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Kenneth M. Reinhard
UCLA; Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA 90024-4201)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
11/1/2004 – 10/31/2005

The Ethics of the Neighbor

This project on "The Ethics of the Neighbor" investigates the religious, philosophical, political, and psychoanalytic problematics that circulate around the figure of the neighbor, beginning with the biblical texts and post-biblical commentaries that are its origin and moving into its proliferations and mutations in modernity. Neither brother nor stranger, the neighbor is that particular other who marks the ambiguous realm between family and polis, hence serves as a touchstone for an ethics not fully determined by the obligations of kinship or state. The neighbor is both too close to be entirely reified or abstracted and too distant to count among the subject's group of intimates. The concept of the neighbor that arises from the biblical injunction to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Lev. 19:18) has generated a vast history of commentary in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet if an ethics of the neighbor takes on its urgency originally in religious discourses, it does not remain exclusive to those discourses for long, and soon passes into secular traditions of social thought and practice. Hence after examining the primary texts and commentaries on the neighbor in the three major monotheisms, the project turns to a series of modern thinkers and situations where the ethics of the neighbor is first secularized (Kant, Hegel), and then returns in transformed post-secular forms (e.g., Kierkegaard, Freud, Rosenzweig, Adorno, Lacan, and Levinas). Increasingly, we live in a world where everyone truly is the neighbor of everyone else, a world in which globalization brings with it not only civilization but also its "discontents." This project investigates the history of the figure of the neighbor and its implications for the world we see unfolding around us today.