Title: “Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal”
Date: Saturday April 13
Location: Norsemen Inn, Salon C (6505 48 Ave, Camrose)
Time: 2 p.m.
Cost: Free to attend
Tisa Wenger is Associate Professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School, American Studies, and Religious Studies at Yale University. Wenger’s work explores the cultural politics of religious freedom, the religious histories of the American West, and the intersections of race, empire, and religion in U.S. history. Her books are We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) and Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). Her current research asks how settler colonial encounters made and remade both indigenous and white settler religion in the early United States.
“Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal”
Religious freedom is so often presented as a timeless and self-evident U.S. ideal. But this exceptionalist narrative masks a vibrant national discourse—let’s call it “religious freedom talk”—that links this ideal to the politics of race and empire. More often than not, religious freedom claims have supported white and Christian privilege in the United States. At the same time, a diverse array of minority groups and colonized peoples have used this ideal to defend themselves and their ways of life. This talk explores the prospects and paradoxes of religious freedom for Native Americans and for African Americans in the early twentieth century. Both groups invoked this ideal to challenge the racial and religious exclusions of the United States—and both found their identities and traditions subtly transformed in the process.