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Abstract

Conceptualizations of human borders will often refer to narratives of encounters, exchanges, and/or interactions that take place in two different but interrelated settings: one internal, between individuals or groups belonging to the space defined by the border; and one external, between such individuals or collectives and everything that is foreign to them. This integrating/distinguishing role of narratives underscores the imaginative process through which borders emerge, expressed with great poignancy in the fluidity and complexity of border-setting practices in late-modern societies. Paul Ricœur’s take on collective imagination and human action can be a tool to unearth some of the key conceptual features of such integration-distinction tension, by pointing to ways in which social imaginaries shape the liquidity and modality of borders in increasingly diverse communities. Ricœur’s analysis of the development of cultural imaginaries through the opposed yet complementary forces of ideology and utopia, and his exploration of the multi-layered character of mutual recognition, come together in an understanding of human persons – and communities – capable of imagining enlarged spaces of recognition. Richard Kearney complements this analysis with an account of narrative imagination that allows one to articulate the narrative origins of concrete human realities and practices, such as borders and border-setting. In this article, I make use of the contributions of Ricœur and Kearney to argue that a clear understanding social imagination is needed in order to account for the cultural matrix set by human borders, as well as to provide answers to the practical questions raised by concrete historical examples of borders and border-setting.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society
Author: Marin Terpstra

Abstract

In this article I explore different ways of imagining distinctions in the form of borders and on the attitudes that people assume towards them. A distinction is primarily a cognitive operation, but appears as such in human communication (people talking about differences and identities), and in constructions that shape the material space people live in (borders, buildings, and the like). I explore two extreme positions, the one de-intensifying distinctions by focusing on their logical and contingent forms, the other intensifying distinctions by making them a potential cause of conflict. The first one is exemplified by Spencer Brown’s and Niklas Luhmann’s reflection on the logical and sociological aspects of distinctions; the second one by Carl Schmitt’s theory of ‘the political’ and its key notion of the distinction between friend and enemy. Both positions are relevant to understand a major debate and struggle in the world of today between liberal cosmopolitans and authoritarian nationalists. I show in what way both positions are aspects of the human condition, and what makes that alternately the one or the other is stressed.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society

Abstract

This article presents some outlines of a new theory of modernity. As distinct from the theories of modernity of the Enlightenment (Habermas) and their critique in the form of theories of power (Foucault, post-colonial philosophies), modernity is described as a complex process of various “de-limitations”, which is set in motion in Renaissance philosophy. Since in antiquity cosmology as well as the geography of the ecumene were each tied to anthropological, ethical and political conceptions respectively, the de-limitation of the cosmos (Cusanus, Copernicus) and the de-limitation of the ecumene by the European naval powers trigger scientific, political and cultural transformations reaching from the upvaluation of insatiable curiosity to the anthropological idea of experimental self-creation (Montaigne) up to the idea of limitless economic growth (Locke). Since rational, power-related and cultural ideas are amalgamated in the different de-limitations, this theory opens up a new perspective on the ambivalences of modernity.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society

Abstract

Recent struggles over the implications of migration have fueled transformational politics on both sides of the Atlantic. At the center of this are questions of identity, value, long-standing standards of human rights and even enlightenment categories of modernity. Both religion and media play central – even determinative – roles in these debates. This article will argue that scholarships focused on identity “imaginaries” are critical to understanding these discourses and this politics. This scholarship must inquire into both “sides” of migration, both the conceptual worlds of those who wish to move, and the conceptual worlds of those who receive (or attempt to not receive) them. This article will look at the latter through a deep historicist inquiry into the mediation of Protestantism as a central determinative force in the establishment of contemporary conditions of politics in relation to migration in the North Atlantic West. Protestantism’s role in European modernity is well-known, as is its deep interconnection with evolving technologies and means of communication and practices of mediation. This article seeks to understand religion-inflected discourses of nationalism and identity as functions of Protestant social and media instrumentality.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society

Abstract

In the course of the research project “Revenge of the Sacred: Phenomenology and the Ends of Christianity”, a group of scholars based at the University of Vienna attempts to understand a modern society that is seemingly no longer Christian, yet also not yet non-Christian. How does the citizen negotiate the ambiguities between the religious and the political in this ambivalent space that seems to be becoming increasingly “post-secular” in a way that is not necessarily “anti-secular?” We explore the core of these and other questions with contemporary scholars in a series of interviews entitled “What moves you? Human Rights, Hearts, Beliefs – and Beyond.” This interview was conducted with the Derrida specialist, professor, and translator Michael Naas (De Paul University, IL, U.S.). It covers the topics of globalization, migration, hospitality, all in the context of human rights, secularism, and religion today.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society

Abstract

A widely shared but understudied characteristic of the rise of right-wing conservative populism (the New Right) is the emphasis on religious-cultural identity of the West. Using phrases like ‘Judeo-Christianity’, ‘Christian values’, or ‘Christian Leitkultur’ a variety of political actors have claimed that religious-cultural identity needs to be safeguarded and enshrined in policy. As this frame is gaining traction, the question arises what this emphasis on the public importance of religion entails for those who tend to see themselves as the guardians of religious-cultural identity. In particular this article focusses on the challenges this development creates for Christian Democratic political actors.

On the one hand the emphasis on the importance of ‘christian traditions’ resonates with the historical position of christian democrats, on the other hand, there are important differences between traditional christian democracy and how the New Right speaks of religion. The main aim of this article is to outline how the rise of the New Right has created a contestation about what it means to represent christian cultural identity.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society
Die vorliegende Reihe leistet einen Beitrag zur historischen und theologischen Koranforschung. Sie will damit Arbeiten fordern, die zu einem tieferen Verständnis des historischen Kontextes der koranischen Verkündigung beitragen und dabei helfen, die koranische Theologie im spätantiken Milieu zu verorten. Im Spannungsfeld religiöser Diskurse der Spätantike wird derart die Genese und Stoßrichtung der koranischen Theologie in den Blick genommen und mit der traditionellen islamischen Exegese und den theologischen Einzeldisziplinen ins Gespräch gebracht. Derart sollen auch neue Impulse für religionstheologische Diskurse im Islam, Christentum und Judentum geschaffen werden. Um diese Ziele zu erreichen, werden insbesondere Forschungen und Studien berücksichtigt, die eine methodische und philologische Expertise aus unterschiedlichen Disziplinen (Arabistik, Byzantinistik, Kirchengeschichte etc.) und Theologien (Islam, Christentum, Judentum) in Anschlag bringen.

Abstract

At the End of Modern Security: William James on Religious Experience

William James defends religious belief as a reasonable option against a kind of widespread agnosticism which he calls scientific absolutism, and against the dogmatism which he sees in the natural theology of his time. On the basis of his collection of essays “The Will to Believe”, the article reconstructs his arguments and the epistemological foundation of his famous treatment of religious experience in “The Varieties of Religious Experience”. James’ pragmatistic approach, which he calls radical empiricism, resists the exclusion of “mystical” experiences of conversion and redemption, and of religious faith from the realm of reasonable attitudes. Experiences of the astonishing gift of being, of trust and openness, courage and motivation to endure life’s evils can validate religious faith.

In so far as modern rationality with its highest expression in the sciences is rooted in an existential quest for security, the underlying attitude towards life unnecessarily prevents personal experiences of the divine and salvation and unreasonably devaluates attitudes of faith. James defends the desiring nature of human beings and opens up the space for legitimate religious experience.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society

Abstract

Vladimir Solov’ëv, informal “founder” of the current of Russian religious philosophy which gained some prominence in the early 20th C with thinkers like N. Berdyaev, S. Frank and S. Bulgakov, based his social and political philosophy as well as his program of “Christian politics” (an attempt to bring the world as close to the Kingdom of God as possible, while steering clear from any idea of “building” God’s Kingdom on Earth) on a series of personal mystical encounters with Sophia, understood by him as, simultaneously, Eternal Femininity, Divine Wisdom and World Soul. The paper argues that this vision remained the foundation of his entire world-view, despite the fact that he initially articulated a more “utopian” vision of a world-encompassing “free theocracy,” while later in his career he elaborated, in Opravdanie dobra [The Justification of the (Moral) Good], a more realistic, but still “ideal-theoretical” vision of a just Christian state. Highlighting the tension between Solov’ëv’s advocacy of a free and plural sphere of public debate and his own “prophetic” position based on privileged access to divine wisdom, the paper ends with a discussion of the intrinsic and unsolvable tension between religion and politics, and with the claim that there is a fundamental opposition between holistic mystical visions and a recognition of the political, understood as the ubiquitous possibility of both conflict and concord among humans.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society