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Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers

Book Cover

In this inspiring meditation on global ethics, the eminent political philosopher Appiah poses old questions made urgent by globalization: What does it mean to be a citizen of the world? What do we owe strangers by virtue of our shared humanity? Appiah’s answers emerge in an engrossing synthesis of autobiography, history, literature, and philosophy. The author’s own personal story — son of an African father and English mother, raised in Ghana, educated in the United Kingdom — nicely fits the border-crossing themes of the book, the central goal of which is to rethink the moral principles of cosmopolitanism, the centuries-old tradition that rejects tribalism and nationalism in favor of a wider embrace of human community. Two strands of cosmopolitan thinking — one that stresses global obligations, one that celebrates local differences — help frame the tension between preserving local values and communities and seeking universal standards. Through anecdote and principled argumentation, Appiah tries to find an ethical terrain that allows for the flourishing of both, a cosmopolitanism in which individuals can give expression to a multiplicity of identities and loyalties while building an enlightened global community through dialogue and discovery.

Summary Excerpted FromOxford University Press

Ikenberry, John G., “Book Review: Cosmopolitanism.” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2006)

Publisher’s Website:

Recommended Citation (Chicago):

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Global Religions: An Introduction

Can Islam be located on a map? Is Europe the center of the Christian world? Is India a Hindu nation? While decades ago these questions were often answered in the affirmative, the truth has never been that simple. Not only are adherents of particular faiths spread across the globe, but there are many variations of a particular faith practiced side by side. This has only become more true in recent years as the pace of globalization has quickened.

The essays collected here provide brief and accessible introductions to the major world religions in their global contexts. The volume begins with an introduction to the globalization of religion by Mark Juergensmeyer, and is followed by individual essays on Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and local religious societies. The book concludes with three essays reflecting on the global religious scene. Taken together, these essays provide a concise, authoritative, and highly readable introduction to the state of worldwide religion in the 21st century.

Summary SourceOxford University Press

Recommended Citation (Chicago):

Juergensmeyer, Mark, ed. Global Religions: An Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

The World’s Great Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions

The World’s Religions, by beloved author and pioneering professor Huston Smith, is the definitive classic for introducing the essential elements and teachings of the world’s predominant faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as regional native traditions.

This revised and updated edition provides sympathetic descriptions of the various traditions, explaining how they work “from the inside,” which is a big reason why this cherished classic has sold more than two million copies since it first appeared in 1958.

Summary SourceHarper Collins

Recommended Citation (Chicago):

Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions. New York: HarperOne, 2009.

Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Activism: Challenging Hegemony by Giving “Voice” to the Victims of State Violence in Punjab

by Navkiran Kaur Chima
International Studies Major, Miami University (Ohio)

Mallika Kaur’s Faith, Gender, and Activism in the Punjab Conflict: The Wheat Fields Still Whisper is a strikingly intense book that engages beyond the customary telling of Sikh history and the political turbulence of the 1980s. Instead, it delivers a creative and raw telling of “history” through both traditional historiography and, more importantly, ethnography of the comparatively “voiceless” and marginalized—in this case, the Sikhs of Punjab, Sikh women, and those activists confronting the might of the Indian state. Faith, gender, and activism serve as three common themes which are interwoven through this work, and have relevance to other cases of marginalization and human rights violations throughout the globe as well. Through these themes, the previously “voiceless” are given an opportunity to be seen, speak up, and demand justice.

Continue Reading…

Recommended Citation:

Navkiran K. Chima, “Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Activism: Challenging Hegemony by Giving ‘Voice’ to the Victims of State Violence in Punjab,” (book colloquium review of Mallika Kaur’s Faith, Gender, and Activism in the Punjab Conflict) , Sikh Research Journal, vol. 5 no. 2 (Fall 2020), pp. 87-91.

Growing Up Interfaith

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, widely recognized as one of the most religiously diverse cities in the world. I was able to interact daily with people from around the world. Whether at the schools I attended in Culver City, the babysitter who taught me the Spanish, or the many friends that came into my life and left, my surroundings always exposed me to multiplicity of worldviews. And yet, despite this extensive set of identities, I still differed from so many others because I grew in a dual-faith household; I was born to a Hindu father and a Sikh mother. Growing up with two religions had its own perks and challenges, but it gave me an opportunity to deepen my understanding of human history in two unique ways.

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve about to read this and you’ve already made a few assumptions. I can list the questions you already might have… How can you follow two religions? Do you prefer one over the other? Don’t they conflict? Are you just confused about religion or do you think it’s easier to follow more than one because you can pick and choose what you believe? Let’s take a breath together and I’ll explain everything.

Continue Reading….

Recommended Citation (Chicago):

Sharma, Tahil. “Growing Up Interfaith.” Last modified April 25, 2018.

The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness

‘While imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, Simon Wiesenthal was taken one day from his work detail to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. Haunted by the crimes in which he had participated, the soldier wanted to confess to–and obtain absolution from–a Jew. Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing.  But even years after the war had ended, he wondered: Had he done the right thing? What would you have done in his place?

In this important book, fifty-three distinguished men and women respond to Wiesenthal’s questions. They are theologians, political leaders, writers, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, and victims of attempted genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, China and Tibet. Their responses, as varied as their experiences of the world, remind us that Wiesenthal’s questions are not limited to events of the past.  Often surprising and always thought provoking, The Sunflower will challenge you to define your beliefs about justice, compassion, and human responsibility.’

Summary Source: Penguin Random House

Recommended Citation (Chicago)

Wiesenthal, Simon. The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness. New York: Schocken Books, 1976.

The Dawn of Religious Pluralism:Voices from the World’s Parliament of Religions,1893

‘On September 11th, 1893, the Columbian Liberty Bell at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago sounded ten times, symbolizing what were then considered the ten great religious traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. One of the most significant events in American religious and cultural history had begun. The ochre robes of Buddhist ascetics, the vermilion cloaks and turbans of Hindu swamis, the silk vestments of Confucians, Taoists, and Shinto priests, the somber garb of Protestant ministers, all gathered together on the platform around a Roman Catholic cardinal, dressed in scarlet and seated in a high chair of state. The near-ecstatic crowd repeatedly burst into tumultuous applause, waving handkerchiefs, and mingling tears with smiles. Nothing like the World’s Parliament of Religions had been seen in the history of the world, and nothing like it was to be seen again for many years: a gathering of representatives of numerous world religions for an exchange of views. It was a turning point in American life, presaging the multiculturalism of a century later. This volume contains a selection of 60 representative and revealing addresses given to the Parliament, with authoritative introductions and notes by Professor Seager. The addresses include contributions by Protestant mainstream ministers, African-Americans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and representatives of other Asian religions. Also included are various “points of contact and contention, ” in which religious leaders attempted to analyze or reach out to their counterparts in other traditions.’

Summary Source: Barnes & Noble Summary

Recommended Citation (Chicago)

Seager, Richard Hughes, ed. The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893. La Salle, IL: Open Court Press, 1999.

Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing

Gaia and God is an admirably readable, wide-ranging account of world-views, claiming that the past has been too patriarchal and that the present needs a feminist corrective.  Each Of four sections–creation, destruction, domination and deceit, and healing–starts in past mythology, in religion, and ends in a contemporary descriptive account, typically with much science.  Ruether’s goal is prescriptive and therapeutic.  There are three classical creation stories: Babylonian, Hebrew, and Greek, and there is the modern scientific story.  There are biblical destructions: the Noah story, prophetic apocalyptic, and the Book of Revelation, somewhat oddly juxtaposed with the ecological crisis as religious ‘fantasy’ versus ecological ‘reality’ (p. 115).”

Summary Excerpted From

Rolston, Holmes. “Book Review: Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing.” Interpretation 48, no. 2 (April 1994): 188–90.

Publisher’s Website

Recommended Citation (Chicago):

Ruether, Rosemary R. Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing. San Francisco: Harper, 1992.

The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations

The year 2001 began as the United Nations Year of Dialogue between Civilizations. By its end, the phrase that came most readily to mind was ‘the clash of civilizations.’ The tragedy of September 11 intensified the danger caused by religious differences around the world. As the politics of identity begin to replace the politics of ideology, can religion become a force for peace?

The Dignity of Difference is Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s radical proposal for reconciling hatreds. The first major statement by a Jewish leader on the ethics of globalization, it also marks a paradigm shift in the approach to religious coexistence. Sacks argues that we must do more than search for values common to all faiths; we must also reframe the way we see our differences.

Summary Source: Bloomsbury Summary

Recommended Citation (Chicago):

Sacks, Jonathan. The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. New York: Continuum, 2003.

Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective

“Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective is a book remarkable for its clarity and its comprehensive account of feminist responses to Jewish life and thought. As such, and as the first book-length feminist Jewish theology, readable and sophisticated, provocative and judiciously presented , Standing Again at Sinai will be an essential resource to all who are struggling with the question of women’s place in history and in modern life. It should also quickly find its place on syllabi for courses in Judaica at every level of study. 

The details of Plaskow’s feminist critique of Judaism are not new. What is new is that these ideas are gathered in a sustained argument that begins by establishing the importance of theology as the place where many of the unarticulated assumptions about Judaism reside. “So long as theology is dismissed as unimportant,” writes Plaskow, “the sexism built into certain basic Jewish ideas is aided and abetted by the neglect of theology” (p. 22). Focusing on Torah, Israel, and God as Judaism’s central categories, Plaskow challenges the assumption that Judaism is a non-theological tradition and therefore emphasizes theology over law and biblical rather than rabbinic Scripture in her analysis of authority in Judaism. She demonstrates that classically Judaism has spoken to and about men, excluding women altogether or regarding woman as Other, part of what must be managed by the systems that men control. Plaskow’s powerful criticism nevertheless compels her readers to proceed towards a Judaism that is inclusive of all Jews. Beginning with the point that for herself she discovers no non-patriarchal space to which she can retreat, as a feminist and a Jew she finds that the next task is to speak the silence that occupies the place of woman in Judaism.”

Summary Source Excerpted From

Lefkovitz, Lori. Review of Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 9, no. 2 (1991): 83-85. doi:10.1353/sho.1991.0062.

Publisher’s Website:

Recommended Citation (Chicago):

Plaskow, Judith. Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. New York: HarperOne, 1991.