; Why Civil Resistance Works (Columbia University Press, 2011) with Maria J. Stephan; and Political Violence (Sage, 2013). Her research has been featured in The New York TimesThe Washington PostForeign AffairsThe EconomistThe Boston GlobeThe New RepublicThe GuardianForeign PolicyThe Christian Science MonitorNPR’s Morning Edition, TEDxBoulder, Web Summit, and elsewhere. She co-hosts the blog Political Violence @ a Glance, hosts the blog Rational Insurgent, and blogs occasionally at The Monkey Cage. Along with Marie Berry, she co-directs the Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative, which seeks to shine a light on the work of women activists around the world. And along with Jeremy Pressman, she co-directs the Crowd Counting Consortium, a public interest project that documents political mobilization in the US during the Trump Administration. She holds a PhD and an MA in political science from the University of Colorado and a BA in political science and German from the University of Dayton.

Moderator and Respondent
Jocelyne Cesari, PhD, holds the Chair of Religion and Politics at the University of Birmingham, UK. She is senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center on Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Her work on religion, political violence and conflict resolution has garnered recognition and awards from numerous international organizations such as the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, the Royal Society for Arts in the UK, or the European Academy of religion. She is a Professorial Fellow at the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Australian Catholic University. She teaches on contemporary Islam and politics at Harvard Divinity School and directs the Islam in the West program. Her most recent books are: Islam, Gender and Democracy in a Comparative Perspective, (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity and the State (2014, Cambridge University Press), and Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Islam in Western Liberal Democracies (2013). Her book, When Islam and Democracy Meet: Muslims in Europe and in the United States (2006), is a reference in the study of European Islam and integration of Muslim minorities in secular democracies. She edited the 2015 Oxford Handbook of European Islam. She coordinates a major web resource on Islam in Europe: http://www.euro-islam.info/.

Co-sponsored by the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School. With generous support from Rev. Karen Vickers Budney, MDiv '91, and Mr. Albert J. Budney, Jr., MBA '74, as well as Farley Urmston and Karl Bandtel.

Recommended Reading

  • Chenoweth, Erica, and Maria J Stephan. Why Civil Resistance Works: the Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. Columbia University Press, 2013. 
This monthly public series, convened by HDS Dean David N. Hempton, brings together a cross-disciplinary RPP Working Group of faculty, experts, graduate students, and alumni from across Harvard University and the local area to explore topics and cases in religions and the practice of peace. A diverse array of scholars, leaders, and religious peacebuilders are invited to present and engage with the RPP Working Group and general audience. A light dinner is served and a brief reception follows the program.


The theme of the RPP Colloquium Series in 2017-18 is "Envisioning Sustainable Peace: Leadership, Collaboration, and Creativity for a More Humane and Harmonious World."