- ISBN: 9780231152327 | 0231152329
- Cover: Hardcover
- Copyright: 10/15/2010
Habits of Pluralism
Pamela E. Klassen and Courtney Bender
Throughout the world, "Parliaments of Religion" are no longer experiments held at a World's Fair but instead are everyday assemblies occurring in schools, hospitals, and city streets throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. At the same time, combatants in new "wars of religion" base their legitimacy on claims to defend religious traditions or worldviews, in such diverse places as Pakistan, Nigeria, and (in a less overtly militarized zone) Washington, D.C. Religion is proliferating; academics, journalists, and policymakers increasingly take religion as a subject of inquiry, and laypeople of all sorts consider it a rubric by which to understand shifting social forces in local neighborhoods and around the globe. Part of this proliferation has come in the guise of religious pluralism, in which a multiplicity of individuals and communities recognize each other as parallel forms of the phenomenon called religion. Whether considering the ways religion secures the diversity of identities in liberal democracies or the ways religion fosters antagonisms in war zones, thinking about how people construct and live with religious difference has clearly become a necessary task for states, scholars, and neighbors.
Pluralism, variously specified as cultural, political, legal, or religious, has come to represent a powerful ideal meant to resolve the question of how to get along in a conflict-ridden world. The authors in After Pluralism consider various definitions and discourses of pluralism, but put most simply, in this book we focus on pluralism defined as a commitment to recognize and understand others across perceived or claimed lines of religious difference. For example, civic and academic organizations have lately adopted pluralism as an ideal model or doctrine for bringing about tangible social engagement across religious differences. From Harvard University's "Pluralism Project," through the proposed cooperation between the Aga Khan Foundation and the Canadian government in the Global Centre for Pluralism, to the European Union's quest for "A Soul for Europe," politicians, religious leaders, and academics in North American and Europe have converged on pluralism as the best path for proceeding into an admittedly uncertain future.
We start with the understanding that modern practices of religion take place in the wake of this doctrine of pluralism, that is, after pluralism has become a widely recognized social ideal embedded in a range of political, civic, and cultural institutions. Our goal is to examine the grounds on which religious difference is itself constructed as a problem that has pluralism as its solution. Working comparatively across both national and disciplinary borders, the essays in this volume invite readers into a conversation about the conditions that have made pluralism a dominant frame in which diversity and heterogeneity can be recognized and engaged.
As our title suggests, After Pluralism takes this convergence on the doctrine of pluralism as its beginning but not its end. We thus consider what comes after pluralism in both temporal and theoretical terms. The episodic and genealogical analyses in After Pluralism explore the ways pluralism works as a "term of art," in Anver Emon's words, casting prescriptive norms of identity and engagement, creating new possibilities and curtailing others. We inquire into what comes after the recognition that current forms of religious pluralism are not naturally occurring ones and what comes after we begin taking account of the historical emergence and institutional production of certain practices and peoples as plural forms of religion. By querying the genealogy and effects of the concept of pluralism within a range of national and transnational contexts, this book generates new sets of questions for engaging and imagining the collective worlds and multiple registers in which religion matters.
Explaining After Pluralism
Several scholars of religion have shown how contemporary articulations of religious pluralism have reproduced older distinctions between "world religions" that in their very origins exercised or abetted various forms of colonial and imperial control over foreign ideological, cultural, and legal systems (Asad 2003; Dirks 2001; Masuzawa 2005; Mitchell 2000; Said 1978). They rightly caution that the revivification of religious difference within frames of pluralism carries with it the violence of these earlier encounters. Political theorists have similarly questioned the ways in which the concept of political pluralism has been used to celebrate American exceptionalism and, more recently, have asked about the unexamined ontological grounding of the concept as it has served dual purposes as both a political ideal and an analytical tool (Campbell and Schoolman 2008).
Our own interests in this multidisciplinary volume are not to reproduce arguments that have taken shape within political theory or to rehash the well-documented story of the construction of pluralism. Rather, the authors in this volume take these positions as the obvious ground on which to pose our questions about what happens after pluralism. With an awareness of the construction of the category of religion at the fore, we ask the following: What does pluralism look like in practice, as a set of tools, projects, and political claims? We consider how the frame of pluralism recognizes some kinds of religious interactions and encounters and some kinds of religions (but not others) as normal and natural. We thus proceed by asking how pluralism is at work in the world, considering how pluralist aspirations and pluralist logics shape modes of public engagement and the various religious and nonreligious subjects that can take part within them. The specific sites in which our collective inquiry proceeds are themselves heterogeneous and include legal systems, theaters, prisons, interfaith coalitions, dream interpretation, and public memorials. Considering these realms as sites of the performance and policing of religious difference, we have compared conclusions about projects of pluralism in Canada, the United States, Egypt, Poland, and Germany.
Our focus on comparative cases and on specific examples allows close scrutiny of social processes that often appear to be more theoretical than concrete and more global than local. Many of the most contentious sites of debates about religious pluralism are simultaneously home to processes of transnationalism, globalization, and postwar (or intrawar) state formation. None of these are new phenomena, but they have taken new forms within current networks of global capitalism (Sassen 2006). Recent debates over immigration legislation in Europe and North America, conflicts over the legitimacy of religious legal systems within secular or multireligious states, and a variety of other flashpoints (including controversies over comic strips and religiously marked attire) all point to the ways in which the movement of peoples and ideas reveals the power relations within polities and communities. These revelations are not the simple consequence of certain religious actors and organizations showing up in new places, necessitating the response of host societies. Multinational religious corporations and networks are actively involved in both developing and critiquing religious pluralism at every level. While citizenship in a nation-state remains an unavoidable necessity for survival and stability, religious leaders make transnational claims to authority over increasingly dispersed universal communities, and the production and circulation of religious objects and media pay little heed to national borders (Jain 2007; Levitt 2007; Meyer and Moors 2006).
Shaped by this flurry of mediated images of religion and by the claims to authority made in the name of particular texts, histories, or lineages, public discussions of religion and religious pluralism within nation-states that consider themselves modern often carry with them a welter of tacit concerns about changing norms of political and moral authority. In many discussions of religious pluralism, what is "religious" itself appears as newly unsettled and out of place. The rules of what counts as recognized and recognizable religious difference (and shared notions about the privatization or laicization of religion within secular cultures) are ever more diversely challenged, whether from neo-pagan Wiccans or practitioners of Cuban Santeria. For some commentators, religious pluralism requires either new rules for public engagement or better enforcement of the old rules.
The urgency surrounding the current manifestations of religious pluralism can therefore be partly explained by the ways they challenge, or even produce, what it means to be a multicultural, modern citizen (Modood and Levey 2008). "New" religious diversity becomes a condition through which commentators, politicians, and scholars can focus their various concerns about how personal liberties and minority self-determination will shape the futures of modern democratic engagement. These are not just matters for pundits and politicians: Many prominent scholars are reopening debates about what constitutes the ideal relationship between religious claims and state power in liberal democracies (Chambers 2007; Habermas 2006; Taylor 2007). One of the most prominent of these scholars, Charles Taylor, has offered his perspective in the form of a lengthy scholarly book and a government-sponsored report. Taylor's A Secular Age, in which he argues that a secular "modern social imaginary" robustly undergirds and shapes the conditions through which people can be religious in both intimate and public arenas, has inspired academic blogs and much scholarly rethinking of the structures of religious identity in secular societies. With historian and sociologist Gérard Bouchard, Taylor has also coauthored a report commissioned by the government of Québec, dealing with the question of the state's accommodation of "cultural differences," which in the report largely took the form of religious differences. Based on four months of public consultations that the authors held across Québec, the report makes a case for "open secularism" as the best means for protecting freedom of conscience and religion along with a flexible practice of state neutrality (Bouchard and Taylor 2008). Histories of Christian establishment and political power in Europe and North America cast a long shadow over Taylor's academic and policy interventions. At the same time, the future of states in which many religious imaginaries are newly in cohabitation animates his work.
The debates about how far any particular liberal democratic state should go in accommodating religious difference are not merely about theological or ritual divergences. They are also about the distribution of resources. In this frame, religion acts as a "mediating symbol," to use Courtney Jung's term. According to Jung (2001:226), ethnicity, race, language, and religion should be understood as waxing and waning with respect to political identity, which remains the principal site of "organized struggle for the control over the allocation of resources and power residing in the state." This resource- and power-based approach explains a great deal about what is at stake in recent discussions of possibilities and perils of religious pluralism, but by articulating religion as one more exploitable set of positions, Jung's analysis does not go far enough in questioning how religiousness itself becomes a recognizable ground for a new type of negotiation of state power and civic actors.
What interests us in this volume is where and whether the rubric of pluralism helps to create religion as an affiliation that is about more than organizing to achieve a class of economic and political interests. Emerging in new public settings and in disconcertingly plural ways, religion presents a threat to the stories nations, communities, and families tell about themselves, whether tales of laicité, mosaics, spiritual kinship, or gender equality (Fessenden 2007; Most, chap. 5, this volume). At the same time, the frame of religious plurality is undergirded by the unifying notion of religion as something shared between diverse groups, whether as articulated in the language of harmonious interfaith coalitions or in the terminology of secular detractors who decry both evangelical Christians and Muslim terrorists as equally religious zealots (Todd, chap. 8, and Hicks, chap. 10, this volume; Hitchens 2007). The mutually constitutive relations between plurality and unity -- between celebrating the plurality of religious diversity and organizing under the unity of the category of religion -- produce complicated political effects in a range of arenas, including legal contexts in which Native Americans struggle for sovereignty partly through the guise of religion, and spaces of incarceration in which Muslim prisoners are pastored by Protestant chaplains in German jails (McNally, chap. 9, Leavelle, chap. 6, and Becci, chap. 12, this volume). Ironically, in most of the nation-states represented in this book's cases, the growing presence of a wider range of religious actors is often pointed to as both the triumph of tolerant and liberal democratic projects and as evidence of threats to the secular spaces that undergird those projects.
As the essays in this volume demonstrate, the sites and spaces in which avowedly secular and religious groups encounter and shape pluralism are historically emergent. We pay particular attention to the considerable and often vexed diversity within particular overarching religious identities in particular national settings, whether one considers Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or religious and spiritual traditions among Native American communities. Pluralisms have taken shape in different national, transnational, legal, and cultural contexts, where different constellations of institutions and actors shape the conditions of interaction and the terms of religiousness or secularity recognized within them (Baumann and Behloul 2005; Berger et al. 2008; Eisenberg 2005; Mortensen 2003).
Thinking comparatively about pluralisms in a range of national contexts seems especially necessary when many recent discussions of pluralism vaunt the vitality of U.S. religious pluralism as "the greatest contribution made by the United States to global religious life" (Lippy 2000:162). David Hollinger (2001:243) goes even further in his recommendation of the "demographically unruly case" of the United States as particularly "worthy of the world's scrutiny" when debating pluralism. Critiquing the work of Canadian philosopher Will Kymlicka, Hollinger (2001:243) explicitly argues against taking "Quebec-preoccupied Canada as a basis for a liberal theory of group rights applicable to the world," suggesting that where the Canadian example is too particular, the U.S. case is more revealing of the contemporary "species experience" of migration and mixing. Although scholars rarely endorse the United States as a model for global emulation, they often come close to privileging it as a starting point for cross-national comparison. Our comparative work strives to remain self-reflexive about what we can (and cannot) learn from particular examples. After reading about how effectively the concept of pluralism can be applied to Canada, Poland, East Germany, or Egypt, one might conclude that there is something particularly American about the concept of religious pluralism after all. This particularity would suggest that it functions less as a model for export than as a doctrinal ideal embodied in particular historical, political, and theological conditions of possibility.
Pluralism: A Brief Genealogy
In our reading, pluralism is a fully modern concept arising in concert with the equally modern ideas of secularity and religion. Genealogies of pluralism grant the word a range of progenitors, from eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, in Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, to twentieth-century U.S. philosopher Horace Kallen, who coined the phrase "cultural pluralism" (Hutchison 2003; Kühle 2003). In its English usage, pluralism was first coined to address an issue of church--state relations, although it held less salutary associations than it currently enjoys. Initially, ecclesiastical pluralism named the situation in which a cleric in the state-supported Church of England held two or more offices simultaneously, often neglecting one for the other, while being paid for ministering to all the parishes in question. In 1772, W. Pennington decried the "turpitude of Pluralism" for causing parishes to lack resident clergy and for fostering greedy priests. For Pennington (1772:54, 69), the "summit of corruption" lay in pluralism's Roman Catholic past, when parishes, or benefices, could be bought and sold to the highest bidder.
In his 1818 work Church-of-Englandism and Its Catechism Examined, Jeremy Bentham, better known for his theories of economics and the Panopticon, also commented on how the practice of ecclesiastical pluralism was a "relick" left over from the "yoke of Popery." Bentham (1818:249) argued that pluralism was an irrefutable example of the vicious "mendacity and insincerity" of the established Church of England and was proof that state-established religion was untenable for both moral and practical reasons. That a cleric could claim payment for leading his flock while being entirely absent from it was akin to shoplifting and swindling for Bentham, with the same viscerally harmful effects. Pluralism was "a sin the guilt of which is as real, as that of Simony is imaginary" (Bentham 1818:337). Considering this work with his earlier appeal to France to Emancipate Your Colonies!, we can see that Bentham's strategies of argumentation against pluralism were similar to his critique of (at least) French colonialism. In this 1793 address, Bentham called on France to live up to its own declaration of rights by renouncing its claim to its colonies. Bentham (1830) argued that contrary to its claims, colonial governance was characterized not by "solicitude" but by tyrannical absence: "What picture can you so much as form to yourselves of the [colonized] country? What conception can you frame to yourselves of manners and modes of life so different from your own? When will you ever see them? When will they ever see you? If they suffer, will their cries ever wound your ears?" Just as colonial governments extracted resources by "leading" people they neither knew nor cared for, so did the pluralist priest.
Ecclesiastical pluralism soon came to hold another connotation, that of Christian churches that attempted to live with some degree of mutual compatibility in the wake of the Reformation. Tracing what he called "official pluralism" in early modern Europe, historian Benjamin Kaplan (2007) has recently demonstrated the multitude of ways in which Christians of divergent theologies and loyalties found ways to share space across Europe while alternately "emancipating," segregating, or expelling Jews and Muslims from these spaces of toleration. Economist Murat Iyigun (2006) further highlights the processes that shaped eighteenth-century European ecclesiastical pluralism as an intra-Christian unity in diversity, prompted in response to the threat of Ottoman -- and Muslim -- military conquest (see also Baer 2008).
Unburdening pluralism of its etymological roots in eighteenth-century Church of England debates, nineteenth-century philosophers adroitly commandeered it for their own purposes. Counterposed with monism and dualism, pluralism eventually became identified with William James's articulation of philosophical pluralism, in which he argued against philosophical monism, where everything could (if only ultimately, or ideally) be contained within a single system. James (1909:321--322) writes in A Pluralistic Universe, "The pluralistic world is thus more like a federal republic than like an empire or a kingdom. However much may be collected, however much may report itself as present at any effective centre of consciousness or action, something else is self-governed and absent and unreduced to unity." Read against Bentham's wrath for the church- and state-funded absent pluralists, James's political metaphor of the republican freedom of irreducibly pluralist absence shows just how profoundly the meanings of the word had changed.
In the twentieth century, pluralism truly found its crossover appeal. Political theorists debating questions of state sovereignty applied pluralism as a term to describe multiparty political systems, and anthropologists also used it to describe societies in which more than one group sought cultural recognition. Despite his argument for the irreducibility of philosophical plurality, William James's work on religion and mysticism ended up lending itself to project of unification, as mid-twentieth-century Protestant theologians discussed religious pluralism as a kind of "global theology" (Kühle 2003:427), in which many paths to led to the same divine truth (Schmidt 2003).
With such a plethora of meanings and ends, it is not surprising that pluralism has retained both descriptive and prescriptive burdens and that it is not always easy to tell them apart. Those who use the term pluralism have not always acknowledged the limits necessary for its operation. It should therefore not come as any surprise that the current use of pluralism also has its own limits and that those who use it are only intermittently aware of these limits. Because the current frame of pluralism is often expansive in its aspirations and (as examples noted earlier indicate) often used within systems of state power, it is all the more necessary to continue to consider its work in the world. Suffice it to say that pluralism, like the related concepts of secularism and religion, emerged in response to particular challenges in the development of Western liberal democracies. In turn, pluralism has gone global, creating the paradox that with its expanding reach, invocations to celebrate difference may themselves breed a hegemonic unity.
Locations of Pluralism
Empirical studies of religious pluralism in the United States have worked with dual purposes: first, to identify the shifts in the types of religious actors active in America, thereby mapping a newly diverse religious terrain, and second, to use such knowledge to promulgate practices of tolerance and respect. The project of mapping the "new" religious pluralism has been most visibly and actively developed by Harvard University's Pluralism Project, a multiyear program to map the religious landscape of the United States and its diversity. Other projects have similarly followed this path, working to identify the location of U.S. religious diversity by focusing on congregations and religious communities in American cities, a project that in itself articulates religious pluralism as organized via existing and clearly demarcated voluntary societies and associations. Similarly, projects such as the one summarized in Robert Wuthnow's America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity (2005) investigate how American Christians understand religious diversity and what they think it means for them and for their nation.
Although these projects have described some elements of the changing religious landscape, they often embed prescriptive models of interaction and normative understandings of religious communities. Indeed, Martin Marty suggests that the language of religious pluralism always embeds a normative goal: It is not merely descriptive of varieties but indicative of the proper relations that should take place between them. Marty (2007:16) observes that "careful listening to scholars and public figures who devote themselves to the subject would reveal that 'pluralism' implies and involves a polity, a civic context which provides some 'rules of the game,' refers to an ethos, and evokes response" (see also Porterfield 2008). Thus Diana Eck defines pluralism as an "energetic engagement with diversity" that is "achieved" only through a "dialogue" rooted in "the encounter of commitments." Pluralism is "the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference" (Eck 2007). Similarly, Robert Wuthnow (2005) calls religious leaders to more active engagement with their religious neighbors and suggests that teaching their faithful about the theologies and the beliefs of neighbors will ultimately help to cultivate better interactions between religious individuals and groups. And political scientist Thomas Banchoff (2007:5) most recently writes that although "religious pluralism describes a social and political phenomenon," it nonetheless remains a central understanding that "religious pluralism should be peaceful" and that, furthermore, "a preference for nonviolence . . . is shared in principle across religious faiths and institutionalized in democratic orders."
The discourse on religious pluralism does not encompass the whole of contemporary discourse on pluralism, which often refers to other kinds of difference and other kinds of prescriptive interactions. Political theorist William Connolly's (2005:66) book Pluralism draws on a similar kind of understanding of interaction as that of Eck, where "deep pluralism" is about "layered practices of connection across multiple differences," differences that could be based in religion, philosophy, or politics.Connolly, long both a critic and a poet of pluralism in its liberal democratic political forms, has more recently articulated his critique and construction of the normative bases of pluralism through a nontheistic yet theological language. Arguing that deep pluralism requires both "a politics of agonistic respect" and an "ethos of critical responsiveness," Connolly simultaneously recognizes that the very concepts scholars choose for debating pluralism are themselves "laced with onto-theological differences that might not be fully susceptible to definitive resolution." Operating from his own explicitly nontheistic ontology that the world is constituted by a "fundamental diversity of being," Connolly understands his capacious notion of pluralism to be rooted in a diversity of diversities, held to by their adherents with deep "affective intensity." To refuse to take the step from academic description to normative engagement is ethically intolerable, concludes Connolly (2008:307, 309); "to bypass the pursuit of deep diversity is to fail an elemental test of fidelity to the world."
In Canada, pluralism is a less common -- and less passionately argued -- term, replaced with the notion of diversity. Projects that deal with questions of diversity have often been less explicitly concerned with religious difference, instead focusing on issues of multiculturalism or cultural recognition. This is partly because the defining contexts in which pluralism has been adjudicated in Canada have involved First Nations and Québec, both of which consider themselves nations that existed in some form long before the Canadian nation (1867) and certainly long before the patriation from Great Britain of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. Although the United States shares similar "multinational" contexts, whether in the case of Native American groups or territories such as Puerto Rico, these nations within a nation have not been a predominant feature of the discourse of pluralism in the United States. Instead, U.S. discourse has focused largely on how individual rights and cultural recognition intertwine, with the "freedom of religion" as one of the gold standards of individual rights (Kymlicka 2001:271). When religion has been a focus of discussion of pluralism or multiculturalism in Canada, it has often been discussed as a facet of ethnicity or as one particularly tricky case study for the dilemmas of living in a multicultural society. Nevertheless, even in Canada an American-style prescriptive message has grown prominent of late, as scholars increasingly position their work as a contribution to the fostering of harmonious relations between religions (e.g., Seljak and Bramadat 2005).
The European contexts of pluralism are found both in particular nation-states and in the wider polity of the European Union. With very different histories of how the state conceived of and supported religious groups -- from the established churches of Germany and England to the avowed secularism and anticlericalism at France -- no single answer has emerged for the question of how to bring together democratic politics and religious commitments. However, the demographics of immigration in European countries have provoked some similarities in discussions of religious diversity. German "guest workers" who were once known as "Turks" and immigrants from France's former colonies who were once known as Algerians or North Africans are now both largely subsumed under the religious marker Muslim. In many European countries, Judaism remains a historically remembered though largely physically absent marker of religious difference (Zubrzycki, chap. 11, this volume). Increasingly, however, demographics dictate that religious difference is imagined through Islam, embodied in such forms as separate education systems, a growing presence in urban architecture and soundscapes, attire recognized as religious and not "fashionable," and discussions of legal pluralism in family law (Baumann 2005). This religious difference is marked against twin "inheritances" of Christianity and secularism, which various actors in the political field of the European Union claim -- with much debate -- as particularly European heritages.
The question of how the European Union will acknowledge the significance of religion, both in terms of its "Christian heritage" and in terms of the current presence of Islam and other more marginalized religions, is being actively debated. Some groups claim precedence for Catholic or Protestant influences, and others define their interventions as a defense of the legacy of European traditions of secular toleration and pluralism. José Manuel Barroso, then president of the European Commission, took the latter course in a speech to the 2006 conference of the European Commission--supported initiative, "A Soul for Europe":
"Europe, which "invented" tolerance for individuals, for their opinions, for their beliefs and for their differences, must make its own special voice heard. Let us not hesitate and then one day regret that we did not say "no" in time and out loud. So it is important to defend respect for diversity. But at the same time we must not lose sight of the fact that this respect is based on a deeper respect for certain principles which cannot be negotiated. Freedom of expression, freedom of religion, or the right not to be religious, and freedom of creation are simply not negotiable."
Understanding the principle of respecting diversity as respecting the right to be or not to be religious puts a particularly European cast on the matter that is less often found in U.S.-based discussions of pluralism.
Pluralism, then, must be understood as emerging in specific contexts and places, as a discourse of the future that cannot escape the past. Our inclusion of Amira Mittermaier's analysis of dream interpretation in Egypt reveals the limits of what contexts and places can fruitfully be understood by the concept of pluralism, a term less naturalized in Egyptian political or religious discourse. The North American and European focus of the other chapters allows the authors to engage with doctrines of pluralism as more or less indigenous discourses, operating in particular ways in cultures with an embedded Christian past (or present). Muslim dream interpretation in Egypt, though shaped by interactions with Freudian psychoanalytic theory and to a lesser extent Coptic Christian visionary traditions, is concerned largely with negotiating a plurality of Muslim approaches to the significance and consequence of dream visions. Mittermaier's appraisal of the utility and effects of the concept of pluralism in thinking about Muslim dreaming demonstrates another model for imagining what it is to cross over realms of difference. The goal of deep engagement across difference, as articulated by Connolly and Eck, is an attractive and even laudable goal in many ways. However, the doctrines and programs of pluralism that dominate contemporary academic and public conversations do not constitute a theory of understanding religious interactions as they take place in the world.
Nor do these starting points adequately acknowledge the great diversity (and sometimes conflict) within particular religious traditions or the ways in which the political projects of pluralism (whether religious or otherwise) hinge on exclusions and occlusions of various religious and political actors. This volume's goal is to set the normative, prescriptive foundations of projects of pluralism in comparative perspective, by presenting multiple empirical studies, historical reflections, and theoretical reassessments.
With all this in mind, this volume is guided by several underlying questions. First, given that pluralism functions as a prescriptive discourse, what assumptions and power relations condition its rhetorical authority? Second, to what degree have the prescriptive and normative understandings embedded in these pluralistic frameworks reified the very differences that pluralism hopes to engage, for example by defining "religions" more coherently than historical or ethnographic accounts might warrant? Finally, as we investigate transnational and historical contexts, what contrasting patterns of power and difference might we identify in the practices of religious encounter, exchange, and conflict?
The Toronto and Columbia conferences where these papers were first presented began by questioning the types of religiousness imagined within the frameworks of pluralism. When prescriptive pluralisms imagine religions as discrete and recognizable traditions with explicit and observable boundaries across which interchange or conflict occurs, they often leave the messy and unpredictable character of religious practice unrecognized. Messiness and unpredictability, whether in conflicts within a particular religious community over questions of gender and sexuality or in the development of unexpected alliances, borrowings, or transformations effected among "religious traditions" when defined as such by the state or the law, are as constitutive of living religious groups in the modern period as are their claims to purity and distinctiveness. The goals articulated within contemporary commitments to religious (or deep) pluralism enjoin rigorous debate. Our proceedings did not start out on the path of that debate, although we necessarily stepped onto it at times. Instead, we began with a shared view that the time has come to investigate the effects of current descriptive and prescriptive assessments of pluralism through sustained comparative inquiry.
Conceptual Partners, Alternative Concepts
As we embarked on this inquiry, we considered several sets of conceptual apparatuses for engaging religion that we believed would set our inquiry into religious interactions and engagements on different trajectories than those suggested by pluralism. Although none of these approaches remove us from the worlds shaped by pluralist discourses, and none are any less ideologically embedded or pure than pluralism, they nonetheless present alternative coordinates for assessing ongoing social processes and imagining religious engagement. Mapping out these partners and alternatives at the beginning crystallizes a range of ways to develop arguments that move beyond the well-rehearsed genealogical critiques to contribute a better platform on which to ground future research and debate.
A large part of the impetus for the conferences on which this volume is based was the degree to which the editors' research into American and Canadian religious mixtures failed to fit with conventional stories of religious interaction. While we encountered religious diversity and intersections, we found few examples of neat borders and boundaries between religious groups, nor did we find that exchange necessarily took place through dialogue or even recognition of the other. Klassen researched twentieth-century liberal Protestants, who she found had a robust supernaturalism unlike the bureaucratic rationality ascribed to them in many scholarly accounts. For example, a twentieth-century Anglican missionary confidently wrote of himself as a psychologist engaged in the science and spirituality of a kind of telepathic healing that bore many unstated resemblances to the spiritual practices of his First Nations neighbors and sometime converts. Bender similarly encountered early-twenty-first-century metaphysical and mystical seekers whose varied practices, including Reiki, yoga, spiritual belly dancing, and shamanic "soul singing," resonated deeply with earlier American and European religious crossings, borrowings, and transformations. The knotty genealogies of these activities continued to raise to the fore the realities of shifting temporal politics of religious borrowing, thus making clear the limits of simple designations or claims about any practice's authenticity or origins. In each of these cases, religious people trafficked in claims of authenticity shaped by an openness and acceptance of others' religious views, drawing on rhetoric that was indistinguishable from liberal political discourse about cultural and religious tolerance (Bender 2007, 2010; Klassen 2007, forthcoming).
We realized that understanding the mixtures that characterized our research subjects would require clear and rigorous theoretical approaches that allowed us to consider innovative and often controversial religious borrowing, appropriation, and combination in historical and cultural contexts. We not only began to draw on the burgeoning literature on the constitutively hybrid nature of religious traditions but likewise asked how and through which social and political processes the facts of these hybrid forms are obscured (or at best ridiculed) in public discourse and effaced from the public (symbolic, ritual, and political) construction of religious authority. The "facts" of our hybrid subjects pressed us to consider what social processes shaped them as such: What kinds of social distinction, political arguments, and religious imaginations articulated the boundaries that designated (if not created) some practices and traditions as hybrid and, for that matter, designated others as nonhybrid? What events, practices, and discourses shaped these entities? To paraphrase sociologist Andrew Abbott (1995), what kinds of social boundaries make what kinds of religious things?
In a variant of this approach, political theorist James Tully (an "After Pluralism" participant) has argued that modern constitutionalism -- with its primary focus on equality between self-governing nations and equality between individual citizens in a nation -- has been unable to adequately grapple with the politics of cultural recognition driven by groups within a nation, such as aboriginal peoples, new immigrants, and feminist organizations. Tully contended that modern constitutionalism remains profoundly shaped by a desire for cultural uniformity and by a "billiard ball" model of cultural diversity, in which national identity is held as the preeminent form of belonging and cultures are imagined as coherent groups. Instead, Tully (1995:11) suggests, we live in times of "strange multiplicity" in which "cultures are continuously contested, imagined, and reimagined, transformed and negotiated, both by their members and through their interaction with others. The identity, and so the meaning, of any culture is thus aspectival rather than essential. . . . Cultural diversity is a tangled labyrinth of intertwining cultural differences and similarities, not a panopticon of fixed, independent and incommensurable worldviews in which we are either prisoners or cosmopolitan spectators in the central tower." Modern constitutionalism has applied this Benthamite billiard ball model to its dominant conceptions of religion as well, using the law to reify or acknowledge only certain practices or communities as "religious," as several of our contributors note. The assumptions about religion and culture within models of constitutionalism (and the varying "sacredness" or unchangeable nature ascribed to the constitutions of particular nations) are thus extremely important to any negotiations or reimagining of religious difference and interaction, whether among scholars or citizens.
Studies of hybridity and multiplicity continue to compel us to investigate the ways in which actors and institutions fashion themselves as religious through the interplay and friction between overlapping identities and communities. Similarly, hybridity calls attention to the ways in which such identities are shaped in various interactions with apparently nonreligious institutions, including law, medicine, and popular entertainment. These studies and approaches compel persistent reflexivity about the fluidity or fixity of the categories by which we label people, practices, and texts as "Christian," "Muslim," "Jewish," "Buddhist," or "secular." Likewise, they compel our ongoing attention to the various historical trajectories of religious mixtures, taking place under the name of syncretism, hybridity, creolization, or other charged rubrics (Bhabha 2004; Stewart 1999; Stewart and Shaw 1994). These perspectives remind us that our labors take shape in the wake of an ideology of pluralism that articulates and naturalizes the very boundaries of difference that it seeks to diminish, overcome, or mediate.
Another conceptual partner to pluralism is the metaphor of encounter as a meeting place of religious difference (McCarthy 2007). A powerful image applied readily to the political and intimate spaces of many present-day liberal democracies, whether kitchen tables, classrooms, or streets, the metaphor of encounter conveys the sense of making space for new actors and communities (Kurien 2007). A metaphor that lends itself to a vision of a collision of purities, whether billiard balls or individuals, encounter also risks imagining a level playing field in which all religious actors and groups are similarly oriented in relation to secular forms. In the frame of political theory, the level playing field model echoes a Rawlsian veil of ignorance, or what Courtney Jung (2001:223) has called the "liberalism of neutrality." Instead of endorsing neutrality that excludes from public debate such kinds of difference as religion, ethnicity, and language, however, the metaphor of encounter encourages an understanding of meeting across lines of difference that grants neutrality to difference itself. Histories of colonialism, differential social and economic capital, and gendered divisions of labor and political power are just some of the factors that mitigate against any lines of difference, religious or otherwise, being equally arrayed, encountered, porous, or bounded for all. In European and North American liberal democracies, the playing field, as shaped by secular civic institutions, has undoubtedly, even if ambivalently, favored some forms of religion over others.
Beginning with tales of the pilgrims and Pocahontas, the metaphor of encounter has been particularly applied to the context of the United States. Imagined and proclaimed as a place where the vitality of pluralism has naturally and uniquely flourished, the United States has been repeatedly held up as a model for other nations seeking to deal with diversity (Hollinger 2001; Lippy 2000). Although some admirers of the U.S. model prefer the metaphor of the marketplace to that of the encounter, both metaphors have become revitalized in the wake of European confrontations with Islam and other religious groups (free church Pentecostals, for example) (Graf 2003). However, encounter is a metaphor that cannot fully address the history of America as a settler colony in which many of those with political power -- but not all -- worked hard to displace the native inhabitants.
Martin Marty (2007:22--23) again provides a useful historical corrective: "That pluralism found encouragement in the new United States occurred not because everyone strove to realize it, believed firmly in its base, or nicely stepped out of the path of each other. Much of the move toward embracing it was prudential and practical." Here, we add that such "practical" pluralism was guided by historically realized secular and religious impulses, including those of a Protestant elite, and became naturalized in the courts, public schools, and a variety of other civic and political institutions. These historical conditions contributed to the framework wherein our understanding of pluralism (and various related ideas of multiculturalism, interfaith, and ecumenism) begins with visions of socially contained and organized encounters. A fuller historical understanding of religious pluralism would necessarily include not just these developing articulations of pluralism in various institutions but also the bitter contests, conflicts, and violence that have informed the ideals and the collective memories and imaginations of both liberal democracies and ecumenical organizations, as well as the ability of states to contain religious actors and mediate their divergent claims.
With this in mind, studies of religious diversity must attend to the historically variable practices and techniques that constitute and objectify collective visions of appropriate religious interaction. Among other things, this will entail holding together stories of harmonious religious cooperation with tales of religious conflict, the repression of religious minorities, and other nonpeaceful events in order to consider how they conjointly shape imaginings of the religious and the possibilities of dialogue. A focus on encounter likewise demands broadening our conceptual and empirical investigations into sites of encounter, to include the numerous encounters that religious individuals and groups have with legal structures and other secular institutions and organizations that powerfully articulate the very terms on which religious actors, interests, and understandings are recognized as such. How and when interests and ways of life are recognized as religious or cultural, as belief or attribute, as group or individual matter for the fashioning or contention of religious identities in political, economic, and cultural contexts. Expanding our vision of what counts as encounter means attending to the range of daily interactions and practices of translation, interpretation, and mutual indifference that shape the lived experience of religious diversity as a shared project in pluralistic, and often postcolonial, societies.
Secularism is more than a conceptual partner of normative models of pluralism; it is one of its conceptual grounds. Several scholars have squarely positioned "secular formations" as profoundly shaping and articulating the boundaries that are encountered or hybridized in religious encounters. This view, evident in many of the chapters in this volume, raises in a new way a question about the relationships in our contemporary world between formations of the secular and formations of plural religions and religious plurality (Most, chap. 5, this volume; see also Asad 2003; Jakobsen and Pellegrini 2008).
The relations between the secular and the plural are not clear, however: We might find in some cases that the "problem" of the religious other is developed by political and social actors as a political problem that justifies the development of a secular state. Such has often been suggested to be the case in Europe, where the Peace of Westphalia (1648) is often referred to as a singular moment in shaping both the emergence of secular states, the privatization of religion, and nascent forms of tolerance of religious pluralism. That tolerance and its abode of citizenship were not extended to all is well recognized (Hurd 2007; Philpott 2002). Yet the fact that these early moments, which linked the development of European secularity to religious privatization and tolerance, simultaneously organized, distinguished, and excluded religious groups along new vectors of public and private would have deep consequences for distinguishing various groups' capacities to become modern, private, secular citizens. These arguments continue to rage in Europe and the United States, where (as Mahmood Mamdani and many others have argued) the conditions of secularism have actively created sets of (Islamic and other religious) people whose religious natures render them incapable of participating in secular politics (Mahmood 2006; Mamdani 2004; Scott 2007). To put it another way, when William Connolly's deep pluralism defines the pursuit of deep diversity as an act of fidelity to the world, any individual or group that does not take agonistic respect as its starting point can only be considered infidel on a global scale.
The details of European and North American cases reveal greater complexity and complication, if not contradictions, in the formations of pluralism. In the United States, for example, a secular state that is presumed to neither encourage nor discourage religious identity unites some variants of religious plurality as admissible under law while excluding other religious groups as insufficiently tolerant. At the same time, the idioms of tolerance, multicultural or religious celebrations, simultaneously depoliticize and depublicize particular religious interests. In the face of these normative paths to "religious" recognition, scholars must acknowledge and inquire further into the processes by which gaining religious recognition in the United States requires that groups take a seat at a multireligious table. The stories told in this volume call attention to a growing recognition that the varying cultures of religious pluralism in which we live are always directed toward and galvanized by multiple fields of knowledge and power.
This volume depended on our willingness to engage with localized discussions of mixture and encounter while also stepping back from them to think comparatively and with the benefit of several theoretical lenses. With the perspectives of both the global and the local at hand, we came to new awareness of the structures that have made pluralisms possible, moving us beyond a focus on discussions of religion and the political to also include the legal and constitutional, the literary and performative (see also Bramen 2001; Fessenden 2007; Pecora 2006; Viswanathan 2008). Where does the production of religious distinction take place: at what social and cultural points, at what practical, discursive, institutional, or structural levels? What makes certain religious groups and their actions observable and others not? Focusing on these questions has taken us closer to reassessing and even observing the varied, fine-grained modes of engagement through which we act and imagine our worlds and those of others.
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