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 2010

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, as well as a few selections not as closely tied to our work that have impressed members of our staff. (See our 2009 recommendations here.) The following are selections from works published in 2010:

on international justice and human rights

The Last UtopiaThe Last Utopia by Samuel Moyn
This history argues forcefully that the human rights movement as we know it today came to life in the 1970s, when activists first took seriously the idea that rights should be protected outside the traditional framework of the nation-state. Moyn's book is a brief, readable account that suggests that the future success of the human rights movement depends on a close understanding of its past., Harvard University Press.

Localizing Transitional JusticeLocalizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities after Mass Violence edited by Rosalind Shaw and Lars Waldorf, with Pierre Hazan
Localizing Transitional Justice traces how ordinary people respond to – and sometimes transform – transitional justice mechanisms, laying a foundation for more locally responsive approaches to social reconstruction after mass violence and egregious human rights violations. Recasting understandings of culture and locality prevalent in international justice, this vital book explores the complex, unpredictable, and unequal encounter among international legal norms, transitional justice mechanisms, national agendas, and local priorities and practices. Rosalind Shaw, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Tufts University, has participated in a number of Center events, and Lars Waldorf has collaborated with the Center on a conference panel. Localizing Transitional Justice is a good introduction to some of the themes that will be explored in the Center’s upcoming conference, "Just Performance: Enacting Justice in the Wake of Violence" (Fall 2011). Stanford University Press.

The Case of the PopeThe Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuses by Geoffrey Robertson
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a former judge and president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and a participant in the Center’s Brandeis Institute for International Judges in 2003, delivers a devastating indictment of the way the Vatican has run a secret legal system that shields pedophile priests from criminal trial around the world. Robertson argues that the Vatican and Pope Benedict are hiding behind a weak claim to statehood to dodge responsibility for failing to act against thousands of priests worldwide who have abused children. The author contends that unless the Pope can divest himself of the beguilements of statehood and devotion to obsolescent canon law, the Vatican will remain a serious enemy to the advance of human rights., The Richard Dawkins Foundation.

Manual on International Courts and TribunalsThe Manual on International Courts and Tribunals (International Courts and Tribunals Series) by Ruth Mackenzie, Cesare Romano, Philippe Sands and Yuval Shany
For those interested in the work of the international judiciary, this is an indispensable reference volume, from our colleagues at the Project on International Courts and Tribunals. Oxford University Press.

on peacebuilding and the arts

Performance AffectsPerformance Affects: Applied Theatre and the End of Effect by James Thompson
James Thompson, one of the world's leading thinkers on the roles of performance in zones of violent conflict, has written a candid and critical reflection on his own work in Sri Lanka, and a reassertion of the importance of beauty and the aesthetic dimension of socially engaged performance., Macmillan.

by Brandeis faculty

War on WordsThe War on Words: Slavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature by Michael T. Gilmore
Gilmore, professor of English and American Literature at Brandeis, offers bracing readings of 19th century American writers, arguing that the writing and culture of the period was profoundly shaped by the explicit and implicit suppression of free speech by supporters of slavery (and, after the Civil War, by Jim Crow). The book's genesis, Gilmore explains, was the climate of self-censorship in the United States following the start of the 2003 war in Iraq.

Beyond SlaveryBeyond Slavery: Overcoming its Religious and Sexual Legacies edited by  Bernadette Brooten with the editorial assistance of Jacqueline L. Hazelton
Beyond Slavery explores and confronts the biblical roots of sex and slavery. Edited by Bernadette Brooten, Kraft-Hiatt Professor of Christian Studies at Brandeis, as part of the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, this book brings together essays and poetry by scholars, activists and artists to dig deeply into the roots of slavery and to illuminate ways in which we still live with the fallout., BrandeisNOW.

from Brandeis University Press

Glorious, Accursed EuropeGlorious, Accursed Europe by Jehuda Reinharz and Yaacov Shavit
An exhaustive study of how Jews imagined the idea of Europe and how it existed in their collective memory from the Enlightenment to the present. [from the Tauber Institute website] Brandeis University Press.


36 Arguments36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction by Rebecca Goldstein
This comic novel takes place in part at "Frankfurter University," an institution just outside of Boston named for a Jewish Supreme Court justice with an Israeli-born president in charge.  Goldstein explores campus politics and the meaning of religion in modern life, taking its readers eventually into the heart of a Hasidic community in New York., Random House.

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Help is a beautifully written, page-turner of a novel that illuminates the dynamics of race and gender in the 1950s American south through the voices of three women – two Black and one white – who bridged chasms of mistrust to expose the hypocrisies, humiliations and injustices that inscribed the relationship between their communities. This book will be of interest to all who wish to understand how inequalities poison relationships; discussion of it will open doors for honest conversations within and between boundaries of many kinds.,

InnocentInnocent by Scott Turow
For fans of Turow's breakthrough legal thriller, Presumed Innocent (1987), this sequel, which finds Rusty Sabich – now a judge – accused again of murder 20 years later, is surprisingly satisfying.,

a special note

CounselorCounselor: A Life at the Edge of History by Ted Sorensen
As we continue to mourn the loss of Theodore C. “Ted” Sorensen (1928-2010), Founding Chair of the Center’s International Advisory Board, we recommend again his compelling 2008 memoir Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History. Ethics Center News 5/6/08,, Harper Collins.

Suggestions for other selections from 2010 that we missed in our list?  Let us know.

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