After Pluralism



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Paul Harvey

For those (looking in the mirror here) inclined to refer to "pluralism" a little too easily as an unqualified good, standing apart from history, here's an important new work calling for attention to the concept, and to what come after what was supposed to be the end of history: Courtney Bender and Pamela Klassen, ed., After Pluralism: Reimagining Religious Engagement. It's an edited collection of essays from across nations and disciplines, and features some top-flight folks in American religious studies; Table of Contents is here, excerpt of the book is here. Winnifred Sullivan is featured in the work, discussing de facto "naturalized" religious establishments and the law; Tracy Leavelle and Michael McNally weigh in with contributions on the complexities and perils of pluralism and Native American "religious freedom." A brief excerpt from the intro suggests some of the challenges the book takes on:

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.

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