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Sarita Zaffini

University of Virginia

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I am currently the DeOlazarra Fellow in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law at University of Virginia, where I investigate the relationship between religion and politics.

My current project examines a familiar, but perplexing, passage from Hobbes's Leviathan, in which he refers to the "real unity" of citizens and their chosen political representative. A survey of texts published during the 17th century indicates that "real unity" was a specifically theological expression having to do with Jesus Christ's embodied relationship with believers. Hobbes's political allusion to this concept suggests new connections between religion and politics  -  not only in Hobbes's thought, but also in the theological literature published during the English Civil War.

The broader scope of my research is political theology: the study of religious beliefs and their political consequences. I am especially interested in the coincidence of political and religious conflict, and the doctrinal shifts that can lead a religion to abandon one political perspective for another.

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"Real Unity and Representation in Hobbes, Schmitt, and Barth"

Polity, 52:1 ( 2020), 35–63.

"The Two Bodies of Hobbes and Rousseau"
European Legacy, 27:6 (2022), 533-562

"What is Real Unity? The Christology behind Hobbes's Concept of Representation"

under review

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Books 3.jpg

Over 400 texts published in England and Scotland during the 17th century refer to "real unity" -  an expression that Hobbes used in Leviathan (1651)
to describe his commonwealth. The research indicates that the literary context for "real unity" was overwhelmingly theological (rather than political), and its specific referent was Christ's embodied relationship with believers.

These graphs show the various usages of the expression "real unity": by percentage, as well as a time horizon.


In one of his military reports to Parliament, Cromwell referred to Christ's "real unity," shared among believers in the cavalry. The letter was publicly published (six years before Leviathan), and Cromwell's "real unity" statement, contained
in the final paragraph of the letter, quickly stirred up theological controversy
in both England and Scotland.


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Department of Politics, University of Virginia
1540 Jefferson Park Avenue • Gibson Hall 191

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