Karen Taliaferro '08

Developing the groundwork for international religious freedom.

Current Position and Location

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Princeton University

John Jay Institute Alumna

Witherspoon Fellow
John Jay Fellow

Graduated

2005, 2008

Undergraduate Degree

B.A., Marquette University

Graduate Degree

Ph.D. in Political Theory, Georgetown University

In a time dominated by news stories of Middle Eastern wars, ISIS, beheadings, and tension in Europe, some people wonder if religious freedom is possible in countries where Islam dominates (or whether it even has a future in the West). Dr. Karen Taliaferro’s impressive resume spans continents, institutions, languages, and political and religious traditions, and she not only believes religious freedom is possible, she’s working to help other people think so, too.

She explains: “I’m trying to show how religious freedom—a robust, real, freedom of religion and not just conscience—is possible across traditions and religions.” Such informed ambition is what you get when you combine years of living in exotic countries, a brilliant mind, and both the Witherspoon and John Jay Fellows programs.

Karen received her bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and completed the Witherspoon Fellows Program in 2005. She then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco for two years, where she gained experience as a Christian in a Muslim culture as well as a deep appreciation for the importance of Christian community in her own life. Karen was a John Jay Fellow in 2008. “The curriculum and academic community prepared me for forming alliances with like-minded thinkers in the public sphere,” she reflects. Through the John Jay Institute, she landed an internship at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., where she further cut her teeth on the subject of religious freedom and got an idea for what would become her dissertation.

Upon entering the Ph.D. program in political theory at Georgetown, Karen began work at the affiliated Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. Then she moved to Doha, Qatar to keep close to the people and traditions she wanted others to understand. She’s there now with her husband Carlos, researching and writing, and teaching Arab students Western political thought. In fall 2015, Karen will move to Princeton University as a postdoctoral research fellow.

“I’m trying to show how religious freedom—a robust, real, freedom of religion and not just conscience—is possible across traditions and religions.”