Teresa Bejan

Assistant Professor of Political Science

University of Toronto

Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities 2013 - 14

Teresa M. Bejan received her PhD with distinction in Political Science from Yale University in 2013. Her research brings perspectives from early modern political thought to bear on questions in contemporary political theory and practice, particularly concerning issues of toleration, education, and civility. Her work has appeared in History of European Ideas and the Oxford Review of Education, and her essay on Hobbes's educational thought was recently reprinted in Ideas of Education: Political and Philosophical Perspectives from Plato to the Nineteenth Century (Routledge, 2013). She holds previous degrees from the Universities of Chicago and Cambridge, and in 2010-2011, she returned to Cambridge as a Fox Fellow at Sidney Sussex College.

Her current book project, Mere Civility: Tolerating Disagreement in Early Modern England and America, examines contemporary calls for civility in light of seventeenth-century debates about religious toleration. Many of the most 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 the conversational virtue of "civility" as a way to reconcile the tension between diversity and disagreement. Yet 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 most fundamental commitments requires.

In fall 2014, Dr. Bejan will begin a tenure-track appointment as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto.