Between May–July 2020, Reset Dialogues published a Dossier project collectively titled “A World Without Human Rights?” The project brought together a dozen scholars from across Europe to engage with Adam Seligman and David Montgomery’s 2019 article on “The Tragedy of Human Rights: Liberalism and the Loss of Belonging.” Commentators included Silvio Ferrari and John Holmwood, who have participated in past CEDAR programs. In their response, Seligman and Montgomery both touch upon the CEDAR pedagogy as a way forward.
From the introduction to the special Dossier:
“These arguments touch on some central issues of contemporary philosophical and political debate, from the role of law in the development of civil society to the interaction between the universality of rights and the particularities of cultural and religious affiliations. The relationship between the rights due to the individual and those that must be recognized to groups (primarily minorities) and the conflict between rights and policies of freedom on the one hand and equality on the other are further questions that are raised by the Seligman-Montgomery article.
“No one can miss how topical these issues are and how important for the future of liberal democracies. Populist and nationalist movements have understood that globalisation has not erased but rather accentuated the need for roots, tradition, belonging and have used this need to challenge policies of rights based on equality and inclusion. On the one hand there is growing regret for (and the desire to rebuild) boundaries that include and exclude, warm the hearts of those inside but leave those outside in the cold. On the other hand, one wonders where this desire to rediscover the value of differences can lead. Won’t it end up justifying the new walls that are rising up everywhere, making us forget that each person is part of the same human family and disavowing rights (laboriously) recognized to each individual precisely on the basis of this universal belonging?”
Read the full debate and responses
We are pleased to announce that Adam Seligman is a recipient of the 2020 Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize. Founded in 1972 by Franz D. Lucas on the 100th birthday of his father, Rabbi Leopold Lucas, who died in Theresienstadt, the Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize is awarded annually by the Faculty of Theology on behalf of the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. The award, endowed with 50,000 euros, recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of theology, intellectual history, historical research, and philosophy, as well as a commitment to international understanding and tolerance.
Seligman is the founding director of CEDAR—Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion, a non-governmental organization that for 20 years has run programs around the world on the topic of “living with difference”, and a professor of religion at Boston University. His work revolves around the importance of religion in a plural society. His writing combines different fields including religious studies, from more classical competences in the areas of ritual, tradition, authority, and trust to the need for mutual respect in multi-religious and plural societies. Against this background, he is actively involved in current debates and initiatives around religion and tolerance. The jury cited the contribution of his work to advance the idea of tolerance.
Seligman shares the prize this year with Linda Woodhead of the University of Lancaster, UK. The award ceremony will not take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic but will be linked to the 2021 award ceremony.
“The Tragedy of Human Rights: Liberalism and the Loss of Belonging”, by Adam B. Seligman and David W. Montgomery. 2019. Society. 56(3): 203-209.
We argue here that human rights are as much the problem as they are the solution to the contemporary challenge of constructing civil society, observing that the seemingly inherent long-term social and political consequences of close to half a century of advocating human rights to the exclusion of other components of human good and fulfillment have been at the expense of any sense of shared belonging. Delineating between rights and belonging, we show how the extreme right has latched on to a tangible argument for belonging while the left has responded by continuing to advocate for abstract, universal, and unencumbered human rights to the detriment of its efforts to build civil society.
Read the Full Article
On December 1, CEDAR received an honorable mention for the 2017 Praxis Award given by the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists (WAPA) at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. As one Praxis Award juror noted:
Longitudinal survey data indicate that participants carried the CEDAR experience forward in their careers. And CEDAR team members have published extensively on their theory, method, and experience. That is potentially a huge impact multiplier, insofar as they are producing resources to help other conflict-reduction interventions to understand and implement the CEDAR approach. Helping individuals, groups, and communities recognize and accept difference as an inescapable, inevitable, and, most importantly, acceptable part of our social experience has to be one of the most important projects anyone can pursue these days. I really admire this team’s dedication to what must sometimes feel like an overwhelming problem.
The biennial Praxis Award is a competition for excellence and achievement in translating anthropological knowledge into action and is one of the most competitive awards in anthropology.
Read WAPA press release
“Yoga at the Nusantara School of Difference”, by Rahel Wasserfall. 2017.
Yoga practice at the Nusantara School of Difference in Indonesia is among the many group activities fellows engage in during a typical program….
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“How to Live with Difference in a Divided Nation: In an Age of Disagreement, Advice for Getting Along,” by Andrew Thurston. Boston University College of Arts & Sciences Magazine. Spring 2017.
Whether you’re overjoyed or petrified at seeing Donald J. Trump in the White House, there’s probably one thing everyone can agree on: the other half of the country has gone mad. Yet despite our sharp ideological divisions, we all have to live together. David W. Montgomery (GRS’03,’07) is an expert on helping people with fundamental differences get along with each other. He says the secret is not to look for common ground, but to acknowledge our diversity—and disagreements. Montgomery is the coauthor of Living with Difference: How to Build Community in a Divided World (University of California Press, 2015) and director of program development for CEDAR, Communities Engaging with Difference & Religion. The book, written with Professor of Religion Adam B. Seligman and Rahel R. Wasserfall, is based on CEDAR’s experiences bringing people of different backgrounds and faiths (or none at all) together. The educational nonprofit runs fortnightly programs designed to encourage people to build a more tolerant world…
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“Broken Politics and the Hope of Discomfort”, by David W. Montgomery. 2017. Maydan. January 19.
These are days desperate for answers. In both practical and existential terms, people are asking what Trump’s Electoral College win – and presidency – means. Does his combative style represent a new populism? Does his presidency give legitimacy to racist and fascist sentiments? Is this a harbinger of America’s moral decay or an opportunity to instantiate a particular moral vision that will aright past indiscretions? Many in our country are uncertain, anxious, and afraid, while others feel vindicated and optimistic. The tension speaks to a divide, not a way to bridge a divide.
Bridging the divide is not about overcoming it, nor is it about acting as if there is no divide. The 2016 presidential election made the division within our country feel insurmountable….
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“The Burkini as a Mirror”, by Adam Seligman. 2016. openDemocracy. August 25.
Last week, the mayor of Oye-Plage in France was so disturbed by seeing a woman in a burkini on the beach that he is planning to ban such a garb from the beaches of his own town. This reminded me of some of my own experiences in the past that may just be relevant to the current debates over the burkini in Cannes, Marseille and other beaches in France.
About fourteen years ago I was in Jordan with my not-yet-adolescent daughter. We were in a goldsmith’s shop in Amman looking at jewelry. The shop was very small, almost a cubicle. At one point six to eight women entered. They were totally covered by burkas; only their eyes were partially visible through a bit of lacework. This was the first time I had found myself in such a situation, in a very small space, surrounded by a group of women of whom I could see nothing….
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“How Big a Threat Is Islamic State in Central Asia?”, by John Heathershaw and David W. Montgomery. 2016. The Conversation. April 11.
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Living with Difference: How to Build Community in a Divided World
ADAM B. SELIGMAN, RAHEL R. WASSERFALL, AND DAVID W. MONTGOMERY
“The authors have the courage as well as the philosophical skills to challenge the sentimentalities designed to help us all to just ‘get along.’ Instead, they draw on their pedagogical experience to provide an account of how difference can be lived. This fascinating book has the potential to change the discussion about how we might live at peace without the peace achieved occluding our rightly lasting differences.”—Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University
“Both valuable scholarship and a practical guide for improving intergroup relations, the material is fresh and the work innovative, with new and illuminating insights. I cannot think of a comparable work.”—David Smock, Vice President of the U.S. Institute of Peace
“This book challenges readers to engage intellectual and human experiential resources to acquire empathy and celebrate differences as part of the knowledge of the self. An interdependent and interconnected reality can be realized when we interact with others in fully authentic ways.”—Abdulaziz Sachedina, George Mason University
Whether looking at divided cities or working with populations on the margins of society, a growing number of engaged academics has reached out to communities around the world to address the practical problems of living with difference. This text explores the challenges and necessities of accommodating difference, however difficult and uncomfortable such accommodation may be. Living with Difference draws on fourteen years of the theoretical insights and unique pedagogy developed by CEDAR—Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion. CEDAR has worked internationally with community leaders, activists, and other partners to take the insights of anthropology out of the classroom and into the world. Rather than mitigating conflict by emphasizing what is shared, this work argues for the centrality of difference in creating community: it seeks ways not to overcome or deny differences, but to live with and within them in a self-reflective space and practice. Living with Difference also includes an organizer’s manual for implementing CEDAR’s strategies in one’s own community.
University of California Press
California Series in Public Anthropology
228 pp. 6 x 9
Illustrations: 27 b/w photos
978-0-520-28411-1 $65.00/£44.95 Cloth
978-0-520-28412-8 $19.95/£13.95 Paper
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