Ancestral spirits and ghosts have always been prominent in the indigenous Fijian pantheon, folklore and everyday beliefs. In these narratives their presence have not always been perceived threatening or negatively. In fact, ancestral spirits were often perceived as integral to the social equilibrium and protectors of tradition to the extent that they have been used discursively to affirm ethno-political demands and lend legitimacy to both traditional and political leaders until quite recently. In contemporary Fiji, however, ghosts are increasingly constructed as more sinister, violent and foreboding catastrophe. A key shift in these discourses appears to be that the presence of a ghost signifies spiritual pollution and a threat to the community; problems that can only be solved by intense praying and spiritual cleansing. This recent change in the cultural construction of spirits is, I suggest, associated with the growth of Pentecostalism and the increasingly fundamental nature of dominant religious discourse in Fiji. These movements discursively create pre-Christian Fijian traditions and cultural expressions as anti-Christian, and often advocate that a radical break with all pre-modern beliefs and cultural expressions is a necessity for the well-being of the vanua (the community and the land). The reconstruction of ghosts and spirits, from useful and potentially good forces of the land to evil enemies of health and wellbeing, thus highlights an intensification of the perceived opposition between Fiji’s pre-Christian customs and devotion to the Christian god. By looking at ghosts and spirits as cultural signifiers I thus suggest that constructions of the monstrous are a particular strategy communities use to deal with the dialectics of tradition and modernity. In more general terms, I use ethnographic examples to show how monsters and spirits can change appearance and meaning in new contexts, but also how these shifts impact localised discourses about belonging and identity.
Geir Henning Presterudstuen
I explore themes in sub-Saharan African thought that entail both interspecific and intergenerational justice. Citing a pervasive African belief that all of nature is interrelated, and that humans are required to live harmoniously with the rest of nature, I argue that strong anthropocentrism is rejected, and that some sense of a requirement to promote justice between species is implied. I also claim that the widespread veneration of ancestors among African peoples assumes a relational continuity between generations, implying that current generations are responsible for those in the future and have clear moral obligations towards them. Whilst Western philosophy has struggled to account theoretically for moral obligations towards future generations, and the very notion remains disputed, African thought regards such obligations as obvious and incontestable. I argue that a theory of intergenerational justice grounded in African thought could, at most, be only weakly anthropocentric, because of the fundamental belief that all natural entities are interrelated. This implies a sense of intergenerational justice that must necessarily also include interspecific justice. On these grounds, moral agents have obligations not just to future generations of humans, but to future generations of other species, too. I claim that African thought regards intergenerational moral obligation as so obvious and basic a duty, that it could easily be conceived of in terms of rights. On this African view, the current set of agreed international rights is woefully incomplete without the inclusion of the rights of future generations. Finally, I investigate the implications for international policy and environmental justice if such rights were agreed to by the international community.
David B. Feldman, Ian C. Fischer and Robert A. Gressis
It is commonly believed that religious convictions moderate death anxiety and aid in coping with loss. However, scant research addresses this issue. We detail the results of an empirical study comparing religious believers and non-believers on measures of death anxiety and grief. More precisely, we investigated the relationships between certain religious beliefs (e.g., specific views of God and extrinsic vs. intrinsic religiosity) and levels of fear and acceptance of death, as well as both painful grief reactions to losses and grief-related growth (e.g., deepening relationships with others, discovering new views of life, etc.). A total of 101 participants from across the U.S. were surveyed, including individuals with an array of ages (19 to 57), education levels, and ethnicities. About half professed religious or spiritual belief, and 71 participants lost a loved one in the last 10 years. Those with some form of belief did not demonstrate lower levels of death anxiety. They did, however, display higher levels of certain types of death acceptance. Additionally, those who professed some form of religious belief, in comparison to those who did not, tended to have lower levels of grief and greater levels of grief-related growth. Those believers who viewed God as warm and interested in their lives (versus more distant) had significantly lower levels of personal fear of death. Similarly, those with high intrinsic religious motivation (seeing religious participation as a valuable goal in itself, rather than instrumental to achieving other goals) reported lower levels of fear of death and higher levels of death acceptance. In short, though religious belief appears to matter in general with regard to death anxiety, and grief, the specifics of those beliefs further nuance how religion is connected with people’s reactions to human mortality.
This chapter examines the purported use of sorcery or black magic by female foreign domestic workers (FDWs) using Singapore as a context. Beneath the veneer of a technocratic and rational scientific society that would be expected to reject archaic beliefs, accusations of the use of sorcery by FDWs swirl rampantly, albeit in hushed undertones. Even employers who are sceptical express wariness on these grounds. There are three main types of sorcery that foreign domestic workers in Singapore are accused of using in an effort to covertly manipulate local employers – a) the harbouring of demons, b) the use of binding spells or charms, and c) the use of substances imbued with dark mystical power. There has been little critical examination of such accusations of sorcery against FDWs, even though these have been known to have drastic social and legal consequences. It is thus necessary to deconstruct the rumours in order to shed light on the nature and consequence of the social tension and conflicts of power between employers and FDWs, who may be best understood as the most threatening type of alien, the stranger in the home.
Lelia Green and Anne Aly
In September 2009 the authors presented a chapter at a collaborative research forum focused upon exploring the cultural roles of Strangers, Aliens and Foreigners. That chapter, published elsewhere, suggested that Australian Muslims were a community in fear: more used to feeling fearful than to making others feel afraid. Members of Muslim communities found it difficult to identify with western fears of Muslims. The fears felt by Australian Muslims are partly fuelled by media representations of Muslim communities which strengthen stereotypes and gloss over the diversity of ethnicities, backgrounds and religious practice among Muslims in Australia. Given the range of ways in which Islam is observed, western representations of the Muslim other are based on a construction of Islam as an artificially unified religious ‘other’ against which the mainstream majority positions itself, as an artificially unified western ‘self’. Building upon our previous research this chapter responds to ideas explained in this volume and interrogates the original research data for indications as to how the Australian Muslim minority construct the fear of the Muslim other they experience from the Australian majority. Given the research demonstrated differences in how Australian Muslims respond to media coverage of ‘fear’ and ‘terror’, compared with the responses of broader community Australians, how do Australian Muslims construct the intentions and beliefs of those people and media institutions that circulate mainstream media messages?
Robin L. Fetherston
On top of a file cabinet in my office in Doha, Qatar, sits a cardboard box of trinkets and bookmaking supplies, and buried somewhere in it is a sliver of wood covered in transparent tape on both sides. I found the splinter embedded in the outer weave of my purse the morning after a suicide bomber destroyed the theatre in which eight colleagues and I were sitting as we watched a rendition of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I keep it as a memento of escaping the danger of that night – for I pulled it out of my purse rather than what could have been my eye. But to focus only on the relief of escaping relatively unharmed on March 19, 2005, fails to do justice to the complexities of survivorship. My creative nonfiction essay describes the impact of a single act of terrorism on one group of expatriate academic colleagues and the varying and similar ways in which we responded. It observes that while people may survive a bombing, no one remains undamaged. It seeks to explain why in contrast to those farther away from the incident, these nine academics whose ideas and beliefs covered a wide spectrum of religion and non-religion intuitively refrained from using the word evil when discussing the Egyptian suicide bomber or his act – how the descriptors of language failed us. And it discusses how the bombing revealed to us our Edenic dreams of Doha as a safe haven in the Middle East, while simultaneously blasting them away, and what new perceptions emerged from that disillusioning.
Nicholas H. Smith
The chapter begins by contrasting two approaches to the analysis of hope, one which takes its departure from a view broadly shared by Hobbes, Locke and Hume, another which fits better with Aquinas’s definition of hope. The former relies heavily on a sharp distinction between the cognitive and conative aspects of hope. It is argued that while this approach provides a valuable source of insights, its focus is too narrow and it rests on a problematic rationalist psychology. The chapter then discusses the phenomenology of hope with particular reference to the contrast between the lived experience of expectation and anticipation. This leads to a discussion of the value of hope. My thesis here is that when philosophers reflect on hope, they bring along background, tacit assumptions regarding its worth, which I attempt to make explicit. Finally the chapter identifies a second kind of philosophical reflection on hope, which is concerned not so much with the logic or value of hope as with hope understood as a ‘principle.’
Jessica Wolfendale and Matthew Talbert
Recently, a number of philosophers have argued that soldiers typically aren’t responsible for war crimes because situational factors such as battlefield stress and military training undermine their capacity to recognize morally relevant features of their environment, and thus soldiers should be excused for their wrongdoing. In this chapter we challenge this conclusion and demonstrate that this account is inadequate as an explanation of war crimes and a theory of responsibility. Drawing on social cognitivist accounts of personality, we show how military training instils attitudes, beliefs, and emotions in soldiers that inform their uses of violence in ways that can contribute to war crimes. Even though soldiers can’t fully control the dispositions they develop through military training, we argue that soldiers who commit war crimes are responsible for their behaviour if their actions express morally objectionable attitudes that justify their victims in blaming them. However, a soldier would not be responsible for war crimes if her behaviour was elicited by situational pressures that bypassed her dispositions, beliefs, and emotions. Thus, we provide a nuanced analysis of responsibility for war crimes that recognizes that aspects of military conflict can undermine moral responsibility.
Two different views exist on whether or not starting a war is justifiable. Some people accept war as a justifiable action, while others do not tolerate it at all. Thus, the main question is one of justification: Is there any justification for starting a war or not? The same debate can be found among Muslims. On the one hand, people who are in favor of starting a war believe that Islam has permitted the initiation of war solely to promote Islam. On the other hand, there are others who think that from an Islamic point of view no one can start a war, even for a sacred aim like promoting one’s religion. What is the right belief from the viewpoint of Islam? This chapter will study this problem and argue that the only justified kind of war in Islam is a defensive war; Islam never allows Muslims to start a war. The history of wars during Muhammad’s life supports this idea. The chapter also studies an important subsidiary question, that is: What can we say about those verses in the Quran that encourage Muslims to fight against infidels? Don’t they show that the Quran approves and even advises the initiation of war? It will be shown that all of these commands in the Quran have a historically common context: They exist due to the violation of peace treaties by infidels and only encourage the Muslims to defend themselves against those infidels who have in fact started a war against them.
Caryl Churchill is one of the most prolific and distinguished playwrights emerging in contemporary British theatre arena with her use of non-naturalistic techniques to explore ideologically-established beliefs and invisible signs carved into the female body throughout the history which conflate gender politics and victimised females therein. Through the application of modernist dramatic techniques, Churchill, in her challenging play Vinegar Tom carries her plot back to the 17th century England where with the enthronement of James I, ‘a period of tumultuous religious and socioeconomic change’ the new English Witchcraft Act of 1604 was executed as James I had tremendous hatred towards witchcraft and its practices. The fundamental aim for historicising her narrative is to display how some innocent women under the patriarchal hegemony were accused of being haunted by wicked forces, and therefore condemned to pay for their sins by means of sacrificing their own body. Thus, the play attempts to enact women who managed to dissociate themselves from the acquisitive values of society and became the candid verbalisation of their own sexuality, body, identity. The play, thus juxtaposes 17th century innocent women burnt for perpetuating witchcraft with the contemporary women who relentlessly continue to be wryly labelled as wicked creatures needing to be cured and subordinated to the wills and aspirations of patriarchal institutions. However, in this chapter, I aim to converge a theoretical approach by means of these victimised characters in the construction of identity and body so as to deesentialise allegedly constant and fixed women body and identity from the discourses and underline how witches and being wicked are shaped by the patriarchy against those who do not conform to the norms of it.