Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Religious Studies, Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Katherine Turpin

Second Advisor

Debora Ortega

Third Advisor

Miguel A. De La Torre


Decolonizing, Interfaith, Postcolonial, Religion


Among various formations of interfaith interaction in the United States, practitioners strive to build relationships across religious difference through appeals to commonality. Problematically, relying on commonality to unite religiously diverse groups can ignore the colonial history behind what is considered common across humanity, and may serve to make interfaith interaction ineffective. The interfaith project is itself connected to the colonial legacy of Western epistemology, which tacitly normalizes Protestant Christian norms and conceptions of “Religion” and human subjectivity. This dissertation explores whether interfaith interaction, while trying to relieve the religious oppression caused by the normalization of Christianity, may in fact support it.

This qualitative study used grounded theory to explore the complicated relationship between an orientation toward commonality and effective interfaith engagement by asking 1) how and why do interfaith practitioners engage in interfaith work, and 2) what values and assumptions do interfaith practitioners bring to their work? Fifteen interfaith practitioners, all religious leaders within their communities or organizations, participated in individual in-depth interviews about their experiences with interfaith interaction. The interviews showed that practitioners held “common humanity” as a deeply important value, and analysis revealed that it also functioned as an underlying ideology motivating their work. Further, this common humanity ideology supported two distinct interfaith projects. In one, it countered the Western epistemology and colonial legacy, decolonizing interfaith interaction. In the other, the common humanity ideology encouraged conformity to Western norms and colonial legacy, reinscribing them. Based on this research, the author provides suggestions to encourage and increase the decolonizing orientation of the common humanity ideology through careful and continued attention to Christian privilege, colonial constructs of commonality, and intersectionality.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Teresa A. Crist


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

271 pgs


Religion, Social research