2017 Annual Meeting: Identity and Rivalry
July 12-15, Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, Madrid, Spain
The processes of identity formation may follow different paths. These processes might pursue a narrative, a ritualistic, a mythological, or a political trail, among others. Nationalisms, indigenisms, religious revivals, political and economic protests, movements of the masses, and therefore, the dynamics of identity are today becoming increasingly more complex. Spain has been a country of culture clashes or encounters, rivalries, conflicts and fratricidal wars, but it has also been the homeland of great artists such as Cervantes, Velázquez, Calderón de la Barca, Goya, García Lorca and Picasso. Their contributions to the understanding of t human nature have been revolutionary and Girard’s predilection for Cervantes is well known. We like to believe that Spain constitutes a privileged vantage point from which to evaluate the possibilities and limits of identity construction processes in our world.
In COV&R 2017 in Madrid, we would like to invite scholars to explore the roots of identity; the ways rivalry survives and rises over the centuries as a force of destruction and foundation. Jean-Michel Oughourlian, Cesáreo Bandera (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Charles Powell (Real Instituto Elcano), Jon Juaristi (Universidad Alcalá de Henares), Roland Hsu (University of Stanford), or Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez (Universidad Iberoamericana de México) have confirmed their participation as plenary speakers and we are waiting for others to accept our invitation.
We are also working on a special cultural program. It will include private visits to the Prado museum, a memorable gala dinner, opera, literary nightwalks around the old city, and field-trips on Saturday and Sunday to the nearby towns of Avila, Toledo, el Escorial and other historical sites.
Call for Papers
This conference aims to bring together the insights of the 20th century’s premier theorist of violence and religion, René Girard, with the latest scholarship on topics such as:
- The formation, the destruction and the dynamics of current and traditional nationalisms;
- Inner-national conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War;
- The Indignados, anti-system groups and similar generational, political, and sociological movements;
- The construction of pan-national identities in Europe, America, Africa, Asia;
- Identity, Religion, and Communion: Islam, Judaism and Christianity in Spain and Europe in the Middle Ages.
In addition to the topics listed above, papers are welcome on any other topic related to the title of the conference: Identity and Rivalry, or related to the work of René Girard.
The seminar is held in English, simultaneous translation will not be provided.
Spanish may be used as the language to work with if a panel so wishes (then simultaneous translation will be provided).
The organising committee also welcomes proposal for practitioner-focused, interactive workshops that relate to the work of Girard or the conference theme. Such sessions could take different forms (e.g., workshop-style, forum, discussion group, panel) and may cover areas such as:
- countering violence/radicalisation
- inter-faith dialogue
- Girard and preaching
- Girard and psychotherapy
- Girard and sciences
- Girard and literature
This list is only suggestive and not exhaustive. Please provide a description and rationale for an inter-active workshop on a particular topic to be facilitated for approx. 45 or 90 minutes by appropriately qualified persons.
To honor the memory of Raymund SCHWAGER, SJ (1935-2004), the Colloquium on Violence and Religion offers an award of $1,500.00 shared by up to three persons for the three best papers given by graduate students at the COV&R 2017 meeting. Students presenting papers at the conference are invited to apply for the Raymund Schwager Memorial Award by sending a letter to that effect and the full text of their paper (in English, maximum length: 10 pages) in an e-mail attachment to the organizers of COV&R 2017. Due date for submission is the closing date of the conference registration, June 1. Winners will be announced in the conference program. Prize-winning essays should reflect an engagement with mimetic theory; they will be presented in a plenary session and be considered for publication in Contagion.
Travel grants to attend COV&R 2017are available for graduate students who are giving a paper and are first-time attendees of the COV&R conference. To apply, write a letter of application accompanied by a letter of recommendation by a COV&R member to that effect to the Executive Secretary, Martha Reineke until the closing date of the conference registration. The board will sponsor the attendance of up to 6 persons with a maximum amount of $500 USD each. Grants are awarded by the officers of COV&R on a first come, first served basis.
Information will be posted soon.
Visit the conference website to view the call for papers and to learn more.
One of the most pressing issues of our time is the outbreak of extremist violence and terrorism, done in the name of religion. Much has been written on this topic, particularly in the context of Islamic terrorism. However, there is much misunderstanding on this topic, presenting the need for a well-grounded analysis.
Further, a Girardian lens has not been comprehensively applied to this major issue of our time, even though mimetic theory opens up many possibilities for a new and in-depth analysis. This conference seeks to address this issue, with a range of experts in mimetic theory, Islamic studies and terrorism studies.
In particular, the conference will critically analyse the link made between religion and violence, and explore contemporary instances of violence done in the name of religion, such as Islamist terrorism and radicalization in its various political, economic, religious, military and technological dimensions.
We aim to analyse religious violence from multiple disciplinary perspectives (as the range of conference speakers attests). We particularly aim to bring together the insights of René Girard, the premier theorist of violence in the 20th century, with the latest scholarship on religion and violence, particularly exploring the nature of extremist violence.
The conference is open to academics, professionals, religious practitioners, military, police, and anyone interested in engaging this topic in respectful dialogue. The conference will have a special "Tribute Dinner for René Girard (on his death)” at the Park Hyatt, East Melbourne. We are hoping that the international Girardian community will make an effort to participate in this important conference and pay tribute to the memory of René Girard.
We have an exciting range of internationally acclaimed speakers who will present at the conference, including:
- Professor Asma Afsaruddin (Indiana University, USA)
- Professor Anne Aly (Edith Cowan University, Western Australia)
- Rev Dr Sarah Bachelard (Australian Catholic University, Canberra)
- Professor Greg Barton (Deakin University, Melbourne)
- Reverend Professor Frank Brennan SJ (Australian Catholic University and Charles Sturt University)
- Associate Professor Kathleen Butler (University of Newcastle)
- Professor William T. Cavanaugh (De Paul University and author of The Myth of Religious Violence), who will give the Raymund Schwager Memorial Lecture
- Professor Jean-Pierre Dupuy (École Polytechnique, Paris / Stanford University, California)
- Dr Chris Fleming (Western Sydney University, NSW)
- Most Rev Dr Philip Freier (Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne/Primate of The Anglican Church of Australia)
- Professor Wolfgang Palaver (the University of Innsbruck)
- Ms Naomi Wolfe (Australian Catholic University)
Extended biographies are available on the keynote speakers page.
The format of the conference will include evening keynote addresses, followed by morning panel sessions on the same topic as the keynote. The morning sessions will have extended time for discussion and questions to explore the key conference themes, such as the relationship between religion and violence, and an analysis of contemporary religious violence, especially Islamist extremism. The conference will also feature a panel on violence and religion in Australian-Indigenous history.
The conference is hosted by the Australian Catholic University. It is co-organised with the Australian Girard Seminar (AGS) and will incorporate its 6th annual conference.
The 2015 Conference will take place at Saint Louis University, from July 8-12. It will be keynoted by Shawn COPELAND, a professor of theology at Boston College. She will give a talk on Friday July 10th called, “The Risk of Memory, The Cost of Forgetting.” James ALISON will also deliver a keynote on the evening of Wednesday July 8th, which will serve to open the conference. It is titled “Taking Cinderella to the Ball: how a mimetic anthropology restores the theological virtue of hope to its rightful place.” In addition, the conference is excited to have Peter THIEL back to give a keynote on the evening of July 9th. We also have a plenary panel on the future of mimetic theory and theology (July 10th) with Nikolaus WANDINGER, Brian ROBINETTE (theology, Boston College) and David BENTLEY HART (current occupant of the Danforth Chair, Saint Louis University). In addition, the lynching project, now in its fifth year, will organize a keynote panel around the theme of Ferguson and race. As usual, we will have a keynote devoted to the Schwager Award winners. We are especially happy to have a panel devoted to the founding and history of COV&R to celebrate its “Silver Jubilee.” James WILLIAMS, Martha REINEKE, and Gil BAILIE will recall their memories of the early years of the conference.
The memory of the outbreak of the First World War a hundred years ago raises far-reaching questions concerning the source and course of violent confrontation. This can be seen in recent publications about the subject such as: Christopher CLARK’s The Sleepwalkers (2012), Ernst PIPER’s Nacht über Europa (2013) and Herfried MÜNKLER’s Der große Krieg (2013), among others. The nature and proportions of the First World War led some theoreticians to define it as a breach in human history and as the great seminal catastrophe of the 20th century. Such an event calls for a wide-ranging analysis of the different aspects of the war itself, something that Herfried MÜNKLER carried out with unprecedented detail and rigor in his monumental book about the Great War. Never before had the relationship of attack to defense implied such an escalation towards the total deployment of antagonist forces on a global level. However, it is not only the trans-European character of the conflict or the brutality of trench warfare that raises significant questions about this singular event, but the transformative character and the dissemination of violence that can be located before and after the war itself: on the one hand, the Napoleonic and the FrancoPrussian wars in the 19th century; on the other hand, the Russian, Chinese and Spanish civil wars and the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century. In this sense, the First World War can be seen as a crystallization point of what René GIRARD – against the Hegelian understanding of history – has called “the law of human relations”: an escalation of violence even at the risk of total destruction.
In his discussion with Benoît CHANTRE on the escalation of violence originally published under the title Achever Clausewitz (English translation Battling to the End, German translation Im Angesicht der Apokalypse. Clausewitz zu Ende denken), René GIRARD draws on the resources of mimetic theory to analyze the problematic of the “escalation to the extremes”, or more specifically: the inability of politics to contain the reciprocal intensification of violence, the transformation in the nature of warfare from the 18th to the 20th century and the implications of the French-German conflict (from the Franco-Prussian war to the battle of Verdun) with regard to the new forms of worldwide violence in the 21st century. GIRARD’s book Battling to the End offers as coordinates three axes of reflection which situate the thematic nucleus of this conference: sacrifice and the modalities of the sacred (from the “archaic” to the “corrupted” sacred); the nature and implications of warfare; and the transformation of violence on a global scale. These thematic questions articulate a complex field of research and pose challenging questions to GIRARD’s sense of mimetic theory. Is Christian revelation the only possibility of identifying the ultimate injustice of sacrificial mechanisms, and, if so, is it doomed to failure by its very elimination of sacrifice as the means to temporary and partial pacification? Do we live in a world in which political institutions can no longer provide a counterweight to the disseminating and ever increasing violence perpetuated by humans? Does the Girardian use of the term “absolute war” apply to our contemporary reality, despite the decentered character of warfare after the collapse of states? These questions call for discourse among different disciplines – like philosophy, theology and anthropology, as well as political and social sciences – in order to shed light on the problematic of the escalation of violence and victimization. They also show the challenges of modern Western culture in reflecting upon the role of peace in educational contexts and how important Girard’s mimetic insights into desire and rivalry are in this respect.
GIRARD declares in his book the necessity of producing “a quite different kind of rationality” (Battling to the End, p. 2) in order to grasp the radical nature of violence. Accordingly, the conference will seek to compare the contribution of mimetic theory with the insights of other theories and disciplines. The phenomenology of “donation” developed by Jean-Luc MARION points to important aspects in this context. MARION’s approach to the problem of evil and vengeance in Prolegomena to Charity runs parallel to several lines of the Girardian analysis of the scapegoat mechanism, not only in the relationship between aggression and victimization, but also in the role of charity as providing the only escape from a subjectivity imprisoned by the destructive mechanisms of rivalrous desire. In order to think beyond this “logic of evil”, MARION seeks to develop what GIRARD declared a cultural desideratum: an alternative type of rationality. That is in the broad sense the purpose of MARION’s “third reduction”, a reduction no longer to the appearance of objectivity (HUSSERL) or to the beingness of being (HEIDEGGER), but to donation itself. The implications of this step beyond the purview of phenomenology lead inter alia to quite another view of sacrifice, related to the very comingover that delivers the gift from any kind of conditioning: sacrifice as something that does not require destruction, exchange or even contract, but a radical approach to the infinite – a line of thought prominent also in the works of Emmanuel LEVINAS and Jan PATOČKA.
Humanity is more than ever the author of its own fall because it has become able to destroy its world. -René Girard
From July 10-14, 2013, the University of Northern Iowa will host the annual meeting of COV&R. The theme of this year’s conference is “A Land between Two Rivers: Space, Place, and Mimetic Theory.” This theme is an appropriate one to consider in Iowa, because visitors to the state find most memorable the vast expanses of land and sky. But the land, which has been central to Iowa’s economy and to the nation’s food supply, is undergoing massive change as industrial agriculture replaces family farms. With Iowa as a focus point for reflection, conference participants will consider how mimetic theory can illuminate ecological issues, contribute to environmental ethics, and inform our reflections on interconnections among organisms and varied forms of life.
Our conversation will be facilitated by three keynote addresses on the conference theme. Laura JACKSON, who holds a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University and is a professor of biology at UNI, will help lay groundwork for our discussion, drawing on her expertise in ecology and sustainable agriculture. JACKSON will speak about the demise of the family farm and the rise of industrial agriculture, which is posing serious ecological challenges. Her presentation is “Restoring Ecological Health in an Agricultural Sacrifice Zone.”
Our second keynote speaker, Whitney BAUMAN, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University and a graduate of Graduate Theological Union, will offer the Raven Foundation Lecture. The driving question behind BAUMAN’s specialization in the area of religion and ecology is: How do religious beliefs, insights, doctrines, and practices shape the material-physical worlds around us? Even if one does not adhere to or practice a given tradition, religions have shaped the cultures in which humans live. In BAUMAN’s work, he analyzes how answers to the “big questions” with which religions have grappled have shaped the human relationship with the rest of the natural world. He is especially interested in analyzing how these “big questions” are changed by forces such as global climate change and globalization. In the end, he understands these religious questions to be questions about ethics: how ought we to live responsibly as human beings vis. a vis. the rest of the natural world. Bauman will speak on “Religion, Ecology, and the Planetary Other: Opening Spaces for Difference.” Following his lecture, there will be a reception sponsored by the Raven Foundation.
Our final keynote speaker will be Mark WALLACE from Swarthmore College. WALLACE, a graduate of the University of Chicago, will deliver the Raymund Schwager, S.J. Memorial Lecture. Early in his career, WALLACE edited Curing Violence: Essays on René Girard with Thee SMITH. He has not been engaged directly with mimetic theory in recent years and views the invitation to join us this summer as an opportunity to forge links between his early and current work. WALLACE’s research and writing now are situated within the emerging field of religion and ecology. Noting an affinity between religion and ecology, WALLACE sees the intellectual wager of this discipline as follows: the often unknown wellsprings of human beings’ perspectives on the environment must be tapped if we are to understand adequately how individuals and societies have conceived of their place in the natural world. WALLACE reflects on questions such as: Are human beings part of or beyond nature? Do human beings have obligations to other life forms? Does the cosmos have an inherent purpose or function? For WALLACE, these questions are religious, moral, and ecological at the same time. They animate WALLACE’s writing, especially in regard to the role Christianity has played in both deepening and ameliorating the environmental crisis in our time.
In order to facilitate our conversations with the keynote speakers, BAUMAN’s and WALLACE’s addresses will be followed by breakout sessions in which session participants will discuss the lectures in small groups. There also will be a “wrap-up” session on the keynote addresses that will afford the small groups an opportunity to share insights from their discussions when we reconvene in the auditorium. So also will all three keynote speakers engage each other in discussion on the conference theme. This synthesizing session will be facilitated by Wolfgang PALAVER.
We will continue our special emphasis on lynching during a plenary session. Julia ROBINSON, Barbara THIEDE, and Joseph WINTERS from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte will speak on “Literary Lynchings: Mimetic Theory, Race, and Lynching in Jewish and African American Literature. “ René GIRARD’s treatise of the term “lynching” captures the socially constructed imaginary of perpetrators, the maleficence of rivalry and the dubious monsterization of their victims. Further, the term exposes the depths of mimetic transference of a society’s deviant propensities to reclaim and revalorize a communal identity over against a mythic surrogate. As GIRARD states, “The representation of lynching in myth is always found in a context that necessitates the inference of its reality, because only that inference can illuminate that myth as a whole in all its details.” The study of lynching, amid its multifaceted forms within global communities, promises to reveal the central efficacy of collective acts of violence, thereby unveiling the paradigmatic patterns of thought and behavior that shape oppressive ideologies. Lynching then, can become a lens by which to expose and even deconstruct historically reified and culturally defined narratives of race, religion, and even, gender. This year’s plenary on the study of mimetic theory and lynching addresses African American and Jewish literary productions.
The concluding plenary of the conference on Saturday afternoon, offered with the support of the Raven Foundation, will feature Brian MCLAREN and James ALISON speaking on “Exploring the New Paradigm: Girard and the Christianity of the 21st Century.” With reference to the new curriculum, Jesus The Forgiving Victim, which is being launched, MCLAREN and ALISON will explore some of the differences which GIRARD makes to how we read the Bible, how we might live the reality of Church, and what sort of worldwide networks we might find ourselves getting involved in as this understanding of Christianity takes wing. ALISON, whose work is informed by the thought of René GIRARD, is the author of many books including The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin through Easter Eyes and On Being Liked. He is featured in Jesus: The Forgiving Victim. MCLAREN founded Cedar Ridge Community Church, an innovative, transdenominational church in the Baltimore-Washington region. He recently left the pastorate to devote full time to writing and speaking. His books include, The Secret Message of Jesus, Everything Must Change, Finding Our Way Again, and A New Kind of Christianity.
Other conference highlights will include a showing of the documentary Hellbound? A panel discussion of the film moderated by Adam ERICKSEN will feature filmmaker Kevin MILLER, Michael HARDIN, and Vanessa AVERY. Book sessions will feature The Girardians by James WILLIAMS, Beneath the Veil of the Strange Verses: Reading Scandalous Texts by Jeremiah ALBERG, and René Girard’s Mimetic Theory by Wolfgang PALAVER. Vanessa AVERY will offer a workshop about a new training program that has been designed to help institutional leadership, management and staff to identify the stages of scapegoating in the workplace, find effective ways to intervene, and ultimately transform organizational culture into a culture of healthy, above-board, generous relationality. She will present an overview of the training, (with a focus on the scapegoating model developed out of GIRARD’s thought), and some initial reflections from having completed the first run of the pilot program. In addition, over sixty papers will be featured in concurrent sessions at the conference.
I look forward to welcoming everyone to Iowa. In addition to hosting a conference that promises to be dynamic and engaging, I also will be introducing you to the history and distinctive culture of the area. Special events during the conference will acquaint participants with some interesting and unique aspects of rural life and small-town America. These will include a “Friday night down-town” evening of dining and entertainment on Cedar Falls’ Main Street, an award winning shopping and dining district that is quintessentially Midwestern. There are three Saturday morning excursions from which to select. Some participants will travel to the Amana Colonies, site of one of America’s longest lasting Utopian communities that was settled by German Pietists in 1855. Others will visit the Seed Saver’s Exchange, a world-famous repository for heirloom seeds that features gardens, orchards, and White Park cattle. Because most seed companies produce only a few varieties of seed, seed repositories play a critical role. Large-scale agriculture favors genetic stock in which quantity of production and ease of transport (e.g. fruits impervious to bruising in transit) are more important than quality (e.g., taste). Further, large-scale agriculture crops lack genetic diversity. If diseases wipe out a particular crop, in the absence of a seed stock that is genetically different, the entire plant species may go extinct. The Seed Saver’s Exchange preserves genetic diversity as a protection against plant extinction. The Exchange also makes available to the individual gardener genetically diverse fruits and vegetables that enrich our eating experiences. The third excursion will be to the Cedar Hills Sand Prairie and will include a showing of the award winning documentary: America’s Lost Landscape: The Tallgrass Prairie. The conference will conclude with a wine and cheese reception and the traditional banquet. “Mimetic Magic,” a show by New York magician and Girardian, James WARREN, will follow the dinner.