modernities project. Both emphasize the monitor, co-opt, and intimidate political
cultural construction of the religious/ opponents; when these tools are used to tar-
secular divide, while Meyer enhances this get religious groups, Sarkissian understands
with an appreciation of the multiple ways these activities to be part of the state prac-
that this divide becomes institutionalized. tice of religious repression.
Koenig then traces these themes through The author observes that the 101 au-
each of the volume’s case studies. He right- thoritarian regimes identified for her quan-
ly identifies the volume’s core problematic: titative analysis fall into one of four general
how to decenter sociology’s overemphasis categories: either the state tends to repress
on Western modernization while still re- all religions equally, the state represses

Downloaded from at Northwestern University Library on January 25, 2017
taining the secular as an analytic category. minority religions and favors one majority
As one might expect, these chapters religion, the state represses some religious
do not resolve this issue. Landau and van groups, or the state represses none. In
Dijk, particularly, raise critical questions Sarkissian’s theory, the state is the unit of
about the whole idea of the religion/ analysis, interacting with and acting upon
secularity dyad. As a whole, however, the formal and informal religious organizations,
volume demonstrates that everyone’s ways nongovernmental organizations, political
of thinking about religion and about secu- parties, charities, and other cultural institu-
larism are shaped by history and culture. tions. Sarkissian observes a pattern con-
The editors’ emphasis on multiple secular- necting Pew data on religious conflict and
ities moves the discussion forward. It is political competition to repression, and
just not the last word. case studies are selected equally from these
four categories of repression in order to in-
vestigate the countries in greater depth and
James V. Spickard
to conceptualize the different types of reli-
University of Redlands
gious divisions that exist in society.
doi:10.1093/socrel/srw006 In nations that repress all religious
Advance Access Publication 16 February 2016 groups equally, political competition tends
to be relatively low. Sarkissian explains this
behavior using rational choice theory, argu-
ing that authoritarian states have an interest
in co-opting majority religions, monitoring
all religious activity, and targeting the polit-
The Varieties of Religious Repression: ical activities of religious groups to prevent
Why Governments Restrict Religion, by them from becoming a threat to the political
ANI SARKISSIAN. Oxford: Oxford authority of the state. Saudi Arabia and Iran
University Press, 2015, 264 pp.; $29.95 achieve this through state control of the ma-
(cloth). jority religions—Wahhabism and Shiism,
respectively—and by controlling clerical ap-
Ani Sarkissian contributes to the liter-
ature on nondemocratic regimes in her new pointments, religious law, religious speech,
book investigating why governments repress and other related behaviors.
religion. Using 16 case studies of repression In states that repress all but one reli-
as well as quantitative data comparing polit- gion, like Russia and Indonesia, greater
ical and religious competition and repres- (yet still limited) political competition is
sion in over 100 nondemocratic regimes, found than in countries that repress all reli-
Sarkissian develops a theory of authoritarian gions equally. The favoritism shown toward
religious repression grounded in the rational the majority religion in these cases is attrib-
choice perspective. In this theory, the state uted to strong ties to national identity, at
is the actor, and regimes develop mecha- least for the majority population. States
nisms to keep religious power in check. use acts of favoritism toward the majority re-
Authorities in nondemocratic states often ligion in order to maintain their political

org/ at Northwestern University Library on January 25. and triumphs of indi- text of Chinese and Russian state policy. however. JENKINS.1093/socrel/srw006 ge in low levels of religious repression when Advance Access Publication 12 February 2016 there is a lack of “perceived political threat” (161). Although state narrative that allows the reader to navigate atheism is discussed at length in the con. New The author notes that. Sunni–Christian divide observed in Nigeria. the author finds sion. This In states repressing only some reli. If I had to use a single word to gion)” as a central aspect of “the concept describe this book. trials. raising Kathleen Jenkins is certainly not the the fundamental question of how we define first person to study the tension between re- democratic versus nondemocratic states.95 ( paper). best interest. and violence are unrecognized peutic culture that religion and commercial under Sarkissian’s coding structure. . She also includes Cambodia. and the groups they find most politically threat- Sarkissian’s approach from the angle of state ening in order to retain state power. among the study. reader is introduced to the pervasive thera- cation. The religious repression is an important contribu- lack of universal repression Sarkissian finds Downloaded from http://socrel. viduals as they search to find meaning post- atheists and agnostics who suffer under divorce. and Ending Life Partnership. Therapeutic Buddhism is seen as in the government’s Culture. 2017 tion to our understanding of how politics. work does not address religious repression 2014. enterprises provide and the way that thera- thor does recognize the “ability to choose py both enables and inhibits personal one’s religion (or to reject having a reli. Sarah Kaiser that it is rational for countries with relatively University at Buffalo high levels of political competition to enga- doi:10. those be it. some of whom divorced quite group of the population that experiences recently while for others. and culture intersect in varying within these nations. sion be studied—alongside religious repres- petition. The au. by KATHLEEN E. exclusion raises a methodological question: gions.. forced adherence.110 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION power while discriminating against minority who “reject having a religion” are not ex- religious groups. the nonreligious. the blasphemy laws. or separately from it? that governments are likely to repress only Authoritarian reentrenchment appears to be a growing phenomenon. By profoundly personal way. in the final section. she does not wish to “imply that it does not exist” (185). Jenkins provides a namely. Sarkissian in what context should nonreligious repres- observes yet higher levels of political com. growth. noting the violent antireligious legacy of Pol Pot and how religious tolerance toward Sacred Divorce: Religion. She may be. Drawing on qua- defining repression against religious groups litative interviews with 75 divorced in- as a key variable. 250 pp. Future work should expand on this area. plicitly included in the data analysis. although her Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. the struggles. is attributed to societal religious divisions religion. by democratic states.oxfordjournals. the dissolution repression similar to the form described— occurred decades ago. it would be to disagree with how re. In these cases. $27. such as the deep structures of modern nondemocratic regimes. misedu. the author neglects a large dividuals. The author argues. like Bahrain and Nigeria. However. ligious/family values and cultural indivi- If I were to offer one criticism of this dualism. Throughout Sacred Divorce. Sarkissian’s analysis included post- Soviet Albania as a unique example of a post-Soviet state disinterested in religious repression. first to demonstrate the tension in such a ligious repression has been categorized. authentic would likely of religious freedom” (32).