In March, the Columbia University Press will release “Beyond the Secular West,” edited by Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University). The publisher’s description follows:
What is the character of secularism in countries that were not pervaded by Christianity, such as China, India, and the nations of the Middle East? To what extent is the secular an imposition of colonial rule? Has modern secularism evolved organically, or is it even necessary, and has it always meant progress? How does secularism comport with local religious cultures in Africa, and how does it work with local forms of power and governance in Latin America?
A vital extension of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, in which he exhaustively chronicled the emergence of secularism in Latin Christendom, this anthology applies Taylor’s findings to secularism’s global migration. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Nacim, Rajeev Bhargava, Akeel Bilgrami, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Sudipta Kaviraj, Claudio Lomnitz, Alfred Stepan, Charles Taylor, and Peter van der Veer each explore the transformation of Western secularism beyond Europe, and the collection closes with Taylor’s response to each essay. What began as a modern reaction to—as well as a stubborn extension of—Latin Christendom has become a complex export shaped by the world’s religious and political systems. Brilliantly alternating between intellectual and methodological approaches, this volume fosters a greater engagement with the phenomenon across disciplines.
In March, the Harvard University Press will release “Prophecy Without Contempt: Religious Discourse in the Public Square,” by Cathleen Kaveny (Boston College). The publisher’s description follows:
American culture warriors have plenty to argue about, but battles over such issues as abortion and torture have as much to do with rhetorical style as moral substance. Cathleen Kaveny reframes the debate about religion in the public square by focusing on a powerful stream of religious discourse in American political speech: the Biblical rhetoric of prophetic indictment.
Throughout American history, reformers of all political persuasions and for all manner of causes—abolitionists, defenders of slavery, prohibitionists, and civil rights leaders—have echoed the thundering condemnations of the Hebrew prophets in decrying what they see as social evils. Rooted in the denunciations of Puritan sermons, prophetic rhetoric has evolved to match the politics of an increasingly pluralistic society. To employ prophetic indictment in political speech is to claim to speak from a position of unassailable authority—whether God, reason, or common sense—in order to accuse opponents of violating a fundamental law.
The fiery rhetoric of prophetic indictment operates very differently from the cooler language of practical deliberation and policy analysis. Kaveny contends that prophetic indictment is a form of “moral chemotherapy”: it can be strong medicine against moral cancers threatening the body politic, but administered injudiciously, it can do more harm than good. Kaveny draws upon a wide array of sources to develop criteria for the constructive use of prophetic indictment. In modern times, Martin Luther King Jr. exemplifies the use of prophetic rhetoric to facilitate reform and reconciliation rather than revenge.