The Religious in Responses to Mass Atrocity: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

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A peculiar and fascinating aspect of many responses to mass atrocities is the creative and eclectic use of religious language and frameworks. Some crimes are so extreme that they “cry out to heaven,” drawing people to employ religious vocabulary to make meaning of and to judge what happened, to deal with questions of guilt and responsibility, and to re-establish hope and trust in their lives. Moreover, in recent years, religious actors have become increasingly influential in worldwide contexts of conflict-resolution and transitional justice. This collection offers a critical assessment of the possibilities and problems pertaining to attempts to bring religious – or semi-religious – allegiances and perspectives to bear in responses to the mass atrocities of our time: When and how can religious language or religious beliefs and practices be either necessary or helpful? And what are the problems and reasons for caution or critique? In this book, a group of distinguished scholars explore these questions and offer a range of original explanatory and normative perspectives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With essays of tremendous depth and thoughtfulness, this volume adds significantly to the contemporary conversation about religion and violence. Highly recommended." —Choice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521518857
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/16/2009
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Brudholm was educated at the University of Copenhagen and has his PhD in philosophy. Brudholm has received several national research grants and has been visiting scholar at prestigious research institutes in Denmark and abroad, including CERI/Sciences Po (Paris). He has edited several books, and, in 2008, he published Resentment's Virtue: Jean Améry and the Refusal to Forgive. He has contributed articles to the Journal of Human Rights, the Hedgehog Review, Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, and (forthcoming) Law and Contemporary Problems.

Thomas Cushman is Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Wellesley College. He is the author and editor of many books on topics ranging from counterculture in Russia, genocide, George Orwell, human rights, and the war in Iraq. He is the founder and was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Human Rights. He is a Faculty Associate of the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University and has been visiting professor at Brandeis University, University of London, and the University of the Witwatersrand. His current work focuses on the idea of 'democratic geopolitics.'

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Table of Contents

Part I. Between Necessity and Impossibility: The Role of Religion in the Face of Atrocity: 1. Religious rhetoric in responses to atrocity Jennifer L. Geddes; 2. The limit of ethics - the ethics of the limit Arne Grøn; 3. The intolerability of meaning: myth, faith and reason in philosophical responses to moral atrocity Peter Dews; Part II. Does it Help to Import Religious Ideas? Reflections on Punishment, War and Forgiveness: 4. Can we punish the perpetrators of atrocities? Antony Duff; 5. On the advocacy of forgiveness after mass atrocities Thomas Brudholm; 6. The ethics of forgiveness and the doctrine of just war: a religious view of righting atrocious wrongs Nigel Biggar; Part III. Sociologies of the Religious in Responses to Mass Atrocities: 7. Making whole: the ethics and politics of 'coming to terms with the past' John Torpey; 8. When faith meets history: the influence of religion on transitional justice Daniel Philpot; 9. Genocidal rupture and performative repair in global civil society: reconsidering the discourse of apology in the face of mass atrocity Thomas Cushman; 10. Violence, human rights and piety: cosmopolitanism versus virtuous exclusion Bryan Turner.

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