sarahpessin@sarahpessin.com

Hope & Responsibility

In her more public-facing work, Sarah explores hope and responsibility, including themes of political coexistence, ethics, civic response, memory, and meaning-making.

  • She is currently working on a book called Hope/less Pardon (Panui Press).

Written in accessible prose for a general readership, this study invites readers to explore a sense of pardon that is far more vulnerable than the more confident approach to pardon that dominates contemporary culture.

Where we often find ourselves certain that others should forgive us and even that we can, if we so desire, forgive others, Hope/less Pardon draws on a wide range of traditions to help readers to a more fragile point of view: Ethical life is about living with the reminder that we are not the kind of creatures who can forgive at will and (relatedly) we are precisely the kinds of creatures who can often not be forgiven.

Drawing on figures from Kierkegaard to Martin Luther King, Jr., Maria Anzaldua to Judith Butler, Franz Kafka to Franz Rosenzweig to Frantz Fanon, and Martin Buber to Emmanuel Levinas, Hope/less Pardon reminds us that real hope is a kind of fragile hope-in-hopelesness, not an upbeat sense of bright-eyed optimism that can often make our relationships with our neighbors worse not better.

  • She also writes about politics and hope on Medium.com.
  • In her various roles from ACE Fellow to Interfaith Chair to professor of philosophy, she is currently working on a series of micro-documentary interviews and multimedia installations featuring neighbors with wide ranging personal and political points of view.
  • Her research on “civic responsibility” also explores the virtue of being able to tolerate discomfort in politics.

In this spirit, Sarah lectured on “making interfaith uncomfortable” as part of a 2016 Everding Distinguished Lectureship appointment (co-sponsored by Iliff School of Theology and St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado).

This grew into a larger project on “uncomfortable virtues,” including an unusual virtue that she calls “to hate and protect.” In a nutshell, it’s the idea that in civic life, we are called upon to feel responsible for even people whose views we hate.

You can hear some of her early thoughts on this virtue in her interview on Colorado Public Radio here.

In her longer project, she contextualizes this work within an anti-racist frame committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion related to what she calls “the paradox of race and religion.”

In this spirit, she is currently working on a book called Uncomfortable Virtues: Seven Paths to Responsible Coexistence where she offers readers cross-cultural resources for thinking about political health in some new unexpected ways.

  • Sarah also takes seriously the role of higher ed in cultivating the public good.
  • Read more here about some of her accomplishments around Shared Governance and DEI in her role as Faculty Senate President (2020-2022).