Graybill, “Religion, Tradition, and Restorative Justice in Sierra Leone”

In June, the University of Notre Dame Press will release “Religion, Tradition, and Restorative Justice in Sierra Leone,” by Lyn Graybill.  The publisher’s description follows:

In this groundbreaking study of post-conflict Sierra Leone, Lyn Graybill examines the ways in which both religion and local tradition supported restorative justice initiatives such as the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and village-level Fambul Tok ceremonies.

Through her interviews with Christian and Muslim leaders of the Inter-Religious Council, Graybill uncovers a rich trove of perspectives about the meaning of reconciliation, the role of acknowledgment, and the significance of forgiveness. Through an abundance of polling data and her review of traditional practices among the various ethnic groups, Graybill also shows that these perspectives of religious leaders did not at all conflict with the opinions of the local population, whose preferences for restorative justice over retributive justice were compatible with traditional values that prioritized reconciliation over punishment.

These local sentiments, however, were at odds with the international community’s preference for retributive justice, as embodied in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which ran concurrently with the TRC. Graybill warns that with the dominance of the International Criminal Court in Africa—there are currently eighteen pending cases in eight countries—local preferences may continue to be sidelined in favor of prosecutions. She argues that the international community is risking the loss of its most valuable assets in post-conflict peacebuilding by pushing aside religious and traditional values of reconciliation in favor of Western legal norms.

Symposium Papers on Law and Religion in an Increasingly Polarized America

The Lewis and Clark Law Review, with the guidance of Professor Jim Oleske, has put together a very nice symposium on Law and Religion in an Increasingly Polarized America. Very interesting papers by Kathleen Brady, Kent Greenawalt, Jessie Hill, Andy Koppelman, Ron Krotoszynski, Chip Lupu and Bob Tuttle, Jim Oleske, and Robin Wilson.

I’ve got a piece in there too, Religious Accommodation, Religious Tradition, and Political Polarization, which takes a somewhat critical look at the religious accommodation regime from, as it were, the other side.

Mikalson, “New Aspects of Religion in Ancient Athens”

In August, Brill Publishing will release “New Aspects of Religion in Ancient Athens: Honor, Authorities, Esthetics, and Society,” by Jon D. Mikalson (University of Virginia).  The publisher’s description follows:

Jon D. Mikalson offers for classical and Hellenistic Athens a study of the terminology and contexts of praises of religious actions and artefacts and an investigation of the 94230various authorities in religious activities. The terms of approbation apply to priests, priestesses, and lay individuals in various capacities as well as to sacrifices, dedications, and sanctuaries. From these a new esthetic of Greek religion emerges as well as a new social aspect of public religious practices. The authorities include oracles, traditional customs, laws, and decrees, and their hierarchy and interaction are described. The authority of the Ekklesia, Boule, administrative and military officials, priests, priestesses, and others is also delineated, and a new view of polis “control” of religion is put forward.

Saint-Laurent, “Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches”

This month, University of California Press releases “Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches” by Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent (Marquette University). The publisher’s description follows:

Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches analyzes the hagiographic traditions of seven missionary saints in the Syriac heritage during late antiquity: Thomas, Addai, Mari, John of Ephesus, Simeon of Beth Arsham, Jacob Baradaeus, and Ahudemmeh. Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent studies a body of legends about the missionaries’ voyages in the Syrian Orient to illustrate their shared symbols and motifs. Revealing how these texts encapsulated the concerns of the communities that produced them, she draws attention to the role of hagiography as a malleable genre that was well-suited for the idealized presentation of the beginnings of Christian communities. Hagiographers, through their reworking of missionary themes, asserted autonomy, orthodoxy, and apostolicity for their individual civic and monastic communities, positioning themselves in relationship to the rulers of their empires and to competing forms of Christianity. Saint-Laurent argues that missionary hagiography is an important and neglected source for understanding the development of the East and West Syriac ecclesiastical bodies: the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of the East. Given that many of these Syriac-speaking churches remain today in the Middle East and India, with diaspora communities in Europe and North America, this work opens the door for further study of the role of saints and stories as symbolic links between ancient and modern traditions.

“Women and Religious Traditions” (Anderson & Young, eds.)

Last month, Oxford University Press released “Women and Religious Traditions” edited by Leona M. Anderson (University of Regina) and Pamela Dickey Young (Queen’s University). The publisher’s description follows:

Women and Religious Traditions uses a critical feminist lens to explore the roles and interactions of women with major world faith traditions. Within each particular tradition, the text examines the history and status of women, family structures, sexuality, and social change, as well as texts, rituals, and interpretations by and for women.

Thirteen experts contribute nine chapters and five case studies, including a new case study on women in Chinese traditions. This third edition builds on the strengths of the first two, with the addition of lived religion content in each chapter, an expanded introduction to the study of women and religion, new research on Buddhist nuns, and up-to-date material on women’s current political position in Islamic countries.

Pasieka, “Hierarchy and Pluralism: Living Religious Difference in Catholic Poland”

In March, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Hierarchy and Pluralism: Living Religious Difference in Catholic Poland” by  Agnieszka Pasieka (Polish Academy of Sciences). The publisher’s description follows:

What is the place of pluralism in the context of a dominant religion? How 9781137500526 does the perception of religion as “tradition” and “culture” affect pluralism? Why do minorities’ demands for recognition often transform into exclusion? Through her ethnography of a multi-religious community in rural Poland, Agnieszka Pasieka examines how we can better understand the nature of pluralism by examining how it is lived and experienced within a homogenous society. Painting a vivid picture of everyday interreligious sociability, Pasieka reveals the constant balance of rural inhabitants’ between ideas of sameness and difference, and the manifold ways in which religion informs local cooperation, relations among neighbors and friends, and common attempts to “make pluralism”. The book traces these developments through several decades of the community’s history, unveiling and exposing the paradoxes inscribed into the practice and discourse of pluralism and complex processes of negotiation of social identities.

Vidas, “Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud”

Here’s a new one from Princeton University Press, Tradition and the Formation Tradition and the Formation of the Talmudof the Talmud by Moulie Vidas (Princeton University). Interesting thesis with respect to the nature and history of tradition and tradition-mindedness in Judaism. The abstract follows.

Tradition and the Formation of the Talmud offers a new perspective on perhaps the most important religious text of the Jewish tradition. It is widely recognized that the creators of the Talmud innovatively interpreted and changed the older traditions on which they drew. Nevertheless, it has been assumed that the ancient rabbis were committed to maintaining continuity with the past. Moulie Vidas argues on the contrary that structural features of the Talmud were designed to produce a discontinuity with tradition, and that this discontinuity was part and parcel of the rabbis’ self-conception. Both this self-conception and these structural features were part of a debate within and beyond the Jewish community about the transmission of tradition.

Focusing on the Babylonian Talmud, produced in the rabbinic academies of late ancient Mesopotamia, Vidas analyzes key passages to show how the Talmud’s creators contrasted their own voice with that of their predecessors. He also examines Zoroastrian, Christian, and mystical Jewish sources to reconstruct the debates and wide-ranging conversations that shaped the Talmud’s literary and intellectual character.

Kalbian, “Sex, Violence, and Justice: Contraception and the Catholic Church”

Next month, Georgetown University Press will publish Sex, Violence, and Justice: Kalbian_RGB_72dpiContraception and the Catholic Church, by Aline H. Kalbian (Florida State University). The publisher’s description follows.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI published Humanae vitae, the encyclical that reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s continued opposition to the use of any form of artificial contraception. In Sex, Violence, and Justice: Contraception and the Catholic Church, Aline Kalbian outlines the Church’s position against artificial contraception as principally rooted in three biblical commandments. In addition, Kalbian shows how discourses about sexuality, both in the Church and in culture, are often tied to discourses of violence, harm and social injustice. These ties reveal that sexual ethics is never just about sex; it is about the vulnerability of the human body and the challenges humans face in trying to maintain just and loving relationships. 

As Kalbian explores and contrasts the Catholic Church’s stance toward condoms and HIV/AIDS, emergency contraception in cases of rape, and contraception and population control, she underscores how contraception is not just a private decision, but a deeply social, cultural, and political one, with profound global implications. Kalbian concludes that even the most tradition-bound communities rely on justificatory schemes that are fluid and diverse. Taking this diversity seriously helps us to understand how religious traditions change and develop.

Sex, Violence, and Justice will be of interest to students and scholars of Catholic moral theology, sexual ethics, religion and society, gender and religion, as well as to specialists and practitioners in public health.

Chaudhry, “Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition”

Last month, Oxford published Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition, by 9780199640164_140Ayesha S. Chaudhry (University of British Columbia). The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines the challenges and resources that the Islamic tradition offers to Muslim scholars who seek to address this dilemma. This is achieved through extensive study of the intellectual history of a Qur’anic verse that has become especially contentious in the modern period: Chapter 4, Verse 34 (Q. 4:34) which can be read to permit the physical disciplining of disobedient wives at the hands of their husbands.

Though this verse has been used by historical and contemporary Muslim scholars in multiple ways to justify the right of husbands to physically discipline their wives, progressive and reformist Muslim scholars and activists offer alternative and non-violent readings of the verse. The diverse and divergent interpretations of Q. 4:34 showcases the pivotal role of the reader in shaping the meaning and implications of scriptural texts.

This book investigates the sophisticated and creative interpretive approaches to Q. 4:34, tracing the intellectual history of Muslim scholarship on this verse from the ninth century to the present day. Ayesha S. Chaudhry examines the spirited and diverse, and at times contradictory, readings of this verse to reveal how Muslims relate to their inherited tradition and the Qur’anic text.

Law as Tradition: The Inescapability of Tradition

The third feature of law as tradition discussed by Professor Martin Krygier in his article, “Law as Tradition,” besides its pastness and its presence, is its transmission or handing down (“traditus” is often translated as that which is ‘handed’ down, and I have sometimes wondered whether there is a related but somewhat more distant etymological root: ‘tra’ means across, and ‘dita’ means ‘fingers’ in Italian, making ‘tradita’ transliterate to ‘across fingers.’  But probably the root of ‘dita’ is from the Latin, ‘dare’ — to give — making the transliteration, ‘giving across’).  “Traditions,” writes Krygier, “depend on real or imagined continuities between past and present.  These continuities may be formalized and institutionalized as they are in the institutions of law and religion, though they need not be.”  (251) Cultures which have well developed sacred and secular institutions entrust the task of transmission to various sorts of experts (“kings, priests, judges, scholars”), who are arranged in a hierarchy of  tradition-interpreting and transmitting authority.

Krygier makes a nice move at this point.  He writes that the conventional dichotomy between “tradition” and “change” is false because “the very traditionality of law ensures that it must change.  Although authoritative interpreters might police the present to see that it does not stray too far from their interpretation of the past, it is impossible for traditions to survive unchanged.”  Change can occur deliberately (as when, for example, a new revelation or a new legislation is then incorporated into the tradition) or, in the case of written traditions, simply as a feature of the interpretive instability in the reading of a text (not the wild indeterminacy of text, just its lack of fixity).  In written traditions, “the past becomes available for controversy . . . . Written traditions are continually subject to modification.  Their transmission necessarily involves interpretation of writings.  This ensures change.”  (252)  That is because, in a tradition, texts do not stand alone but must be interpreted so as to be consistent and coherent with the tradition itself.  Krygier is not describing only, or even primarily, the interpretive tradition of the common law:

[G]iven the impossibility of univocal interpretation of most complex texts, there is a sense in which legislation forces interpreters to rely more rather than less heavily on tradition than does the common law. For a relevant statute, still more a code, forces itself on an interpreter. Its words cannot be sloughed aside as dicta or dissent; they have to be interpreted. Since their meanings often will be plural, and since later lawyers nevertheless have to give meaning to them, they are bound to repair to interpretations which have become settled and accepted and/or to canons of statutory interpretation which, as we have seen, are highly traditional. (254)

This is an interesting point, and one might extend it to constitutional interpretation.  Here’s a passage from Edward Shils’s wonderful book, Tradition, quoted by Krygier, which seems pertinent to constitutional interpretation today:

It might be the intention of the recipient to adhere ‘strictly’ to the stipulation of what he has received but ‘strictness’ itself opens questions which are not already answered and which must be answered. If it is a moral or a legal code, or a philosophical system, the very attempt by a powerful mind to understand it better will entail the discernment of hitherto unseen problems which will require new formulations; these will entail varying degrees of modification.  Attempts to make them applicable to particular cases will also enforce modification. Such modifications of the received occur even when the tradition is regarded as sacrosanct and the innovator might in good conscience insist that he is adhering to the traditions as received. (Shils, 45)

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