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February 14, 2005
Reconciliation revisited: Book recalls 2001 symposium
BY Eric Rangus
Nearly four years after it concluded, Emory’s Year of Reconciliation continues to influence University scholarship. The most recent example is the publication of Roads to Reconciliation: Conflict and Dialogue in the Twenty-First Century (M. E. Sharpe, 2005).
The book, co-edited by Amy Benson Brown and Karen Poremski, blends several lectures adapted from Emory’s Year of Reconciliation Symposium in January 2001 with newer material based on the idea of reconciliation and its place in a post-9/11 world.
Spanning the 2000–01 academic year, the Year of Reconciliation featured workshops, addresses and other programming inspired by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, formed in the aftermath of apartheid. Part of what set the year apart was its broad, self-defined themes. While that individualized outlook makes for compelling thought and discussion, it doesn’t always lend itself to a coherent, linear book.
Still, after the conclusion of the four-day Year of Reconciliation Symposium—the centerpiece conference featuring a roster of top minds that explored reconciliation from all angles—an idea sprung to market a book as a record of the event.
The symposium featured addresses by former President Jimmy Carter, Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), leading naturalist and Harvard University Professor E.O. Wilson (all of whom are represented in the book) and other noted faculty from Emory, around the United States and the world; their words would immediately interest many readers.
Then Sept. 11 happened, and many conventional ideas about peace and conflict resolution—two themes that appeared frequently in Year of Reconciliation conversations—flew out the window. That (and a market increasingly unfriendly to conference proceedings in book form) led to more brainstorming about how to keep the ideas of the symposium alive.
“We reconceived the book,” said Brown, director of the provost office’s Manuscript Development Program, which was just getting started as conversations about the reconciliation book were heating up.
Poremski was director of the symposium, and she laid the groundwork for the publication. But in 2002 Poremski took a faculty position in the English department at Ohio Wesleyan University and handed off a majority of the organization and editing responsibilities to Brown, who had been involved in some of the symposium activities (including writing a piece on it for Academic Exchange) but not centrally.
“We had to focus it more narrowly,” Brown continued. “It wasn’t just about everything that had gone on here at Emory about reconciliation. We needed to shape it and bring in some more material. It really needed to be a book about reconciliation and not a book about this fantastic conference at Emory.”
To fit into this new focus, some of the speeches were revised; additional writers, particularly in the area of religion, were recruited. Through the editing process, some coherent themes emerged.
Roads to Reconciliation is broken into four sections: Religion and Reconciliation; Science and Reconciliation; Racial Reconciliation: Theory and Practice in America; and Higher Education and Human Rights.
The book has a definite Emory-centric bent. The vast majority of contributors are Emory administrators or faculty —Emory College Dean Bobby Paul, Yerkes’ Franz de Waal, the School of Law’s Abdullahi An-Na’im and Emory College’s Angelika Bammer (see First Person), to name a few. Former faculty or administrators (Johnnetta Cole and Rebecca Chopp) and Atlanta icons (Southern Christian Leadership Conference co-founder Joseph Lowery) also contributed. “The book is intended as an academic book, but we very much wanted to make it accessible to a wide variety of audiences,” said Brown, author of one previous book (Rewriting the Word: American Women Writers and the Bible) and co-editor of another (The Reality of Breastfeeding: Reflections by Contemporary Women, with Kathryn Read McPherson).“I can see it being used in an introductory writing class with an interdisciplinary focus,” Brown continued.
Roads to Reconciliation is the first published product of Brown’s Manuscript Development Program, which started in 2002, although it is unlike any of the others on which she has worked. “A lot of what I do in the Manuscript Development Program is help writers with coherence and structure,” she said. “This was editing in a much more hands-on way.”