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Interreligious Learning, Ricoeur, and the Problem of Testimonial and Hermeneutical Injustice

Abstract

Ricoeur’s philosophy of religion as well as his suggestion that we may consider interreligious dialogue as a specific form of linguistic hospitality has inspired many to think through the challenges of interfaith learning in a post-secular age. I am one of those scholars who have found Ricoeur a particularly helpful conversation partner as I sought to create a nonviolent and transformative space of encounter in my interreligious classroom. In this article, I elaborate on how my lived experiences as an interreligious educator have made me wonder if Ricoeur’s philosophy of religion and his plea for interreligious hospitality are not actually limiting the critical potential of interreligious education. Ricoeur’s interreligious hermeneutics strongly resonates with a modern (Protestant) understanding of religion and its implicit, normative distinction between good (mature) and bad (immature) religiosity, which to this day belongs to the sociopolitical imagination of the majority in most Western European countries (this is certainly true for the Netherlands). It has been my pedagogical experience that this distinction between good and bad religion contributes to and reinforces testimonial and hermeneutical injustice in my classroom, which results in the marginalization of some of my students, especially those whose religious practice does not fit the understanding of what religion ought to be.

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Liberal Citizenship and the Hermeneutics of Public Dialogue: A Rawlsian Perspective

Abstract

Focusing on the topic of public dialogue between religiously theistic, quasi-religious, atheistic, and non-religious citizens in a liberal democracy, this paper develops a practical strategy of dialogue in the wake of Rawls’ Political Liberalism (1993). To set the stage for a rereading of Rawls, the chief points of liberal citizenship are outlined in critical dialogue with recent literature that urges citizens to abandon liberalism. While metaphysics, religious norms, and moral visions of the good are not bracketed by liberal regimes, it is true that liberal states nonetheless attempt to remain neutral in matters of religion and worship. This may yield many worldviews incommensurable with each other. Liberalism, then, as a political order, involves a pluralism of worldviews, some religious and some not. A hermeneutics of public dialogue can enable citizens to be reconciled with, rather than escape, the pluralism born of liberalism. I suggest the point of departure for such a hermeneutic lies in the vocabulary of Rawlsian “overlapping consensus.” Reconsidered in this light, overlapping consensus can open up the prospect of dialogue among citizenry in the public square in a manner that facilitates agreement and cooperation. This is due to the fact that overlapping consensus contrasts with the idea that when one converges on a policy, one must always do so for the same reason or theoretical justification. The paper concludes with the structure of a four-way dialogue that may result from the application of this hermeneutic.

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Secular Formatting of the Sacred
Human Rights and the Question of Secularization and Re-Sacralization

Abstract

Whereas Samuel Moyn has argued that human rights represent the last utopia, sociologist Hans Joas suggests that the modern history of human rights represents a critical alternative to the common theory of secularization understood as disenchantment (Weber). In Joas’s reading, the political and social emphasis on human rights contributes to a sacralization of the person, not only understood as utopia, but also as societal ideal. Following Durkheim, Joas understands the sacred within the society as the continuous process of refashioning the ideal society within the real society. Although acknowledging Joas’s critique of Weber, the author is more critical of his idealization of universal human rights and his affirmative genealogy of this ideal running back to the so-called Axial Age. Mjaaland argues that the normative and formative functions of human rights are better served by a suspicious genealogy of morals, taking also the problematic aspects of human rights policy into account, including its dependence on new forms of violence and cruelty. He concludes that a more modest and pragmatic understanding of human rights may therefore strengthen rather than weaken their authority and future influence.

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Contemporary Religiosity and the Absence of Solidarity With Those in Need

Abstract

The article uses an adapted version of the multidimensional theory of religion to explore changes in contemporary religiosity in Central Europe, with a special focus on the Czech Republic. It asks whether there are any possible connections between the current absence of welcome of refugees, and the fact that the dominant religiosity that replaced the secularist ideology despises religious dogmas and institutions. It asks how people believing in “something”, who do not wish to define that “something” or share its vision with others, can make an informed and healthy judgment and make themselves capable of solidarity with others. The final part of the article returns to the possibilities of strengthening precisely those dimensions of religion that have been downplayed, yet without unrealistic expectations that people would move back to the form of religiosity their parents, but more often already their great-grandparents, left behind.

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How to Respond to Conflicts Over Value Pluralism?

Abstract

This paper starts with arguing that the main reason why value pluralism has become conflictual is that it challenges people’s socio-cultural identity. The next section gives a summary of recent sociological research on socio-cultural tensions and conflicts in the Netherlands and Europe. They are closely linked to “globalization issues,” such as cosmopolitism, immigration, and cultural integration. This shows that the prediction of the modernization theory, according to which substantial socio-cultural values would be replaced by a universalist, procedural ethics, has not come true. The third section discusses the philosophical reasons of the potentially conflictual character of today’s value pluralism: the fragility of socio-cultural identity, the spread of the culture of expressive individualism and the ethics of authenticity, and the influence of the (politics of) recognition of socio-cultural differences. The fourth section discusses two philosophical responses to the conflictual character of value pluralism. First, there is Taylor’s plea for a broadening of our socio-cultural horizon and a transformation of our common standards of (value-)judgments, based on his idea of a fusion of cultural horizons. In spite of its obvious merits, Taylor underestimates the degree of cultural distance that characterizes many instances of value pluralism. Second, there is an idea of cultural hospitality, which is an application of Ricoeur’s idea of linguistic hospitality to the cultural sphere. It is more modest than Taylor’s proposal, since it recognizes the unbridgeable gap that separates different cultures and their values. Another even more modest suggestion to diminish the conflictual character of value pluralism is the virtue of tolerance, which combines the idea that I have good reasons for my value attachments with the recognition that my values are not the completion of the ideal of human existence.

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The Challenge of Postsecularism

Abstract

Since September 11 attacks on World Trade Center, the word “postsecularism” became a kind of key to explain the existing tension between the secular and “indifferent toward religion” Western world, and the growing religious fundamentalism. However, the existence of conflict between secular and religious worldviews and the attempts to overcome it are not new. The aim of my paper is to present a few examples of successful endeavors of worldviews exchanges between believers and nonbelievers. But, first, a definition of postsecularism will be suggested together with some critical reflection on the concept of religion. I will also discuss some inspiring ideas and theories of postsecularism from the last decade. I would like to suggest a comprehension of postsecularism as a kind of pluralism.

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Cultural Pluralism and Epistemic Injustice

Abstract

For liberalism, values such as respect, reciprocity, and tolerance should frame cultural encounters in multicultural societies. However, it is easy to disregard that power differences and political domination also influence the cultural sphere and the relations between cultural groups. In this essay, I focus on some challenges for cultural pluralism. In relation to Indian political theorist Rajeev Bhargava, I discuss the meaning of cultural domination and epistemic injustice and their historical and moral implications. Bhargava argued that as a consequence of colonialism, “indigenous cultures” were inferiorized, marginalized, and anonymized. Although cultures are often changing due to external influences, I argue that epistemic injustice implies that a culture is forced to subjection, disrespected, and considered as inferior and that it threatens the dominated people’s epistemic framework, collective identity, and existential security. Finally, I refer to John Rawls’s theory of political liberalism as a constructive approach to avoid parochialism and Western cultural domination.

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Pluralism and Conflict: The Debate about “Russian Values” and Politics of Identity

Abstract

This article addresses the issue of the plurality of Russian identities. The role of the “otherness” (as embodied by Catholicism) in Russian identity is addressed. The stereotype idea of the two traditionally opposed identities, those of elite and common people is corrected by suggesting a third Russian identity, shaped by the followers of the Old Belief after the split of the Russian Church. In analyzing this identity, one should consider not only the intertwined political and religious dimensions of the Russian identity but also its historical dimension. The Old Believers, owing to their worldview and way of thought, gave rise to a new anthropological figure which contrasts with the stereotyped image of the Russian grounded in the history of serfdom and rural community. This new type of Russian identity is associated with democratic governance, rigorous way of life, higher rationality, and dynamic and successful economic activity. Nevertheless, the history of the Russian Raskol reveals a latent conflict inherent in the Russian past and present and underlying Russian identities. Unlike the religious wars in Europe, this conflict received no resolution; instead, it has been repressed and therefore keeps latently affecting the Russian present. Present-day Russia should draw inspiration in the religious and political heritage of the Old Believers, if the conflict is to be resolved.

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Desperately Seeking Understanding: A New Perspective on Multiculturalism

Abstract

This paper proposes a discussion of the Muslim presence in modern Western Europe and the trends that accompany it. The author argues that such debates could not be conducted in the absence of Muslims themselves and introduces Ziauddin Sardar (a modern British Muslim intellectual) and his thinking on “multiculturalism”. Sardar’s vision on the matter radically differs from the traditional interpretations, which usually involve European Union policies regarding ethnic minorities. Sardar’s theory is built on a broader context and develops such concepts as “diversity”, “identity”, and “power”. His approach transcends the boundaries of a limited geographic area and could be applied to non-Western regions. The author attempts to apply it to Kazakhstan, in an attempt to see how it could work in the Kazakh sociocultural context. The main focus is on the ethnic and religious characteristics of the Republic. Finally, the paper contains some suggestions for the further development of Sardar’s theory of multiculturalism. The conclusions offer a justification of the possibility and necessity to transform the idea of “multiculturalism” into “interculturalism”.

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