Address: University of Notre Dame, 2060 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
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Karrie J. Koesel is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame where she specializes in the study of contemporary Chinese and Russian politics, authoritarianism, and religion and politics. She is the author of Religion and Authoritarianism: Cooperation, Conflict and the Consequences (Cambridge University Press, 2014), and her work has appeared in Perspectives on Politics, The China Quarterly, Post-Soviet Affairs, Demokratizatsiya, Economics and Politics, and Review of Religion and Chinese Society. Koesel is currently working on a book-length project, “Learning to Be Loyal: Patriotic Education in Authoritarian Regimes.” This book explores questions about how authoritarian leaders cultivate popular legitimacy and loyalty; how they socialize citizens and the future elite to be patriotic and supportive; and whether these strategies free authoritarian rulers from the need to rely so heavily on coercion to stay in power and promote political order.
Her research has been supported by grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Fulbright program, the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), the Einaudi Center and East Asia Program at Cornell University, the Kellogg Institute, and the University of Oregon. Koesel served as an Associate Scholar of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University, a researcher for the Under Caesar’s Sword Project at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, University of Notre Dame, and is a member of the International Diffusion and Cooperation of Authoritarian Regimes (IDCAR) research network, and a Public Intellectual Fellow for the National Committee on US-China Relations. Before joining the ND faculty she taught at the University of Oregon. She earned her Ph.D. in 2009 in government from Cornell University and won the 2010 American Political Science Association Aaron Wildavsky Award for the best dissertation on religion and politics.
She teaches courses on the politics of religion, contemporary China, comparative authoritarianism, and democracy and dictatorship.
Religion & Politics
What is the nature of religion and state relations in authoritarian regimes? How do religious and regime actors negotiate the terms of their relationship; what do the two sides want from one another; and how cooperative or conflictual are their interactions? To address these questions, the author compares religion-regime relations in contemporary China and Russia—two autocracies with long histories of religious repression, diverse religious profiles, and distinct relations between religion and the state. The article introduces a new theoretical framework anchored in interests and subnational authoritarian politics to explain how religious and political authorities negotiate their relationship and the constraints and opportunities that shape their interaction. Although there are many reasons to expect different types of religion-regime relations across China and Russia, the data demonstrate that subnational governments and diverse religious actors often forge innovative partnerships to govern more efficiently, gain access to resources, and safeguard their survival.
This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the religious economy approach by applying it to the religious revival across contemporary Russia and China. This comparison shows that the religious economy framework is beneficial in explaining some aspects of the communist and post-communist religious change, including macroeconomic market trends and why some faiths thrive while others fail. However, it has less explanatory power in explaining religious-state relations under market constraints — that is, how religious groups interact with state regulators to survive and grow; the range of options available to religious actors and their payoffs; and the political consequence of this interaction. This article draws on fieldwork in both countries to illustrate the benefits of grounding the religious economy approach more deeply in politics. The political economy of the marketplace reveals how and why religious groups engage the state to survive, and that they are becoming influential political and economic actors.
Do authoritarian leaders take preemptive actions to deter their citizens from joining cross-national waves of popular mobilizations against authoritarian rulers? Are they more likely to engage in such behavior when these uprisings appear to be more threatening—in particular, when they take place in neighboring countries and in regimes that resemble their own? We provide answers to these questions by comparing the responses of the Russian and Chinese leadership to two such waves: the color revolutions and the Arab uprisings. We conclude that, despite differences in the ostensible threats posed by these two waves, they nonetheless prompted the leaders of both of these countries to introduce similar preemptive measures in order to "diffusion-proof" their rule from the color revolutions and the Arab upheavals. These findings have some important implications for our understanding of authoritarian politics and diffusion processes. One is to reinforce the emphasis in many recent studies on the strategic foundations of authoritarian resilience. That recognized, however, we would add that the authoritarian toolkit needs to be expanded to include policies that preempt international, as well as domestic threats. The other is to provide further confirmation, in this case derived from the behavior of authoritarian rulers, of how scholars have understood the drivers of cross-national diffusion. At the same time, however, we counsel students of diffusion to pay more attention to the role of resisters, as well as to adopters. In this sense, the geographical reach of diffusion is much broader than many analysts have recognized.
This book provides a rare window into the micropolitics of contemporary authoritarian rule through a comparison of religious-state relations in Russia and China - two countries with long histories of religious repression, and even longer experiences with authoritarian politics. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in multiple sites in these countries, this book explores what religious and political authority want from one another, how they negotiate the terms of their relationship, and how cooperative or conflicting their interactions are. This comparison reveals that while tensions exist between the two sides, there is also ample room for mutually beneficial interaction. Religious communities and their authoritarian overseers are cooperating around the core issue of politics - namely, the struggle for money, power, and prestige - and becoming unexpected allies in the process.