Yale Law School Symposium Addresses Fundamentalism and Modernity

The annual symposium of the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights will be held at Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street, on April 12-13.

The annual symposium of the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights will be held at Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street, on April 12-13.

This year’s symposium, “Fundamentalism and Modernity,” is free and open to the public.

“Since the events of September 11, many people have been asking what it is about the fundamentalist strain of Islam that has produced this clash with the modern West,” said Paul Kahn, the Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities and faculty director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale. “The Bernstein symposium will begin by posing the question the other way around: What is it about modernity that has produced a fundamentalist reaction? The clash between religious fundamentalism and modernity is obviously not limited to Islam, but is an aspect of our contemporary experience of Christianity and Judaism as well. Fundamentalism is not the survival of an archaic form into modern times; rather, it is no less a part of modernity than the practices to which it responds.”

The symposium will bring together scholars from anthropology, psychology, political science, gender studies and comparative religion to discuss fundamentalism’s relationship to modernity; explore the various “demands” posed by fundamentalist movements-for example, limitations on the role of women-that sometimes produce moral and political dilemmas; and examine specific situations in Israel and the occupied territories, Indonesia and Kashmir to consider how various fundamentalist movements are affecting the resolution of political conflicts.

A highlight of the symposium is the annual Bernstein Lecture, given this year by Albie Sachs, justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. His talk titled “South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission-Was Justice Served?” will be given on April 12 at 4 p.m. in Room 127.

Justice Sachs was a civil rights lawyer, activist and political dissident in South Africa during the apartheid years. He received his B.A. and L.L.B. from the University of Cape Town in the 1950s. A leading member of the African National Congress, he went into exile in 1966 in the U.K., where he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Sussex. He then went to Mozambique, where he served first as professor of law at the Eduardo Mondlane University, and then as the director of research in the Ministry of Justice. After nearly being killed by a car bomb in 1988, he returned to England. He was the founding director of the South Africa Constitution Studies Centre, first based at the University of London but later moved to the University of the Western Cape, where Justice Sachs was made Professor Extraordinary. He was also appointed Honorary Professor in the Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town and took an active part in the negotiations for a new constitution as a member of the Constitutional Committee of the ANC and of the National Executive Committee of that organization. He is the author of many books on human rights, gender rights and the environment.

The symposium is sponsored by the Law School’s Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights. James Silk is the center’s executive director.

The Robert L. Bernstein Fellowships in International Human Rights were established in 1997 to honor Robert Bernstein, the former chair, president and CEO of Random House, Inc., and the founding chair of Human Rights Watch. The fellowships provide financial support to allow two Yale Law School graduates to pursue full-time international human rights work for one year.

Former Bernstein Fellows have worked on projects promoting and protecting human rights in such diverse locations as Eritrea, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Thailand and Tibet. The current Bernstein Fellows will discuss their work on April 12 at 12:30 p.m. in Room 129. The 2002-2003 Bernstein Fellows will be announced at a reception on April 13, at 5:00 p.m. in the Alumni Reading Room.

Fundamentalism and Modernity
Robert L. Bernstein Symposium
Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights
Yale Law School
April 12-13, 2002

12:30-1:45 p.m. Room 129
Human Rights Workshop, Current Bernstein Fellows will discuss their work
Susan Benesch, (YLS ‘01), Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Marco Simons, (YLS ‘01), EarthRights International

2-3:30 p.m. Room 129
Practitioners Panel: Challenges for human rights and humanitarian workin societies affected by fundamentalist movements

4-5:30 p.m.
Bernstein Lecture: Albie Sachs (Justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa) “South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission-Was Justice Served?”

9 a.m. Room 122
Continental breakfast

10 a.m.-Noon Room 127
Panel: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fundamentalism and Modernity
Henry Munson (Professor, Anthropology, University of Maine), “To Compare is Not to Equate: On the importance of distinguishing the various social, nationalistic and religious causes of fundamentalism”
Paul Berman (fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities, NYU and World Policy Institute at the New School), on foreign policy and responses to globalization
Mark Juergensmeyer (Professor, Global Studies and Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara), the logic of religious violence, sociology of religious nationalism
Nayereh Tohidi (Scholar in Residence, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Professor of Women’s Studies, California State University, Northridge) on “Gender, Modernity and Globalization”

Noon-1 p.m. Room 122
Lunch break

1-2:30 p.m. Room 127
Feminist Spaces in Islam: Fundamentalist Modernities and Secular Islam
Speaker: Margot Badran (Senior Fellow at the Center for Muslim Christian Understanding, Georgetown University)

Commentator: Asma Barlas (Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Politics and director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity at Ithaca College)

2:30-2:45 p.m. Room 122
Coffee break

2:45-4:45 p.m. Room 127
Panel: The Impact of Fundamentalism on Political Conflicts
Marc Gopin, (Visiting Associate Professor of International Diplomacy, Senior Research Associate, Fletcher School, Tufts University), religion’s role in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Ben Kiernan (Professor of History and Director, Genocide Studies Program, Yale University), Islamic fundamentalism and the diversity of Indonesia’s religious history
Mridu Rai (Professor of History, Yale University), the Kashmir conflict

5 p.m.
RECEPTION: Announcement of 2002-2003 Bernstein Fellows Alumni Reading Room

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325