Teresa Bejan

Associate Professor of Political Theory

Oxford University

Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities 2013 - 14

Before coming to Oxford, Dr Bejan taught at the University of Toronto and as a Mellon Research Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Columbia University.  She received her Ph.D. with distinction from Yale University in 2013.  She is the recipient of the American Political Science Association's 2015 Leo Strauss Award for the best doctoral dissertation in political philosophy. In 2016, she was elected as the final Balzan-Skinner Fellow in Modern Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge. Her keynote lecture, 'Acknowledging Equality,' can be viewed here.

Dr Bejan's research brings perspectives from early modern English and American political thought to bear on questions in contemporary political theory and practice.  She has published peer-reviewed articles in The Journal of Politics, History of Political Thought, Review of Politics, History of European Ideas, and the Oxford Review of Education, and in several edited volumes.  Her book, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration (Harvard University Press) examines contemporary calls for civility in light of seventeenth-century debates about religious toleration.  Many of the pressing questions facing liberal democracies today -- such as what the proper scope of religious liberty should be and how to handle partisanship and hate speech -- closely recall early modern concerns about the limits of toleration and the dangers posed by sectarianism, evangelical expression, and so-called "persecution of the tongue."  Then as a now, thinkers appealed to civility as a way to reconcile the tension between diversity and disagreement, but determining what civility requires can be complicated.  While some restraint on expression is surely necessary to make disagreement tolerable, accusations of “incivility” can easily become pretexts for persecution.  The book considers competing conceptions of civility developed by Roger Williams, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke and argues that these were not superficial calls for politeness, but rather sophisticated efforts to think through what coexistence between people divided in their fundamental commitments requires.