14 Dec 2021 10:00am - 12:00pm Online


‘Costs of Recognition’ is a public event organised by gloknos Visiting Fellow Maria Birnbaum. Her work studies the relationship between diversity and order with a particular focus on religion and global politics. 

Maria will be joined by Ayşe Zarakol (POLIS, University of Cambridge), Jaakko Heiskanen (POLIS, University of Cambridge), and Janis Grzybowski (ESPOL). 

In this talk Dr Maria Birnbaum argues that there are costs of recognising religion in global politics and that these have been largely understudied. She suggests that these reflect more basic qualities in the logic of recognition itself. By studying recent critical debates regarding recognition in relation to minorities, nations, empires, and states, she argues that recognition has two faces: along with the frequently acknowledged empowering and emancipatory aspect of recognition, it also comes with costs. Building on the work by Jens Bartelson, Patchen Markell, Elizabeth Povinelli and Jacques Rancière, Dr Birnbaum argues that these costs are bound up with the conditions of possibility of recognition. In this sense, recognition both presuppose and reproduce a differentiated social logic, meaning a logic which assumes an identifiable and differentiated subject that acts as a benchmark for understanding if the process of recognition was successful or not.

Returning to the question of religion in global politics, Dr Birnbaum shows that the arguments in favour of recognising religion build on an assumed ‘fact’ of recognisability. In other words, religious objects or subjects must be or become recognisable to a particular regime of knowledge in place in order to be recognised. Arguments that we should recognise religion in global politics thereby ignores its conceptual, epistemological, and historiographical politics, instead conceiving of religion as something that can be included or excluded, governed, managed, and engaged with. Dr Birnbaum argues that such approaches to the recognition of religion – and the narratives of exclusion that accompany them – are part of a larger diversity regime that assumes and reproduces religious difference and the conflicts associated with it, doing more to sediment social and political division than to overcome it.

Attendance is free but spaces may be limited, so please email to reserve a space in the Zoom audience. Please be aware that we may take a recording of this event, which may include any questions and responses delivered by the audience.


gloknos is initially funded for 5 years by the European Research Council through a Consolidator Grant awarded to Dr Inanna Hamati-Ataya for her project ARTEFACT (2017-2022). ARTEFACT is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (ERC grant agreement no. 724451). For information about gloknos or ARTEFACT please contact the administrator in the first instance.


Maria Birnbaum is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bern, and is currently visiting gloknos and CRASSH as a Visiting Fellow. As part of the ‘Religious Conflicts and Coping Strategies’ project at the University of Bern, Maria explores the ‘costs of recognition’ via the conditions and limits of liberal diversity governance. More broadly, her work examines the relationship between diversity and order, with a particular focus on religion and global politics.

Ayşe Zarakol is a Professor of International Relations in POLIS and a Fellow at Emmanuel College. Professor Zarakol’s primary research interests are in international theory and security (with an emphasis on approaches rooted in social theory and historical sociology). More specifically, she works on the evolution of East and West relations in the international order, the history of international orders and sovereignty, and the politics of non-Western powers.

Jaako Heiskanen is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in POLIS, whose primary research interests are the history and theory of international relations, especially the systemic or structural transformation of international orders. He is also interested in the history of nationalism, the politics of identity and difference, and the practice of conceptual history.

Janis Grzybowski is Associate Professor of political science at ESPOL and Associate Researcher at the Centre d’Etudes Internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po. His research focuses on state creation and state formation, the politics of international law, and the contestation and resilience of statehood and sovereignty. More particularly, he is working on contested cases of state creation, including Somaliland and Kosovo, from an interdisciplinary perspective at the intersection of International Relations, international law, political theory, and comparative politics.

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk