Theorizing Modernities article

Authorizing the Human Person in a Cosmopolitan Age: A Thematic Synthesis


How do religious and secular traditions approach and contest bioethical questions of human dignity and integrity? Do they operate with different conceptions of the “person”? How can communities coexist peacefully in the wake of unprecedented migrations or in the ashes of intercommunal violence? How do individuals negotiate questions of identity, and sources of authority, in locations as diverse as Indonesia, the Ivory Coast, and Nigeria?

The Contending Modernities (CM) initiative has engaged all of these questions through its Science and the Human Person, Global Migrations and the New Cosmopolitanism, and Authority, Community, and Identity Indonesia and Sub-Saharan Africa Working Groups. In a plenary conference which drew to a close the first phase of CM research efforts, held in Rome, Italy, in June of 2015, the four CM research groups gathered to present their findings and reflect on the intersections of their work on the multiple constructions of “modernity”. We weave together the major themes of this conference in a synthetic account that brings to bear relevant scholarship and looks both back at CM’s research trajectory, as well as forward to the future research and outreach agenda of the CM initiative.

We invite you to read “Authorizing the Human Person in a Cosmopolitan Age: Science, Society, and Identity”, and join us in celebrating the first phase of the Contending Modernities project.

Atalia Omer
Atalia Omer, Associate Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame is also the Co-Director of Contending Modernities. She earned her Ph.D. from the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. Her research has focused primarily on a systematic study of religion, violence, and the practices of peace, the dynamics of ethno-national conflicts, political and social theory, the theoretical study of religion and society, and the theoretical study of the interrelation between religion, nationalism, and questions of justice, peace, and conflict.
Her recent book Days of Awe: Reimagining Jewishness in Solidarity with Palestinians  (University of Chicago Press, 2019) examines American Jewish ethical and political transformations as part of their Palestine solidarity activism. The book examines Jews politically inspired by social justice campaigns and how these experiences are generative of innovations within Jewish tradition, including its re-conceptualization as prophetic, multiracial, and intersectional. Her first book, When Peace is Not Enough: How the Israeli Peace Camp thinks about Religion, Nationalism, and Justice  (University of Chicago Press, 2013) highlights how hybrid identities may provide creative resources for peacebuilding, especially in ethno-religious national conflicts where political agendas are informed by particularistic and often purist conceptions of identity. She is also co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding (2015). Omer also received in 2017 an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to pursue research for a book tentatively titled  Global Religion, Peacebuilding and the Perils of Development: Beyond Neoliberalism and Orientalism