Visiting scholar: International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, August to September 2012
Brian Klug is a Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at St Benet's Hall, Oxford, a member of the philosophy faculty of the University of Oxford, Fellow of the College of Arts and Sciences at St Xavier University, Chicago, and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton.
Brian has published extensively on 'race' and ethnicity, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Jewish identity and other subjects. His articles have appeared in numerous periodicals. His most recent books are Being Jewish and doing justice: bringing argument to life (2011) and Offence: the Jewish case (2009). He has lectured widely and taken part in several BBC (Religion and Ethics) programs.
Brian has a doctorate in social thought from the University of Chicago. He is Associate Editor of the journal Patterns of Prejudice and co-founder of the UK group Independent Jewish Voices.
'I was born and grew up in London but lived in Chicago for over twenty years. I completed my doctorate at the University of Chicago which led to my position at St Xavier University, which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy. I went from there to a Benedictine college at Oxford, and so I have spent a lot of my professional and social life in Catholic circles which, as a Jew, has made for some very interesting cultural experiences. And now here in am in a centre that focuses on Muslim and non-Muslim understanding! I must say though that all of that suits my temperament very well because I like difference, and I enjoy being amongst people who are not the same as me.
A combination of my two "hats" led me to this centre: I am here as a philosopher and also as a fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, which is based at the UK's University of Southampton and which has just recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the MnM Centre. From those two perspectives, what interests me is the possibility of bringing ways of thought and resources that are helpful to promote better understanding between, in the first place, Muslims and Jews, and in a broader sense between people of different religious traditions and indeed people of no faith at all. So the quest for understanding is very much at the heart of what interests me and what brings me here.
I'm also interested in questions and problems that I think are shared by people who come from what are called "religious traditions", such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and I think of these traditions as human traditions that take on religious forms. I think people can draw deeply on the well of these traditions as Jews, as Christians or as Muslims without ever exactly identifying them as being religious. By traditions I mean certain texts, values and styles of thought or ways of arguing; sometimes it’s easier for us to make sense of humanity when we begin our approach along the lines of traditions rather than religions.
While I am here, I am giving a seminar once a week to PhD students and postdoctoral fellows from the centre and also a few other UniSA researchers who had flagged their interest in attending. The five-week seminar series is titled "Wittgenstein on culture and religion". What we are doing is looking at how Wittgenstein’s schools of thought have a bearing on understanding cultural difference, and on the status of religious discourse. Ultimately, I am hoping that a book will emerge from the seminars, in which I will develop the material from the five seminars into a text that discusses Wittgenstein and culture and religion. So the seminars are a kind of laboratory for what I hope could ultimately lead to a permanent contribution to the field.'