On Islam and The Events at Charlie Hebdo: An Exchange between Jean-Luc Marion, Bruce Lincoln and Anthony Yu, Matthew Kapstein, and Françoise Meltzer
This month the Religion and Culture Web Forum features commentary on Islam in France in the wake of the events that occurred at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7th, 2015. This issue includes an initial article by Jean-Luc Marion, responses to Marion by Bruce Lincoln and Anthony Yu and Matthew Kapstein, and subsequent letters exchanged between Bruce Lincoln and Françoise Meltzer.
After the "Charlie Hebdo" Massacre: Islam Must Open Itself To Critique -- Jean-Luc Marion
This article was originally published in French in Le Point. It was translated by Myriam Renaud and published in Sightings on January 27, 2015.
France is at war; we can no longer doubt that this is the case. But this war has at least three fronts.
The first front is obvious: an act of war occurred in Paris, against a magazine, leaving more than a dozen dead. The government and the nation have started to respond. The government is taking up its principal role—the protection of citizens, handling the security concerns with which it has been entrusted. It is acting as quickly and as well as it can.
As for the nation, we have already witnessed that, far from crumbling and yielding to fear, it is uniting. A republican reflex will bolster this coming together, and extremists will not benefit in the slightest from the crisis.
Finally, the danger posed by Islam is not new—it is familiar to France since the Seventeenth-Century. In fact, the history of France proves that such wars have already been waged and won. The recent history of Europe confirms that democracies eventually vanquish totalitarianism and fascism. Thus, this front will hold. However, when it comes to the other two, nothing is certain.
The second front comes into view as soon as one considers that the attack targeted a political and satirical newspaper that caricatured (I underscore this point) all of the religions, based on the principle that one can laugh about anything “and mock everything else.”
If this newspaper was tolerated and even supported by the public, although it was often shocking, it owed this to a fundamental and ancient trait of French society—the freedom to think and to speak—first secured under the Ancien Régime. It rose to the level of principle in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, took effect when all legislation against blasphemy was abolished at the beginning of the Nineteenth-Century, and was reinforced by the law separating Church and State.
In a way, this crime targeted a central tenet of French society: secularism. Here the second front opens out. What is secularism worth today? We must recognize the ambiguity of this concept and its application. Because, if the State is secular, society is not.
More exactly: the State must be secular (it must refrain from showing favoritism for any particular religion, permit them all to exist under the protection of the law, showing a preference neither for religious belief, nor for unbelief), a stance that I hope no one contests.
But society is not secular and cannot be secular, because upon becoming citizens, men and women do not lose their freedom of conscience—their religious freedom—but, on the contrary, exercise it fully. Besides, the neutrality of the State must never be based on neutralization, forced or tacit, of the religious dimensions of the real men and women who make up society.
However, “French-style secularism” has too often tended to understand itself and to comport itself like an army fending off the religions (especially Catholicism), behaving as if it were another religion, substituting itself, in the name of Reason, for the historical religions. Today, this tendency reveals itself in so-called “social” reforms, more or less imposed on people who are more or less in agreement, manipulated or simply ignored.
This tendency is sometimes imposed on Christians but also Jews and henceforth, on Muslims, as a secularism of prohibition, of punishment, even of repression.
The second front consists of, and is much more difficult to secure than the first front, a reformation of the secular pact in France (and thus in Europe). To defend secularism, an emergency no one debates, we must redefine it, in positive terms, and not as a constraint. Because we can’t require all of France’s citizens to emasculate themselves religiously.
This is a problem with which we’ve struggled for the past twenty years. Will we know how to address it? It seems to me doubtful that French politicians, still extremely ideological and rather ignorant on the question of religion, are capable of this today.
There is also the third front, the most difficult of the three. The terrorist attacks have a common, though hazy, cultural and political origin: the world of Islam. To recognize this is not equivalent to a facile rallying to the banner of “culture wars,” or lack of integration, or discrimination. It merely entails acknowledging that our fellow citizens of Muslim faith (and also acknowledging, one hopes, that this is the case for a majority of the world’s Muslims) suffer from a terrible situation.
The situation can be summed up in this way: the religions demonstrate their excellence only by allowing—and even better, by choosing, for themselves, to undergo the ordeal of self-critique—tests of their religious validity. Religions that do not do this either disappear or degrade ideologically.
Islam has not yet opened itself up to a close analysis (including philological analysis to understand how its texts came into being, an assessment of the interpretations of these texts, in-depth research into their actual religious history, etc.) for historic reasons which themselves would be worthwhile to examine.
In contrast, other religions have done so and are still doing so, including the Catholic tradition, the Protestant traditions, and the Jewish tradition. This is the main reason that certain Muslims have so much difficulty stepping into the secularism that the other religions embrace in France.
This issue must not be set aside due to the emotion of the moment. It is essential not to confuse or stigmatize. But we owe that much to Muslims; we owe it to them to point out this difficulty. And, if possible, to help them confront it. That, more than the State and the elected class, is the help that the other religions, especially Christianity, can contribute.
The fundamental debate which has not set French society ablaze can play itself out in interreligious dialogue. During the attacks on the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, by some significant and providential irony, representatives of French imams were meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. We cannot say or do better.
Marion, Jean-Luc. “Jean-Luc Marion: ‘L’islam doit faire l’épreuve de la critique.” LePoint.fr, January 12, 2015, Actualité Politique. http://www.lepoint.fr/politique/jean-luc-marion-l-islam-doit-faire-l-epreuve-de-la-critique-12-01-2015-1895795_20.php.
A Reply to Jean-Luc Marion’s “After ‘Charlie Hebdo,’ Islam Must Critique Itself” -- Bruce Lincoln and Anthony C. Yu
Marion’s outrage and grief are not only understandable but also shared by countless individuals and communities around the world. We are grateful that in face of such repugnant atrocities, our colleague throughout his brief essay has emphasized setting aside “the emotion of the moment,” “to not confuse or stigmatize,” and that “our fellow citizens of Muslim faith . . . suffer from a terrible situation.”
Despite deep sympathy for our esteemed colleague and the French people at large, we also feel compelled to address some troubling aspects of Marion’s statements concerning religion, because our common profession is defined by its attempted study and understanding.
Announcing clearly from the beginning that “France is at war,” Marion’s essay proceeds to define the homicides committed by three militants, all of whom were French citizens, as an act of war, followed by a second point that such an act will more closely unite the nation to resist with greater courage and resolve.
Marion's prediction that the homicides would “unite the nation” was largely fulfilled as subsequent events have unfolded, although one must note the young Muslims who refused a moment of silence for the victims. Even so, construing the situation as “war”—something usually understood as armed hostility between nation states—is dangerous hyperbole or, worse yet, a self-fulfilling act of performative speech that initially misconstrues, then dramatically expands both the problem and conflict.
Such hyperbole is also evident in Marion's assertion that “the danger posed by Islam is not new—it is familiar to France since the Seventeenth-Century… The recent history of Europe confirms democracies eventually vanquish totalitarianism and fascism.” We wonder what evidence there is for so characterizing the entire faith of Islam as one endangering France for so long.
The implied equation of Islam with totalitarianism and fascism is even more inflammatory and disturbing. Western civilization, after all, owes an immense debt to Islam and to Arabic communities for helping to preserve and transmit the priceless intellectual legacy of antiquity, without which the modern West would have been immeasurably impoverished. There would have been no Descartes without Plato's and Aristotle's works, which were recovered and translated by medieval Arabic philosophers. The Arabic bequest not only benefitted Westerners, but, for example, Chinese and other Asian people also, who profited (in mathematics, astronomy, and medical knowledge, to name three forms coming to mind) from contact with Islam.
We do not disagree entirely with Marion's earnest plea for Muslims to engage in “self-critique,” but he seems to be unfamiliar with the cogent essays Talal Asad has addressed to this issue, demonstrating that “Islam” (if one must, for the sake of convenience, reduce a complex and diverse tradition to a simple monad), constantly reflects on itself, cultivates internal debate and critique, and identifies problems and shortcomings, which it then struggles to address.
Once this is recognized, Marion’s point becomes more problematic, for he is urging “Islam” to engage in the same kind of self-examination and revision that “Christianity” experienced during the Reformation and Enlightenment. What was an internal critique for one tradition thus becomes an imperative that one tradition would impose on another, something the latter experiences as alien to its own history, precepts, and sense of integrity; something it associates, moreover, with European claims of cultural superiority and a history of colonial aggression.
Even if “Islam” were to follow Marion's prescription, we wonder what criteria he would recommend that “they” follow to “test their religious validity?” Does a secular state have the final say in defining what is “religious validity,” much as the People’s Republic of China avers in its constitution that only those who practice “normal religion” will be tolerated by the state? The question of how to make all religions equally acceptable to a secular Republic of the French sort is not identical to—nor easily reconciled with—the question of how to create a society fully tolerant of religious difference.
Marion justly urges us to avoid “a facile rallying to the banner of ‘culture wars,’ or lack of integration, or discrimination.” Noble as that counsel may be, one needs to say more about the social and cultural ground for breeding hatred and violence, i.e. the sharply disadvantaged situation of Muslims in France (and not just France) with regard to employment, education, housing, protection under law, and simple dignity.
It is one thing for Charlie Hebdo to mock the Pope, and quite another to mock Muhammad. To poke fun at the icons revered by the powerful is a courageous act of iconoclasm; to ridicule those of the weak is cheap bullying, as it subjects people who already suffer abuse of multiple sorts to public humiliation, making sport of their (perceived) inability to defend the things they hold sacred.
We understand the need to rally in defense of liberté and we also understand that free speech includes forms of critical speech that may be cruel and offensive, such as iconoclasm, blasphemy, ridicule and derision. But one also has to realize that when those who enjoy the full benefits of citizenship use their liberté to mock others to whom basic rights are abridged or denied, something has gone badly amiss.
The most important front on which France needs to wage a sustained struggle today is precisely the one Marion ignores: the struggle to extend égalité and fraternité to its Muslim population. Here, progress depends on understanding the criminal events in Paris not as salvos that open a new front or new phase in a long-running war, but as symptoms that follow on—and point to—sustained failures of socio-cultural integration, socioeconomic equity, moral sensibility, political accountability, and human understanding.
France may be the flashpoint of the moment, but the issues extend far beyond.
Marion, Jean-Luc. “After the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Massacre, Islam Must Open Itself to Critique.” Sightings, January 29, 2015. http://uchicago.us6.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=6b2c705bf61d6edb1d5e0549d&id=c13099fd3c&e=c4f547d929.
Asad, Talal. “The Limits of Religious Criticism in the Middle East: Notes on Islamic Public Argument.” Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.
Another Take on “After ‘Charlie Hebdo,’ Islam Must Critique Itself” -- Matthew Kapstein
The terrible events of January 7-9 in Paris were not, as they aver, the symptoms of social and economic disadvantage, or similar factors. Symptoms of such problems manifest themselves in France, as in many other countries, in increased petty crime, gang activity, drug use, elevated unemployment, occasional car-jackings, arson and riot, and the like.
Among these symptoms, I do not see fit to include targeted, cold-blooded murder, which is what took place in Paris.
These acts of murder, moreover, are part of a pattern whereby certain individuals who regard themselves as acting on behalf of Islam take aim on two particular groups: “blasphemers” and Jews.
As none of my three learned colleagues addressed the wantonly anti-semitic dimensions of the crimes that were perpetrated, and the manner in which they continue an on-going series of related assaults on Jews in France—including the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi by the so-called “Gang des Barbares” (2006), the slaughter of children at a Jewish day school by Mohammed Merah (2012), the carnage unleashed at the Jewish Museum of Brussels by French national Mehdi Nemmouche (2014)—I believe that there is an obligation to set the record about this straight.
If these are “symptoms,” they are symptoms not of the deficit of egalité and fraternité in France, but of the manipulative use of anti-semitic propaganda in large parts of the contemporary Muslim world, whereby the powers that be have encouraged political objections to Israel to morph into global hatred of Jews.
To achieve this, the tools of classical European anti-semitism, as exemplified in the calumnies of the czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, have been trotted out, dusted off, and given new life in the contemporary Arab media. The perpetrators of the acts under discussion here had all been trained by radical organizations in the Middle East in which they were indoctrinated in this poison, and this became one of their key motivations.
It must be stressed that Jews in France face similar circumstances to French Muslims in several respects.
Many, like France’s Muslims, hail from North Africa, and live in the same working-class suburbs. Jews who are observant (like those gunned down in the Hyper Casher supermarket by Amedy Coulibaly) share with Muslims the sense that France’s commitment to public laïcité—which prohibits Muslim head-scarves and Jewish kippahs in many venues, and ensures that halal and kosher meals are unavailable in most school and office cafeterias—presents them with particular obstacles, and sometimes indignities, that other French citizens and residents do not have to face.
French Jews and Muslims have both resented being the objects of derogatory humor and of far-right-wing polemics. And just as some parts of the French Muslim community have been susceptible to the lures of anti-semitism, so there are French Jews who have embraced Islamophobia. But even the French chapter of the Jewish Defense League, which is not prone to shy away from a fight, has not seen fit to express French Jewish discontent through cold-blooded murder.
The events of January were due to the legitimation and encouragement within some quarters of the Muslim world of the murder of “blasphemers” and Jews. And although the vast majority of French Muslims, as also Muslims elsewhere, by no means condone this, the condemnations have not been nearly loud or prevalent enough to diminish the attraction, for some, of extreme militancy.
This is not to say that the alienation from French society felt by some French Muslims, which is to be explained in large measure by socio-economic factors, has played no role at all here. It is this, in part, that has inspired French jihadis to reaffirm their Muslim identity by joining militant groups and seeking training in arms and explosives among them.
At the same time, we must recognize that the French social contract has historically been exceptionally generous and pace Professors Lincoln and Yu, Muslims in France who are citizens or legal residents—and most by far are—enjoy the benefits of France’s systems of public education, healthcare, unemployment insurance, aid to families with dependent children, etc.
It is true that those who live in poorer neighborhoods must deal with poorer facilities, particularly in the area of housing, and with elevated crime and diminished security. The poorer neighborhoods, too, harbor larger proportions of illegal immigrants, who are not eligible to receive all of the benefits others enjoy, a factor that does contribute to the overall impoverishment of some quarters.
Moreover, the French historical commitment to mixité, ensuring that neighborhoods are occupied by persons of varied social class, has increasingly given way to American-style economic segregation. None of this has been helped by the poor performance of the French economy in recent years, its inability to generate sufficient jobs and to secure long-term prosperity.
So France faces genuine challenges if it is to maintain its social contract and ensure that its Muslim population universally comes to be included within it. Part of that challenge, unfortunately, now inevitably involves the costly, divisive and painful task of identifying, surveilling, and inhibiting ideologically motivated killers.
Postscript. In the days since the above was written, Copenhagen has seen a murderous incident apparently copying the Paris attacks, 300 Jewish graves have been desecrated by a teenage gang in eastern France, and Roland Dumas, a former French Foreign Minister, has crudely castigated the present Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, for being "influenced" by his wife, who happens to be Jewish, in respect to Jewish affairs.
As the malediction of anti-semitism continues to spread, willful ignorance or silence are no longer acceptable options.
Marion, Jean-Luc. “After the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Massacre, Islam Must Open Itself to Critique.” Sightings, January 29, 2015. https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/after-charlie-hebdo-massacre-islam-must-open-itself-critique-jean-luc-marion.
Lincoln, Bruce and Anthony C. Yu. “A Reply to Jean-Luc Marion’s ‘After Charlie Hebdo, Islam Must Open Itself to Critique’.” Sightings, February 12, 2015. https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/reply-jean-luc-marion’s-“after-‘charlie-hebdo’-islam-must-critique-itself”-bruce-lincoln.
Smith, Craig. “Torture and Death of Jew Deepen Fears in France.” New York Times, March 5, 2006, International. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/05/international/europe/05france.html?pagewanted=all.
Sayare, Scott and Steven Erlanger. “4 Killed at Jewish School in Southwestern France.”New York Times, March 19, 2012, Europe. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/world/europe/gunman-kills-3-at-a-jewish-school-in-france.html?pagewanted=all.
The Associated Press. “Deadly shooting at Jewish Museum in Brussels.” CBS News, May 24, 2014. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/brussels-jewish-museum-scene-of-deadly-shooting/.
Wakin, Daniel J. “Anti-Semitic ‘Elders of Zion’ Gets New Life on Egypt TV.” New York Times, October 26, 2002, World. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/26/world/anti-semitic-elders-of-zion-gets-new-life-on-egypt-tv.html.
RadioIslam.org. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Accessed February 17, 2015. http://www.radioislam.org/islam/english/index_protocols.htm.
Alcindor, Yamiche and Elena Berton. “Four killed at Paris grocery store were all Jewish.” USA Today, January 11, 2015, News. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/01/10/details-about-victims-of-terror-attacks-in-france-emerge/21567281/.
The Associated Press. “French president: Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia are threats to the nation.” Haaretz, February 17, 2015, Jewish World News. http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.642893.
“La mixité sociale, définition, échelle et conséquence.” d-p-h.info: dialogues, propositions, histoires pour une citoyenneté mondiale. September 2007. Accessed February 17, 2015. http://base.d-p-h.info/fr/fiches/dph/fiche-dph-7296.html.
Adida, Claire, David Laitin and Marie-Anne Valford. “Terror in France: implications for Muslim integration.” Washington Post, January 14, 2015, Guest Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/01/14/terror-in-france-implications-for-muslim-integration/.
Friedersdorf, Conor. “Europe’s Increasing Targeted Jews Take Stock: Old fears are stoked as anti-Semitic attacks increase.” Atlantic Monthly, Februrary 17, 2015. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/02/anti-semitism-europe-france-grave-desecration-Zvika-Klein/385547/.
“Le CSA instruit un dossier après les propos de Roland Dumas sur l’ ‘influence juive’ de Valls.” Le Monde, February 16, 2015. Politique. http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2015/02/16/pour-roland-dumas-manuel-valls-est-sous-influence-juive_4577136_823448.html.
Image: Family and relatives of French Jew Yoav Hattab, a victim of the attack on kosher grocery store in Paris, gather around a symbolic coffin for his funeral procession in the city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel; Credit: Oded Balilty / AP.
A Letter from Françoise Meltzer to Bruce Lincoln and Anthony Yu on February 12, 2015
Dear Bruce and Tony,
I think many of your comments are apt and well taken, and I am happy to see a productive dialog on this most fraught subject. The only quibble I have with your response is in the paragraph below, and this on several grounds. Charlie Hebdo did not just mock the Pope; it also mocked Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and God himself. That's my first point: you misrepresent Charlie's satires by making them seem harsher on Islam than on Christianity. Secondly, you essentialize, I believe, when you seem to align all Muslims with the "weak" and all Christians with the "powerful." This is only true to a limited extent in France -- there are plenty of dispossessed Christians there (poor, unemployed, etc), even if the dominant culture is Catholic. The rural areas, and even some of the infamous banlieus, include Christians (as well as other religions-- African, e.g.). They are living in the same futureless prison as Muslims. And, of course, there are powerful and wealthy Muslims in France, even if they are an obvious minority.
But even so, satire is satire, and can't be reduced to "courageous" if it attacks the icons of the dominant culture, but "bullying" when it attacks the minority's icons. Apart from the complications such an ethical compass would engage, it would follow that, for example, you could poke fun at the Prophet in Saudia Arabia or Egypt, but not mock the Virgin Mary. Nevertheless, the larger point is well taken and vital: until France helps to lift up all of those in the underclass, such problems will continue. It is the same problem as the ghettos in the U.S.
I should add that laïcité in France has a very specific history and valence, and is not to be confused with égalité (it is, technically, the neutrality of the State with respect to any religion). There was a good article in yesterday's NYT that described the changes in the mandatory course on civics in French schools. They are opening much more discussion on all of this, and on, among other issues, why satirists may be hateful, but not worthy of murder (this because some kids from the banlieus refused the minute of silence for the victims of the attack on Charlie, saying they deserved it). France has failed to integrate its immigrants--particularly African and Middle Eastern--and it has failed to raise them to a decent socio-economic level. That is clear. But legally, every citizen in France is equal to every other. That's where the complexity begins, and the challenge as well.
With many thanks,
*This private corespondence was made available for publication on February 13, 2015.
A Reply to Françoise Meltzer by Bruce Lincoln on February 12, 2015
Many thanks for your kind and thoughtful message, which is much appreciated. As for the three major items, I could happily accept two of them, at least in part, while I would resist your argument on the third. As for the first, if Tony and I misrepresented Charlie as being unbalanced in the abuse it dished out to Islam and Christianity, this was not our intention. Rather, we meant to point up the difference in the relative position, strength, and security of those who were ridiculed. The Catholic Church and faithful may have been royally pissed off by Charlie's antics, but they had no need to feel threatened by anything published there; the situation is different for French Muslims, who feel more embattled and vulnerable, therefore more defensive (further still, more volatile and likely to overreact).
A second point I would grant entirely. For all that Americans take laïcité to equal secularism, the concepts are quite distinct, the products of different histories, reflecting different perspectives and attitudes. We should have given more attention to this and might well do so, should the discussion continue.
On your third point, I think you misread us and misunderstand the argument. Of course there are wealthy, powerful Muslims and desperately poor, powerless Catholics. This does not change the fact that all scarce and desirable goods--both tangible and intangible--are distributed in highly inequitable fashion along the line of religious cleavage internal to French society. This situation is apparent to all and produces corresponding reactions in different sectors of the two religious communities such that, for instance, disadvantaged Catholics, Jews, and secular French may rally to the National Front in order to defend what little they have against the threat of any gains Muslims might make, while wealthy Muslims might still feel bitter resentment at the treatment of their coreligionists. To speak about any complex social field, one is forced to begin with generalizations, which represent a summary of the average situation and do not claim to account for every individual case. If discussion proceeds, one can nuance the rough picture via attention to ranges of distribution, standard deviations, and close attention to outlier examples. Your comparison to the situation of African-Americans in the US seems apt to me. After one has noted that wealth, power, prestige, dignity, and justice are systematically maldistributed along racial lines, there is much more to be said, but none of it falsifies the initial, deeply troubling observation.
I hope that clarifies things a bit.
With all best wishes,
*This private corespondence was made available for publication on February 13, 2015.
Jean-Luc Marion, is the Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Professor of Catholic Studies and Professor of the Philosophy of Religions and Theology. Marion studies the history of modern philosophy and contemporary phenomenology. He has written on ontology, rational theology, metaphysics, and is pursuing a long-term inquiry into the question of God, as in The Idol and Distance and God Without Being. He initiated a phenomenology of givenness in Reduction and Givenness. Marion is currently working on a study devoted to deconstructing the myth of Cartesian dualism, Sur la pensée passive de Descartes. He was awarded the Grand Prix de Philosophie de L'Académie Française, elected to the Académie Française in 2008, and received as an immortel (member) in 2010. He will give the Gifford Lectures in coming years.
Bruce Lincoln, (Ph.D. University of Chicago) is Caroline E. Haskell Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, Middle Eastern Studies and Medieval Studies. He is also Associate Faculty in the Departments of Anthropology and Classics. Lincoln emphasizes critical approaches to the study of religion and is particularly interested in issues of discourse, practice, power, conflict, and the violent reconstruction of social borders. His research includes the religions of pre-Christian Europe and pre-Islamic Iran. His two most recent books (2014) are Between History and Myth: Stories of Harald Fairhair and The Founding of the State, and Disourse and the Construction of Society: Comparative Studies of Myth, Ritual, and Classification, 2nd edition.
Author, Anthony C. Yu, (Ph.D. University of Chicago) is Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and Professor Emeritus of Religion and Literature, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, English Language and Literature, and the Committee on Social Thought. Yu's research focuses on the comparative study of both literary and religious traditions. He also reinterprets classical Chinese narratives and poetry in light of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. His publications include comparisons of Chinese and Western texts, literary and religious histories, and issues of theory and criticism. In 2012, he published revised editions, with new Notes, of all four volumes of his translation of The Journey to the West.
Author, Matthew Kapstein, (Ph.D. Brown University) is Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School and Director of Tibetan Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris. He specializes in the history of Buddhist philosophy in India and Tibet, as well as in the cultural history of Tibetan Buddhism. His recent publications include his translation of the 11th century Sanskrit allegory, The Rise of Wisdom Moon(2009), an edited volume, with Kurtis Schaeffer and Gary Tuttle, Sources of Tibetan Traditions (2013), and Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction(2014).
Françoise Meltzer is Professor of the Philosophy of Religions; Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities, Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature; and a professor in the College. She marshals postmodern critical theories in order to explore representations of the subject. Her new book, Seeing Double: Baudelaire’s Modernity, published with Chicago in 2011, argues (among other things) that Baudelaire's modernity is largely informed by his obsession with Original Sin.
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