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Civility and Culture

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Date and time
Friday, February 17, 2012

Are calls for civility a distraction that marginalizes the individual and inhibits an honest examination of absolutes? Does the practice of civility evolve differently in different cultural experiences? What happens to civil discourse when ordinary political conversation becomes shrouded in the sacred? Can civil discourse lead zealots to reconciliation and mutual respect? This panel examines fundamental questions about the value of civility across cultures.

Diana Eck's academic work has a dual focus, India and America, and in both cases she is interested in the challenges of religious pluralism in a multireligious society. Her work on India includes the books *Banaras*, *City of Light and Darsan*, and *Seeing the Divine Image in India*. Since 1991, she has headed the Pluralism Project, which explores and interprets the religious dimensions of America's new immigration; the growth of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the United States; and the new issues of religious pluralism and American civil society. Her book *Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey From Bozeman to Banaras* is in the area of Christian theology and interfaith dialogue. It won the Grawemeyer Book Award in 1995 and a 10th-anniversary edition was published in 2003. She received the National Humanities Award from President Clinton and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1996, the Montana Governor's Humanities Award in 2003, and the Melcher Lifetime Achievement Award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2003. In 2005 and 2006 she served as president of the American Academy of Religion. Diana Eck has worked closely with churches on issues of interreligious relations, including her own United Methodist Church and the World Council of Churches. She is currently chair of the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches.
Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and a native of Mexico City. His best-selling memoir, *On Borrowed Words*, recounts the way various periods in his life have been shaped by languages: Spanish, Yiddish, Hebrew, and English.
Host of NPR and WBUR’s On Point, award-winning journalist Tom Ashbrook first came to NPR and WBUR-Boston for special coverage of the 9/11 attack,. Tom’s career in journalism spans twenty years as a foreign correspondent, newspaper editor, and author. He spent ten years in Asia — based in India, Hong Kong, and Japan — starting at the South China Morning Post, then as a correspondent for The Boston Globe. He began his reporting career covering the refugee exodus from Vietnam and the post-Mao opening of China, and has covered turmoil and shifting cultural and economic trends in the United States and around the world, from Somalia and Rwanda to Russia and the Balkans. At the Globe, where he served as deputy managing editor until 1996, he directed coverage of the first Gulf War and the end of the Cold War. Tom received the Livingston Prize for National Reporting, and was a 1996 fellow at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation before taking a four-year plunge into Internet entrepreneurship, chronicled in his book The Leap: A Memoir of Love and Madness in the Internet Gold Rush.