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Literature, Culture, and Tolerance

Edited By Andrew R. Murphy, Charles Russel, Jaroslaw Pluciennik and Irena Hübner

Questions of tolerance are as old as human society. In acknowledgment of the crucial importance of tolerance and intolerance in contemporary life, a conference was convened in 2007. The 16 papers included in this volume all have their origins in that conference, which brought together a wide array of over 100 academics from fifteen nations, all interested in furthering discussion on tolerance. The goal of this book is to stimulate further historical and contemporary critical reflection on the foundational philosophical, religious, and cultural value and problematic future of tolerance. The title – Literature, Culture, and Tolerance – emphasizes the interconnections between the social and the artistic, between the political and the literary, in thinking through the phenomena of tolerance and intolerance in the modern world.


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Editors’ Introduction 9


Editors’ Introduction Questions of tolerance and intolerance are as old as human society, and as recent as yesterday’s news. How can we organize our societies so as to be able to live with those who differ from us in fundamental ways? What might the limits of such coexistence be? What role should the state play in facilitating social diver- sity, and how do institutions of civil society — faith communities, market struc- tures, non–governmental organizations, labor unions, private corporations — either advance or hinder the cause of peaceful coexistence? Does religion pri- marily offer a way out of cycles of intolerant behavior, or does it merely throw gasoline onto the fires of inter–group hatred? How might our aesthetic pursuits — literature, music, the arts — either promote or retard efforts to build societies that reflect the contributions of a diverse public? These questions have bedeviled societies around the world, which have had to negotiate the often conflicting demands of indigenous ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions, the philosophic and essentially secular values of moder- nity, and the economic and political pressures of the global order. They are es- pecially manifest within the political and religious conflicts that have flared up across Central and Southern Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and Southern and Eastern Asia during the past decade. The fact that — despite some notable instances of inter–group cooperation — in few of these turbulent socie- ties has there been a well–established tradition of tolerance exacerbates the con- flicts and...

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