Conference - Sacred Kingship in World History: Between Immanence and Transcendence

“We have no right, in the present state of our knowledge, to assert that the worship of gods preceded that of kings.” Almost a century ago, A. M. Hocart made this striking observation about the common origin of religion and politics. Our conference aims to revisit this question in our present state of knowledge from across the fields of Anthropology, History and Religious Studies. We take inspiration from several developments in scholarship: the return to kingship as a matter of serious anthropological enquiry with the publication of Sahlins and Graeber’s On Kings; the growing appreciation of kings as sacred figures among historians and scholars of religion, particularly of Islam; the re-emergence of comparative methods and global history; and the burgeoning scholarship on political theology and sovereignty across the disciplines. In light of these trends, our goal is to explore a new framework for understanding such issues at a global level and over the very long term.