Research Initiative on Religion, Politics, and Conflict 

Promoting the Scientific and Historical Study of Religion-Related Violence

The proliferation of religion-related violence has increased the risk for destabilization and mass destruction in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, with consequences for all regions of the world. Governmental, religious, and civil society agencies have failed to produce successful procedures for diagnosing and preventing the rapid spread of religion-related violent conflict worldwide.

UVA’s Initiative on Religion, Politics, and Conflict (RPC) investigates how to recognize and remediate religion-related violence where and when it occurs. We advance faculty and student research on methods to prevent and reduce the destruction of communities and heritage in the name of religion. We offer a trans-disciplinary program of research and teaching grounded in the College of Arts and Sciences, extended by several schools within the University—including law, business, nursing, public policy, engineering, and data science; and strengthened by international academic partnerships. RPC will produce cutting-edge research on the nature, causes, and solutions to religion-related conflicts, and will propose novel strategies of intervention and resolution. By drawing on a diverse range of disciplines in the sciences and humanities, from systems engineering and quantum logic to literature and religion, RPC will train students in quantitative and qualitative methods applied to real-world crises.

Description of RPC’s work:

  • Research on “Value Predicate Analysis of Religious Discourse,” producing an ethnolinguistic tool to diagnose linguistic flexibility/inflexibility in religious group discourses, signaling a range of probable near future group tendencies. (Project Dir: Peter Ochs)
  • Collaboration between the UVA Data Science Institute and the Religious Studies Program in “Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice Program”: producing a text-mining application of “Value Predicate Analysis.” (Project Dir: Donald Brown, Peter Ochs)
  • Refugee Studies, including Sociological Research on African Immigration to Central Virginia. (Project Dir: Milton Vickerman)
  • Research Workshops on Ethnic and Religious Tensions in the Caucasus Region; Global Fiction and Religious Violence; Politics and the Bible; Political Islam Lecture Series; Poetics, Rhetorics and Affects; World Religions World Literatures; Healing Practices in Religious Studies and Nursing.
  • Participation of graduate student researchers in each research time and workshop.
  • Staff of approx. 30 undergraduate research interns.
  • Faculty-admin participation from Schools of Nursing, Engineering, Business, and Arts & Sciences (featuring departments of Politics, Religious Studies, English, French, History, Sociology, Anthropology)

RPC’s research program addresses four critical dimensions of violence prevention and conflict mitigation:

  • Diagnostics: analysis of symptoms, signs, and factors in a given conflict. We anticipate that the primary research areas will include linguistics, education, data science, systems analysis, economics, law, religious studies, a range of social sciences.
  • Historical and Social Context: analysis of the setting of a given context. We anticipate that the primary research areas will be history, education, religious studies, ethnography and sociology, economics.
  • Mitigation/Prevention: analysis of strategies, best practices, policy for conflict resolution. We anticipate that the primary research areas will be politics, including a broad range of complementary sub-disciplines.
  • Repair/Resilience: analysis of best practices, strategies, and policy for treating the victims of conflict. We anticipate that the primary research areas will be nursing and medicine, religious studies, psychology, education, engineering, and refugee studies.

UVA is building an international network of universities and faculty advancing research on the prevention of religion-related violence. The RPC initiative will host a series of research workshops and strategy meetings, with invited partners and lecturers focusing on the specific research areas of the Initiative. We are developing research partnerships with scholars in the UK, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, UAE, India, and Pakistan.


  • Production and dissemination of scholarship, including international research workshops at UVA.
  • Participation of faculty associates, visiting faculty, postdoctoral associates, graduate student research associates, and undergraduate student interns.
  • Graduate and undergraduate courses, including new MA programs.
  • Training in religious literacy for policy-makers, governmental officials, NGO staff, and leaders.