The Significance of Borders

In an attempt to tame the back-and-forth we had on Bloggingheads recently, religious and philosophical ethicist Richard Amesbury and I have a text interview today at The Immanent Frame, which covers a similarly broad range of themes: human rights, the definition of religion, and New Atheism.

NS: Is there something that, above all, ties together your interests in international relations and philosophy of religion?

RA: I’m interested in the significance of borders—the lines we draw between in-groups and out-groups. The concept of “religion,” like that of the nation, represents an attempt to articulate a collective “we,” in opposition to perceived alterity. In the United States—though not only here—these two ideas have reinforced and shaped each other in interesting and problematic ways. Yet, because they can be imagined differently, for different purposes, religions and nations are also sites of ongoing conflict, whose boundaries are always subject to renegotiation. The goal of a social critic, as I see it, is not to eliminate exclusions—these are inevitable—but to render the operations of power visible and contestable. The moral ideal of human rights is important to this task because it reminds us that every construction of collective identity is ultimately contingent and in tension with our common humanity.





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