Masterclass with Professor Pamela Klassen
(University of Toronto)
Spiritual Jurisdictions in a “Secular” Age

HaSS PhD and MPhil students are invited to participate in an IASH Masterclass with Professor Pamela Klassen (University of Toronto) on the topic of Spiritual Jurisdictions in a “Secular” Age.

The question of whether “we” live in a secular age depends greatly on who is asking and where they stand. As a category and a term of art, the word secular carries weight not only in Euro-American contexts, but also in such places as Egypt and India, as many scholars have shown. In this class, we will consider the weight of the secular in Commonwealth (or stolen-wealth?) settler-colonial nations through the prism of the concept of “spiritual jurisdictions,” working with Hussein Agrama’s contention that the secular is a concept that depends on the persistent adjudication of a wavering line between the religious and the political. The readings I suggest here focus on examples from Canadian and Indigenous nations, and I look forward to hearing from seminar participants about how these ideas intersect with their own fields of research. The first reading, “Fantasies of Sovereignty” considers how “civic secularism” is a form of public, comparative, narrative deliberation that forges the settler-colonial nation by acknowledging the diversity of peoples that make up the nation, as well as by selectively forgetting the nation’s violent origins. The second reading, my chapter from Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State, focuses on Canadian and Indigenous forms of spiritual jurisdiction—or ways of rooting law in sacred authority derived from a relationship to land and place—as materialized in symbols of the relationship between the sovereignty of the Crown and the ongoing sovereignty of Indigenous nations.

Pamela Klassen is Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, where she is also Vice-Dean, Undergraduate & International in the Faculty of Arts & Science. The author of many books and articles, her most recent publications are The Story of Radio Mind: A Missionary’s Journey on Indigenous Land (University of Chicago Press, 2018) and Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State (University of Chicago Press, 2018), co-authored with Paul Christopher Johnson and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan. Her book Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity (University of California Press, 2011) won an Award of Excellence from the American Academy of Religion in 2012. She currently holds the Anneliese Maier Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation in support of a five-year collaborative project entitled “Religion and Public Memory in Multicultural Societies,” undertaken together with Prof. Dr. Monique Scheer of the University of Tübingen. For more information, please see


Readings (to be provided to attendees ahead of time):



  • Pamela E. Klassen. 2018. “Spiritual Jurisdictions: Treaty People and the Queen of Canada.” 107-173 in Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State, co-authored with Paul C. Johnson and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, TRIOS Series, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Please RSVP here:

Presented by the Intellectual and Literary History stream of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.