KBKaren Barkey is the Haas Distinguished Chair of Religious Diversity and Professor of Sociology at University of California, Berkeley. Her work is in comparative and historical sociology, religion and politics and in particular the study of shared sacred sites. Barkey has written on the early centuries of Ottoman state toleration of religious groups and she is now working on how religious coexistence, toleration and sharing occurred in different historical sites under Ottoman rule. She explores religious toleration as a state based response to diversity in empires and tolerance and sharing of sacred space as social, community based solutions to diversity that evolve under the aegis of the state, yet at the level of the local relations across communities marked by difference. Her edited book, Choreography of Sacred Spaces: State, Religion and Conflict Resolution (with Elazar Barkan), explores the history of shared religious spaces in the Balkans, Anatolia and Palestine/Israel, all three regions once under Ottoman rule. The project provides the historical antecedents to help us understand the accommodation and contention around specific sites in the modern period, tracing comparatively areas and regime changes. Barkey is now writing a book length manuscript on the emergence of shared sites and their transformation over time.
Empire of Difference was awarded The 2009 Barrington Moore Award from the Comparative Historical Sociology section at American Sociology Association and the 2009 J. David Greenstone Book Prize from the Politics and History section at the Political Science Association.

Advisory Committee

Yitzhak Reiter, Glenn Bowman, Dionigi Albera, Karen Barkey, Manoël Pénicaud, and Anna Bigelow.


Dimitrios Papadopoulos portraitDimitris C. Papadopoulos is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Lehman College (CUNY). He has been a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University (2014-2016), a Visiting Scholar at the Program of Hellenic Studies, Columbia University (2013), and a Marie Curie Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (2006). Dimitris’s research centers on the question of socio-cultural space through anthropological, geographical and digital humanities perspectives. He works on borders and borderlands, urban, sacred and historic landscapes, and conflict and displacement in Greece, the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. His doctoral dissertation (University of the Aegean, 2012) dealt with landscape perception and experience at the borders of Greece, Albania and Macedonia. His work has appeared in various journals and as book chapters in collected volumes.
As part of the Shared Sacred Sites team, Dimitris has carried out ethnographic fieldwork with Karen Barkey (2015, 2016) and Manoël Pénicaud (2016) in mixed, shared and converted sacred sites in Greece and Turkey. He has also developed Visual Hasluck, a digital humanities project that offers a visual and geo-spatial re-intepretation of Christianity and Islam under the Sultans (1929) a milestone work on the interplay of Christianity and Islam in the Mediterranean by Frederick Hasluck, an English antiquarian and archaeologist (1878-1920).

Nathanael-Shelley-portraitNathanael Shelley is a cultural historian of the Near East and Antiquity. His research focuses on identity concepts and perceptions of social difference in history, including ideas of ethnicity, race, and alterity, and he specializes in the use of cuneiform documents for social research. He received his PhD in 2016 from Columbia University with a dissertation entitled The Concept of Ethnicity in Early Antiquity: Ethno-symbolic Identities in Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and Middle Babylonian Texts. From 2015-16, he was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University. He previously taught Literature Humanities as a Graduate Lecturer of the Columbia Core; held the Jeremy Black Studentship in Sumerian and Akkadian at Oxford University, and studied at Yale University, Institut Bourguiba des Langues Vivantes (Tunis), Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and the University of Buffalo.
For Shared Sacred Sites, Nathanael provided coordination between the sub-projects and contributed historical and analytical research, writing on comparative theories (choreographies) of coexistence and on the role historical narrative plays in the expression of identity and practice at shared sacred sites. He was also the developer of the project’s website and serves as its current webmaster.

Vatsal-Naresh-portraitVatsal Naresh studies political theory and has degrees in History and Political Science from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and Columbia University. His research focuses on democratic institutions, religious pluralism, violence, and constitution-making. While at the Center for Democracy, Toleration, and Religion, Vatsal conceived and organised conferences on Democracy and Religious Pluralism, and Constituent Assemblies. For the Shared Sacred Sites project, Vatsal has conducted field research in India (Ahmedabad) and Greece (Chania and Thessaly); and curates and contributes to the public outreach material on the website.

Jessica-Lilien-portraitJessica Lilien is the Program Coordinator for Events and Media at the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life.  She has been involved in academic programming and event management for nearly ten years, including previous experience at Brown University and with the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia. In addition to project planning and coordination, she manages marketing and media outreach and designs Institute advertising, publications, and websites, including graphic design for the Shared Sacred Sites project and web design for the project’s museum exhibit sub-project.

Mariam portraitMariam Elnozahy is a recent graduate from Barnard College, Columbia University, where she majored in History. Her research interests range from Christian and Islamic military history to contemporary debates on Islam and Secularism. As an undergraduate researcher at the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, she was involved with programming and administrative work for the Islam, Democracy, and Religious Pluralism Initiative. For the Shared Sacred Sites project, she traveled to Gujarat, India, where she conducted research on Dargah spaces in Ahmedabad. She also queried data for Visual Hasluck, a digital humanities project that offers a visual and geo-spatial interpretation of Christianity and Islam under the Sultans.