In the monthly "Ethical Inquiry" series, we examine ethical questions, highlighting a broad array of opinion from journalism, academia, and advocacy organizations. Our intent is to illuminate and explore the complexity of some of the most vexing ethical questions of our time.

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Ethical Inquiry: December 2016

Recommended Books From the Year

For the December installment of "Ethical Inquiry" we are taking the opportunity to recommend some books published in the last year on topics related to the work of the Ethics Center and by people affiliated with the Center, as well as a few selections not as closely tied to our work that have impressed members of our staff.
(See our 2009 recommendations, our 2010 recommendations, our 2011 recommendations, our 2012 recommendations, our 2013 recommendations, our 2014 recommendations, and our 2015 recommendations!)

The following are selections from works published in 2016:

supported by the Center

ebony-axisEbony Axis edited by LaShawn Simmons ’18

With a Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST) Program grant, LaShawn Simmons '18 created "Ebony Axis," a 'zine for black women on campus. It is now in its second year, and continues to provide a space for the creative and personal expression of Brandeis' black women. Read more in The Brandeis Hoot. [Ebony Axis website]

by current and former members of the Center's International Advisory Board

Eternal SonataEternal Sonata by current Board member Jamie F. Metzl

In 2025 America, it’s hardly news when a renowned octogenarian scientist dying of cancer disappears from a local hospice, but when Kansas City Star reporter Rich Azadian begins to dig, he discovers that other elderly scientists around the world have also vanished recently--all terminally ill and receiving the same experimental treatment from a global health company. Based on real science, this novel imagines what the arrival of genetic enhancement might mean on an individual level. This is a sequel to Jamie Metzl's 2014 novel Genesis Code. []

Reason in IslamThe Story of Reason in Islam by former Board member Sari Nusseibeh

In "The Story of Reason in Islam", leading public intellectual, political activist, and former Board member Sari Nusseibeh narrates a sweeping intellectual history—a quest for knowledge inspired by the Qu'ran and its language, a quest that employed Reason in the service of Faith. Eschewing the conventional separation of Faith and Reason, he takes a fresh look at why and how Islamic reasoning evolved over time. []

 by members of the Center's extended Justice community

Gender and the Judiciary in Africa

Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: from Obscurity to Parity? edited by Gretchen Bauer and Josephine Dawuni

This book highlights the increasing presence of women in judicial systems across the African continent, including their rise to the position of Supreme Court chief justices in a number of countries over the last 15 years. The Ethics Center's Director of Programs in International Justice and Society Leigh Swigart is currently editing a book with Josephine Dawuni that focuses on African women who have served on the benches of international courts and tribunals. [Routledge]

by members of the Center's extended Peacebuilding community

Root ShockRoot Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It by Mindy Thompson 

“Root Shock” examines three different U.S. cities to unmask the crippling results of decades-old disinvestment in communities of color and the urban renewal practices that ultimately destroyed these neighborhoods for the advantage of developers and the elite. Mindy Thompson recently served on a panel with the Ethics Center's Acting Director Cynthia Cohen at a Rockefeller Archives conference on Culture and Resilience. [New Village Press]

Ritual and Ceremony in Soulful Community WorkRitual and Ceremony in Soulful Community Work: In Dialogue with Polly Walker by Peter Westoby and Polly Walker

In "Soul, Community and Social Change: Theorising a Soul Perspective on Community Practice" by Peter Westoby. Polly Walker was a co-editor, along with Roberto Gutiérrez Varea and the Center's Cynthia Cohen, of "Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict", which was featured in 2014 installment of The Center's Recommended Books from the Year series. At a time when inequalities are growing globally, when the pace of socio-economic transitions is rapid, and when traditional ties of community are under threat of dissolving, this books offers ‘soul’ as a new way of thinking imaginatively about how people might respond both individually and collectively in social change work. [Routledge]

by Center staff

Applied Theatre'Ain't you got a right to the tree of life': Facilitators' Intentions Toward Community, Integrity and Justice by Acting Director Cynthia Cohen

In "Applied Theatre: Facilitation (Pedagogies, Practices, Resilience)" by Sheila Preston. “Applied Theatre: Facilitation” is the first publication that directly explores the facilitator's role within a range of socially engaged theatre and community theatre settings. The book offers a new theoretical framework for understanding critical facilitation in contemporary dilemmatic spaces and features a range of writings and provocations by international practitioners and experienced facilitators working in the field. The Ethics Center's Cynthia Cohen contributed a chapter that is included in the book's second part, which discusses the challenge of facilitation in a range of cultural contexts with communities whose complex histories and experiences have led them to be disenfranchised socially, culturally and/or economically. [Bloomsbury]

by Brandeis faculty

UnsettledUnsettled: Denial and Belonging among White Kenyans By Janet McIntosh, Associate Professor of Anthropology

This engaging and beautifully written ethnography by Janet McIntosh describes the lives, world views, and dilemmas of the white population in modern-day Kenya that is descended from the original British colonial-era settler class. McIntosh uses a concept she calls "structural oblivion" to describe how members of this group simultaneously deny the circumstances and resentment of those who are less privileged in Kenyan society while overlooking the ways in which the ideologies and practices of the white population uphold this privilege. [University of California Press]

Evidence & AgencyEvidence & Agency: Norms of Belief for Promising and Resolving by Berislav Marušić, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Graduate Program

“Evidence & Agency” by Berislav Marušić is concerned with a philosophical problem at the intersection of epistemology and ethics, a problem that each one of us faces yet that eludes an easy solution: Can we responsibly promise to do something when we have evidence that there is a good chance that we won’t do it? Note: Published in 2015, "Evidence & Agency" won the 2016 Sanders Book Prize by the American Philosophical Association. [Oxford University Press]

Jamais VuJamais Vu by Olga Broumas, Professor Emerita of the Practice of English

The collection “Jamais Vu” by Olga Broumas is a series of image and breath-centric lyrics that seek, in the space between voices, the deeper reaches of personal memories, where recollection becomes a reinvention (a re-breathing) of historical figments and figures. Broumas' other collections of poetry include Soie SauvagePastoral JazzPerpetua, and Rave: Poems 1975–1999.  [The Lune]

New GhostsNew Ghosts by Laura Quinney, Professor of English and Undergraduate Advising Head

"New Ghosts" by Laura Quinney is a collection whose poems live and move among images: beach, forest, fire, dark — and then among the images of images: hunger, shadow, regret. What is it to be an image, or to become an image, or to stay an image? Inward and intense, the poems together comprise an extended meditation on temporality: time’s effect on the sense of self, and the self’s effect on the sense of time. This is Quinney's second volume of poems to be published by Borderland Books. She brought out her first, "Corridor" (2008), under the pseudonym Josephine Singer. [Borderland Books]

The Spokes of VenusThe Spokes of Venus by Rebecca Morgan-Frank, Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence

Magicians, wig makers, sculptors, perfumers, choreographers, and composers all help conjure the worlds of Rebecca Morgan-Frank's second collection, “The Spokes of Venus”. These poems offer a landscape shaped by the tensions between the act of making and the art of observing. If music and art are the sisters of poetry, this collection is a chorus-a glorious one-of siblings arguing and singing. This is Frank's second collection of poetry, following her 2012 "Little Murders Everywhere". [Carnegie Mellon University Press]

by Brandeis University Press

A Season of SingingA Season of Singing by Sarah M. Ross

"A Season of Singing" describes the development of feminist Jewish songwriting in the United States and analyzes key composers and their songs. Ross is Professor of Jewish music studies and director of the European Center for Jewish Music at the Hannover University of Music, Drama, and Media in Germany.  [Brandeis University Press]

Girls of LibertyGirls of Liberty: The Struggle for Suffrage in Mandatory Palestine by Margalit Shilo

"Girls of Liberty" is the story of Zionist women’s struggle for suffrage within the complex political and religious context of the Yishuv. Shilo is Professor in the Land of Israel Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University and also the author of Princess or Prisoner? Jewish Women in Jerusalem, 1840–1914. [Brandeis University Press]

by Brandeis Alumni

The Boat RockerThe Boat Rocker by Ha Jin, MA’89, PhD’93

From the award-winning author of "Waiting" and "War Trash", Ha Jin: an urgent, timely novel that follows an aspiring author, an outrageous book idea, and a lone journalist’s dogged quest for truth in the Internet age. [Random House]

What do you think?

Suggestions for other selections from 2016 that we missed in our list?  Let us know.

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