UW News

December 9, 2019

Jackson School researcher explores nexus of politics, religion in new podcast, ‘ReligioPolitics’

UW News

Randy Thompson, postdoctoral researcher with the Jackson School, is producing the new ReligioPolitics podcast

Randy Thompson

Religion can affect a country’s politics, and vice versa. And though some politicians appeal to religion to gain support, such moves are far from a sure bet, says Randy Thompson, a postdoctoral researcher with the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies.

Thompson and a series of academic guests — from the UW and beyond — will explore such themes in a new podcast series called “ReligioPolitics,” aimed at diplomats and international affairs professionals. He is a senior fellow with the Jackson School’s International Policy Institute and studies religion’s relation to foreign policy.

The podcast is a six-episode series, and the first three episodes were made publicly available Nov. 14 on iTunes and other podcast platforms, as well as the project’s website.

Each podcast episode will focus on one country, discussing how religion and those who promote it can impact the country’s politics domestically, regionally and around the world. The discussions have a two-part premise, the first being that religion and politics always influence each other, Thompson said.

“While the show focuses on explaining how religious actors impact politics, such close contact with power inevitably changes their religion, as well. Usually, these changes occur in ways neither side expected.”

Second, blending religion and politics is no sure path to sustainable power and “can quickly turn from successful to problematic, as several of our episodes demonstrate.”

The first episode is about Ukraine, Thompson said, “and the successful campaign by the recent president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, to create a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent from the Moscow Patriarchate.” Thompson will talk with Eugene Lemcio, affiliate professor in the UW Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Lemico is also a professor emeritus with Seattle Pacific University and adviser to the Honorary Consulate of the Government of Ukraine in Seattle.

Anand Yang, professor of history and international studies, will be the guest for the second podcast, talking about Hindu nationalism in India.

Guests for subsequent podcasts include Jackson School professor James Wellman and Chris Seiple of the policy institute to discuss evangelicals in the United States.

“The goal is to get each guest interviewee’s knowledge into a form accessible to diplomats and other international affairs professionals,” Thompson said, “as well as anyone following headlines but without an idea of the role religion plays in politics.”

The podcast project is funded by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

For more information, contact Monique Thormann, Jackson School director of communications, at thormm@uw.edu.