Next month, Georgetown University Press will publish The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity by Willis Jenkins (University of Virginia). The publisher’s description follows.
The Future of Ethics interprets the big questions of sustainability and social justice through the practical problems arising from humanity’s increasing power over basic systems of life. What does climate change mean for our obligations to future generations? How can the sciences work with pluralist cultures in ways that will help societies learn from ecological change?
Traditional religious ethics examines texts and traditions and highlights principles and virtuous behaviors that can apply to particular issues. Willis Jenkins develops lines of practical inquiry through “prophetic pragmatism,” an approach to ethics that begins with concrete problems and adapts to changing circumstances. This brand of pragmatism takes its cues from liberationist theology, with its emphasis on how individuals and communities actually cope with overwhelming problems.
Can religious communities make a difference when dealing with these issues? By integrating environmental sciences and theological ethics into problem-based engagements with philosophy, economics, and other disciplines, Jenkins illustrates the wide understanding and moral creativity needed to live well in the new conditions of human power. He shows the significance of religious thought to the development of interdisciplinary responses to sustainability issues and how this calls for a new style of religious ethics.
Next month, Westview Press will publish a new edition of An Introduction to the Modern Middle East: History, Religion, Political Economy, Politics by David Sorenson (US Air War College). The publisher’s description follows.
Combining elements of comparative politics with a country-by-country analysis, author David S. Sorenson provides a complete and accessible introduction to the modern Middle East. With an emphasis on the politics of the region, the text also dedicates chapters specifically to the history, religions, and economies of countries in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. In each country chapter, a brief political history is followed by discussions of democratization, religious politics, women’s issues, civil society, economic development, privatization, and foreign relations.
In this updated and revised second edition, An Introduction to the Modern Middle East includes new material on the Arab Spring, the changes in Turkish politics, the Iranian nuclear issues, and the latest efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. Introductory chapters provide an important thematic overview for each of the book’s individual country chapters and short vignettes throughout the book offer readers a chance for personal reflection.
This November, Oxford University Press will publish Understanding Human Dignity edited by Christopher McCrudden (Queen’s University Belfast). The publisher’s description follows.
Understanding Human Dignity aims to help the reader make sense of current debates about the meaning and implications of the idea of human dignity. The concept of human dignity has probably never been so omnipresent in everyday speech, or so deeply embedded in political and legal discourse. In debates on torture, abortion, same-sex marriage, and welfare reform, appeals to dignity are seldom hard to find. The concept of dignity is not only a prominent feature of political debate, but also, and increasingly, of legal argument. Indeed, courts tell us that human dignity is the foundation of all human rights. But the more important it is, the more contested it seems to have become. There has, as a result, been an extraordinary explosion of scholarly writing about the concept of human dignity in law, political philosophy, and theology. This book aims to reflect on these intra-disciplinary debates about dignity in law, philosophy, history, politics, and theology, through a series of edited essays from specialists in these fields, explored the contested concept in its full richness and complexity.
Next month, Springer will publish Prohibition, Religious Freedom, and Human Rights: Regulating Traditional Drug Use edited by Beatriz Caluby Labate (Center for Economic Research and Education, Mexico) and Clancy Cavnar (John F. Kennedy University). The publisher’s description follows.
This book addresses the use and regulation of traditional drugs such as peyote, ayahuasca, coca leaf, cannabis, khat and Salvia divinorum. The uses of these substances can often be found at the intersection of diverse areas of life, including politics, medicine, shamanism, religion, aesthetics, knowledge transmission, socialization, and celebration. The collection analyzes how some of these psychoactive plants have been progressively incorporated and regulated in developed Western societies by both national legislation and by the United Nations Drug Conventions. It focuses mainly, but not only, on the debates in court cases around the world involving the claim of religious use and the legal definitions of “religion.” It further touches upon issues of human rights and cognitive liberty as they relate to the consumption of drugs. While this collection emphasizes certain uses of psychoactive substances in different cultures and historical periods, it is also useful for thinking about the consumption of drugs in general in contemporary societies. The cultural and informal controls discussed here represent alternatives to the current merely prohibitionist policies, which are linked to the spread of illicit and violent markets. By addressing the disputes involved in the regulation of traditional drug use, this volume reflects on notions such as origin, place, authenticity, and tradition, thereby relating drug policy to broader social science debates.
Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Religion in the Military Worldwide, edited by Ron Hassner (University of California). The publisher’s description follows.
How does religion affect the lives of professional soldiers? How does religion shape militaries, their organization, procedures, and performance? This volume is the first to address these questions by comparing religious symbols and practices in nine countries: Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, India, the United States, and Turkey. The contributors explore how and why soldiers pray, the role of religious rituals prior to battle, the functions that chaplains perform, the effects of religion on recruitment and unit formation, and how militaries grapple with ensuing constitutional dilemmas.
This November, Columbia University Press will publish Religion, the Secular, and the Politics of Sexual Difference, edited by Linell Cady (Arizona State University) and Tracy Fessenden (Arizona State University). The publisher’s description follows.
Global struggles over women’s roles, rights, and dress increasingly cast the secular and the religious in tense if not violent opposition. When advocates for equality speak in terms of rights and modern progress, or reactionaries ground their authority in religious and scriptural appeals, both tend to presume women’s emancipation is ineluctably tied to secularization. Religion, the Secular, and the Politics of Sexual Difference upsets this certainty by drawing on diverse voices and traditions in studies that historicize, question, and test the implicit links between secularism and expanded freedoms for women. Rather than position secularism as the answer to conflicts over gender and sexuality, this volume shows both religion and the secular collaborate in creating the conditions that generate them.
Check out the full video of this very interesting conference, which was put on by the Berkley Center down at Georgetown. One interesting part of the video is Professor Tom Farr’s statement that the Berkley Center will be focusing in the next several years on the relationship of economic and religious freedom, on the one hand, and political and religious freedom, on the other. (h/t Pasquale Annicchino)
On October 26, St. John’s University will host the biennal Vincentian Chair of Social Justice Conference. This year’s theme is “Educational Justice: Opportunity, Inclusion and Social Equity for All”:
Historically in the United States, education has served as a consistent and sustainable means of alleviating individual poverty and reducing social inequality. Today, while the developing nations live on that same hope, the developed world has found that education as a poverty reliever and social equalizer has lost ground. The God-given dignity inherent in each person demands that all experience the liberating and enhancing influence of education as a basic human right. During this conference, we will reflect on the manner in which educational policy and practice have in the past and must in the future contribute to poverty alleviation, social advancement and human solidarity.
Details are here.
Francisca Pérez Madrid (University of Barcelona) has organized what looks to be a wonderful conference next month in Jerusalem, “Religious Diversity Governance: Territorial and Personal Law.” The conference will take place at Hebrew University from October 2-4. Here’s the description:
Because we regard the places we live as the centre of our legal structure and relations, the concept of law has always been closely tied to the notion of territory. But because our social life extends beyond the relations each person has with a territory and makes us members of larger communities and social groups, we also need to establish systems of peaceful coexistence. While territoriality and personality are therefore dramatically different legal systems, they can still operate side by side as “communicating vessels” which influence and complement one other like two sides of the same coin and two different ways of applying law.
For countries characterised by internal cultural, ethnic or religious diversity, the possibility that we might make the territorial and the personal principle more mutually compatible becomes particularly interesting and this is where the State of Israel occupies a unique position in the world. Maintaining as it does the Millet system of law, which it inherited from the Ottoman Empire and which grants each of the State’s recognized ethno-religious communities exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction in areas of personal and family law, the question becomes the following: Can the application of the personal principle to diverse groups facilitate peaceful coexistence in a plural state? Our Symposium will seek to answer this and to provide an opportunity to debate the resolution of conflicts in which human rights are put at risk.
The conference program is here.
Earlier this year, Princeton University Press published On the Muslim Question, by Anne Norton (University of Pennsylvania). The publisher’s description follows.
In the post-9/11 West, there is no shortage of strident voices telling us that Islam is a threat to the security, values, way of life, and even existence of the United States and Europe. For better or worse, “the Muslim question” has become the great question of our time. It is a question bound up with others–about freedom of speech, terror, violence, human rights, women’s dress, and sexuality. Above all, it is tied to the possibility of democracy. In this fearless, original, and surprising book, Anne Norton demolishes the notion that there is a “clash of civilizations” between the West and Islam. What is really in question, she argues, is the West’s commitment to its own ideals: to democracy and the Enlightenment trinity of liberty, equality, and fraternity. In the most fundamental sense, the Muslim question is about the values not of Islamic, but of Western, civilization.
Moving between the United States and Europe, Norton provides a fresh perspective on iconic controversies, from the Danish cartoon of Muhammad to the murder of Theo van Gogh. She examines the arguments of a wide range of thinkers–from John Rawls to Slavoj Žižek. And she describes vivid everyday examples of ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims who have accepted each other and built a common life together. Ultimately, Norton provides a new vision of a richer and more diverse democratic life in the West, one that makes room for Muslims rather than scapegoating them for the West’s own anxieties.