Thomas Banchoff is director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and professor in the Government Department and the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. His research centers on religious and ethical issues in world politics. Most recently he is the author of Embryo Politics: Ethics and Policy in Atlantic Democracies (Cornell University Press, 2011). He is...
The Berkley Center Lectures
The Berkley Center Lectures bring global thought leaders to campus for presentations on cutting-edge topics at the intersection of religion, culture and politics. The formal program is flanked by informal interaction with faculty and students. In April 2007 the Center sponsored satellite conversations with Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim reformer then barred from entry to the United States, on the topic of "Islam in the West." The October 2008 lectures featured the philosopher Charles Taylor under the heading "Narratives of Secularity." In October 2009, Hans Joas of the University of Chicago presented on "Universal Human Rights: A New Genealogy." In October 2011 Jürgen Habermas discussed "Myth and Ritual." The November 2012 lecture featured the Berkley Center's José Casanova on "The Church and the World: Secular Morality and the Challenge of Gender."
In the 2012 Berkley Center Lecture, sociologist and Berkley Center senior fellow Jose Casanova critiqued the Catholic Church's response to demands for women's equality both within its ranks and the wider society. In the area of gender and others, he argued that constructive engagement with positive trends in secular morality can help bolster the Church's moral authority on both sides of the Atlantic.
>> Lecture text
In this Berkley Center lecture, the philosopher Jürgen Habermas explored the evolution of myth and ritual, and their enduring significance for human societies, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
What are the origins of the idea of universal human rights? How can those rights be best understood - and realized - into the future? Hans Joas of the University of Chicago addressed these key questions in this year's Berkley Center Lectures. Some scholars see human rights as an outgrowth of secular enlightenment thought, while others emphasize their religious foundations. Joas proposed an alternative genealogy. He examined the emergence of the idea of universal human dignity as a response to the experience of collective violence and as part of larger process of inclusion through which more and more people have come to be considered sacred human persons. In a globalizing world, Joas argues, communication across philosophical and religious traditions is both possible and necessary to conceive and realize universal human rights into the future.
World-renowned philosopher Charles Taylor explored "Narratives of Secularity" in the 2008 Berkley Center Lectures. In his first lecture, Taylor explored the master narratives of modernity -- sound in some respects, but questionable in others -- that provide the matrix within which secularization theories have been advanced. In a series of three lectures at Georgetown University, Taylor surveyed the master narratives that have underpinned secularization, explored more adequate ones, and offered a picture of the present predicament of religion and spirituality in the West.
In April 2007 the Berkley Center hosted Tariq Ramadan over satellite feed from Europe to speak and answer questions on Islam and democracy, Muslim minorities in Western Europe, and Catholic-Muslim relations. Since July 2004 Ramadan has been unable to enter the United States. Shortly before he was to assume a professorship at Notre Dame University, his visa was revoked under the "ideological exclusion" provision of the Patriot Act. The visa denial is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN American Center.