Co-production means the ongoing dynamics of forming, re-forming and transforming the three religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity in their manifold sectarian forms through mutual interaction in thinking and living with each other.
To say that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are inter-related, inter-twined, or inter-connected is hardly news. Among both scholars and believers, many are aware that these three traditions, in all of their diversity, have often laid claim to a shared reservoir of prophetic authority, that their scriptural traditions are entangled and their histories often intersect. But the extent and importance of this inter-dependence has proven remarkably difficult to perceive let alone to analyze.
Whether as scholars, religious leaders, believers or secular citizens, we tend to think of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as if each were largely independent of the others—at least after some initial moment of sectarian fission or “parting of the ways.” These communities of faith have always been and still are in a continuous process of mutual co-production. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have continuously formed, re-formed and transformed themselves by interacting with or thinking about one another. That co-production, in all the ambivalence it entails, has shaped not only the religious traditions themselves (their rituals, laws, and teachings), but also some of our most enduring forms of prejudice (our racisms, our gender hierarchies, our moral economies). And it has shaped the conceptual tools (such as history, religion, philology and theology) with which we undertake the study of these religions, even those we tend to think of as most secular and critical.
We need to be able to perceive and interrogate these dynamics of co-production both to understand the past, and because these religions and their secular heirs continue to profoundly shape worldviews and influence behavior in countless communities across the globe. We therefore propose to approach the past, present, and future of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as inextricably entwined and fundamentally interdependent. It is by thinking with and about one another that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have shaped and continue to re-shape their broad faith traditions over their roughly two-thousand-year history. Moreover, the myriad interpretations, re-interpretations, and retellings of their conjoined histories have repeatedly transformed the possibilities for relations between these communities, ranging from the apocalyptic to the irenic – including tolerance, admiration, co-existence, symbiosis, and conflict, stigmatization, segregation, destruction. And yet our histories of these religions are almost always singular rather than plural, as if each were autonomous from the other.
Our goal is to provide the foundations of a new history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as co-produced communities, a history that makes clear the many different ideas and ideals that each of these communities has formed, and continues to form, by interacting with or imagining the others. We seek to produce our own scholarship on particularly significant moments in this history. But we seek as well to provide archives of materials that others, whether teachers or students, skeptics or believers, parents or policy makers, can draw on to produce their own visions of the past, present, and future possibilities of existence and interaction of these three faiths.
The project is coordinated by Katharina Heyden, Professor for Ancient History of Christianity and Interreligious Encounters at the University of Bern (Switzerland), and David Nirenberg, Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (U.S.), and includes a network of collaborators across North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Should you wish to explore possibilities for collaboration with us, please be in touch!