Making Peace with Difference: A Hermeneutic of Inclusive Conversation

66 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2016

Date Written: 2002


The search for peace within incommensurability marks the beginning of the twenty-first century. Over the twentieth century, modern industrial nations huffed and puffed their way into postmodern postindustrialism while other culture-countries of the world emerged into modernity - "a new modernity" - taking new forms, making new claims, and challenging old understandings.

Claims of universalism and unity rang increasingly hollow over the last decades of the twentieth century. Ethnic and religious nationalism reached new peaks of passion and anxiety. Equality, defined only as sameness, seemed to lose its integrity as the central theme of justice. Bubbling persistently beneath the unstable postmodern terrain have been the demands of difference. If the world is to survive, even in its fragments, we must make peace with human difference.

Difference is the puzzler of human relationships. Misunderstanding, aversion, fear, and hatred find their bottom in perceived differences with the "Other." Difference may also be seen as the chief organizer of injustice. Power-laden "othering" is the cornerstone of oppression and attendant assumptions of superiority. Yet, in the growth of global transactions, multicultural perspectives, and accompanying forces of integration and disintegration, the recognition and negotiation of difference are essential to success. To the practice and teaching of law, difference holds particular significance. Difference may provide both the riddle and the key to the effectiveness of legal systems and the persistence of any form of justice that calls itself participatory.

This article offers an interdisciplinary approach to difficult issues of difference. Drawing from scholarship in feminist theology, social sciences, and ethics, the article poses a critical and constructive hermeneutic that first interrogates difference and then invites a constructive vision of difference from the lens of inclusive mutuality. Building on the interrogatory hermeneutic of difference, the article will offer four critical moments: naming difference through social location, history, and context; assessing power relations through both a microanalysis and macroanalysis of power and privilege; decentering the hidden norm through language and a new angle of vision; and interpreting difference through sensitivity to meanings from the domains of culture and gender. Finally, the artilce will imagine a constructive hermeneutic of inclusive justice that seeks to foster conversation across racial, gender, cultural, and class difference.

Keywords: difference, peace, peacemaking, hermeneutics, legal education, feminist theology, social sciences, ethics, religion, multicultural perspectives, negotiating difference, legal systems, microanalysis, macro analysis, language, constructive hermeneutic, power and privilege, vision, inclusive mutuality

Suggested Citation

Koons, Judith E., Making Peace with Difference: A Hermeneutic of Inclusive Conversation (2002). Texas Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2002, Available at SSRN:

Judith E. Koons (Contact Author)

Barry University School of Law ( email )

6441 E. Colonial Dr.
Orlando, FL 32807
United States

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