In this issue: News about COV&R’s 2023 annual meeting and a meeting of the Australian Girard Seminar this week; also new publications and reports on meetings of Theology & Peace and COV&R at the AAR.
COV&R Annual Meeting, June 14-17, 2023:
A Celebration of René Girard’s 100th Birthday—
The Future of Mimetic Theory
René Girard was born in 1923, and 2023 will therefore mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. This is a very important date for the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, the international association of scholars which for now more that thirty years have been working on mimetic theory and disseminating it through their research, publications, and active commitment to different causes, as well as to the many others, like the Raven and Unrival Foundations, and local research groups and association that have found inspiration in mimetic theory. To mark this occasion, the theme of the upcoming 2023 COV&R conference that will be held at the Institut Catholique de Paris from June 14 to 17 is the future of mimetic theory. We thought that the best way of celebrating René Girard’s contributions was to look at what mimetic theory can bring us today in terms of understanding the complex and in many ways unpredictable world in which we live. Because it is a celebration of his 100th anniversary, remembering his life and work will also have a central place in the meeting.
The main plenary speaker is literary critic Thomas Pavel, who will speak to us about Girard’s first book and his seminal contribution to past and present literary criticism. The book symposium will be dedicated to Benoît Chantre’s intellectual biography of René Girard that will come out at the French publisher Grasset in the spring of 2023. A massive work of close to 800 pages, it covers the progressive development of Girard’s work from when he left France and inquires into his continued and changing relationship with major figures of the French intellectual life. Another plenary session will be dedicated to Oedipus, both to the Oedipus Casebook recently edited by Mark R. Anspach and the study of Sophocles of Jérôme Thélot. Among the other plenary speakers there will be Elisabetta Brighi, Barbara Carnevali, Vincent Delecroix, Chantal Delsol, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Christine Orsini, Martha Reineke, Andreas Wilmes, and Frederic Worms. Some of the sessions will be given in French, but the English text will be simultaneously projected on screen.
As usual, contributions pertaining to any and all aspects of mimetic theory are welcome, but given the theme of the conference we encourage papers that look at what Girard brought into the world with his reflections on mimetic desire and at how others today are being guided and inspired by his work and carrying it forward. The conference wants to be looking both forward and backward, at how the future of the theory is rooted in its past, in René Girard’s seminal work, and how that work helps us to face the new dangers of our changing world. A full call for papers will go out soon.
Paris is a highly desirable (mimetically) tourist destination. We have succeeded in securing a sufficient number of rooms in various hotels and religious institutions. Because the demand is so high, however, it will be important to reserve rapidly as soon as the information is out (which it should be shortly). Many hotels will not keep these rooms for us after February or March at the latest.
Located in the centre of Paris, the Catholic University of Paris (Institut Catholique de Paris—ICP) was founded in 1875. It is the inheritor of the medieval liberal arts colleges and lies in the tradition of the Sorbonne, the oldest academic institution in France. It is today a modern institution that receives 10,000 students every year, with 900 professors, six faculties, and as many specialized research institutes.
We are looking forward to seeing you all in Paris next summer,
The local organizing committee: Benoît & Emmanuelle Chantre, Paul Dumouchel, and Camille Riquier.
Australian Girard Seminar
Saturday, December 3
Australian Catholic University
I’m writing to let you know about an upcoming online forum “Why do we want?” organized by the Australian Girard Seminar. Now we are emerging from COVID restrictions, we wanted to bring those interested in mimetic theory together again! In the short term, we decided that an online format is the best option to achieve this aim.
We are excited to host an online forum, “Why do we want?”, with the guest speaker, Luke Burgis, on Saturday, 3rd December, 2022, 10am-12noon (Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time). The forum will include a moderated discussion with Luke on mimetic desire in everyday life, especially in the business world, followed by small group discussions and Q&A to deepen understanding of mimetic desire. It is a special opportunity to engage Luke about his ground-breaking book and personal experience. It is open to all, regardless of knowledge or familiarity with René Girard’s mimetic theory.
Luke Burgis is author of Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life and has co-created and led four companies in wellness, consumer products, and technology. He’s currently Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of Programs at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship where he also teaches business at The Catholic University of America. Luke has helped form and serves on the board of several new K-12 education initiatives and writes and speaks regularly about the education of desire. He studied business at NYU Stern and philosophy and theology at a pontifical university in Rome. He’s Managing Partner of Fourth Wall Ventures, an incubator that he started to build, train, and invest in people and companies that contribute to a healthy human ecology. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Claire, and her crazy New Orleans cat Clotille. For more information (including videos of Luke’s explanations of mimetic desire): https://lukeburgis.com/
The forum will be held on Zoom. The event is free. Registration is essential. We are grateful to the Australian Catholic University in providing the online platform for this event.
Once you are registered, the Zoom link for the online forum will be provided via email. Also during registration, there are options to become a paid member of the Australian Girard Seminar or make a donation (both are voluntary). Either option helps with the operating costs of the Australian Girard Seminar.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email the Australian Girard Seminar.
Musing from the Executive Secretary
University of Innsbruck
This past September I had the privilege of being invited to Boston College as a Lonergan Fellow. For the non-theologians, Bernard Lonergan was an important 20th century Canadian Jesuit theologian and philosopher, who also did some writing in economics. To my knowledge he did not relate himself to René Girard and mimetic theory during his life-time. So, why am I mentioning him here?
The reason: I had known before going to Boston that there were some experts of Lonergan’s thought who were also interested in Girard and felt that a good complementarity was possible, among them the late Robert Michael Doran, SJ, whom I remembered in this column in August 2021. I learned this year in Boston that Doran was not the only one knowledgeable in Lonergan and interested in Girard. Although the Lonergan Institute is a “living memorial” to its name-giver, the thought of René Girard is present there as well. I mention it because it shows that mimetic theory is not just for the select few that read this Bulletin, but has an audience and readership well beyond – and that is because it is significant for humanity.
As we are preparing to enter the centennial of René Girard’s birth and as next year’s COV&R conference purports to look back but, especially, to look into the future of mimetic theory, that seems important to me. We as the group dedicated, so to speak, to the living memorial of René Girard and his academic achievements want to carry on the conversation with other thinkers, those of the 20th but even more so those of the 21st century. In Innsbruck, Dietmar Regensburger, our student assistant Monika Eder, and myself are confident that at long last we will be able to publish many of the presentations given at the conference here in 2019. And I know that Tom Ryba and Sandor Goodhart are working to publish their 2021 conference. Going back to Paris in 2023 offers a special outlook: We will be in Girard’s country of origin, will enjoy the flair of a wonderful city, and will engage with mimetic theory in past and future contexts. I am very much looking forward to it and hope to see many people there, familiar ones and new faces.
New In Print and Online
COV&R members receive a discount on volumes published in two Michigan State University Press, Breakthroughs in Mimetic Theory and Studies in Violence, Mimesis & Culture. A discount of 20% is currently available on the volumes published in 2022: The Time Has Grown Short: René Girard, or the Last Law by Benoît Chantre, translated by Trevor Cribben Merrill; Toward an Islamic Theology of Nonviolence: In Dialogue with René Girard by Adnane Mokrani; and Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s How to Think about Catastrophe: Toward a Theory of Enlightened Doomsaying. In addition, a 30% discount is available on selected titles from the backlist with a purchase of three or more. For more information, please see this page in the members section of the COV&R website. Next year, watch for Alterity by Jean-Michel Oughourlian, translated by Andrew McKenna, and Violence and the Oedipal Unconscious, vol. 1: The Catharsis Hypothesis, by Nidesh Lawtoo.
Warum kämpfen wir? Und wie hören wir auf? This is the title of a brief anthology in German of writings by René Girard, edited by Cynthia Haven, now available from Reclam. Cynthia’s blog regularly includes items related to Girard, such as “Whoever thought René Girard would become cool?” and notice of a review of her Girard biography in the Ukranian press. Due out next year from Penguin is her selection of “essential writings” from Girard, All Desire Is a Desire for Being.
Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning is now available as an audiobook narrated by his eldest son, Martin. A guest post by Trevor Cribben Merrill on Cynthia’s blog, The Book Haven, describes the audiobook and the launch party held for it last month in Pasadena.
The current, October 2022 issue of the Giornale di Filosofia celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Girard’s Violence and the Sacred with rich slate of articles, edited by COV&R board member Tania Checchi and Marco Stucchi, including familiar Girardians, such as Sandor Goodhart, Paul Dumouchel, and Jeremiah Alberg, as well as newer names such as Schwager Award winner Chelsea Jordan King.
The read aloud zoom group reading Mark Heim’s Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross concluded on Nov. 14 with a conversation with Mark, who generously attended the Zoom and participated in a discussion with group members. Many thanks to Mark for his gracious participation. The group plans to start up again in mid-January, reading aloud Gil Bailie’s book, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. All are welcome to attend. Please email Julie Shinnick if you are interested.
COV&R’s partners have been busy. UnRival premiered two short films, including an introduction to a new program, Artisans of Peace. Board member Erik Buys has moved his blog, formerly Mimetic Margins, to Scapegoat Shadows and continues to add content. Nidesh Lawtoo’s Homo Mimeticus: A New Theory of Imitation is just out, both in print and as an open-access ebook.
Videos from some of the parallel sessions at COV&R’s 2021 (virtual) annual meeting have been added to the plenary sessions available on this YouTube playlist.
This is our first issue in a long time without any reviews. It’s not for any lack of new titles worthy of review. If you’re interested in reading a book that hasn’t been reviewed here, why not write one? If you need a copy of the book, we can get you one. If you’re interested, please contact me or our book review editor, Matthew Packer.
2022 Theology & Peace Gathering
The Theology and Peace Gathering was held November 14-17 at the Scarritt Bennet Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Participants attended in-person and via Zoom. The conference provided an opportunity for renewal and restoration among the participants, anchored in the history of the conference while looking towards the future of Theology and Peace.
We continued to engage ideas about mimetic theory and non-violence. Anthony Bartlett led a discussion of his new book Signs of Change: The Bible’s Evolution of Divine Nonviolence (2022), in which he reconciles biblical stories of a violent humanity with the narrative seam that reveals a nonviolent God. Rebecca Adams and Paul Nuechterlein discussed the impact on Girardian theory of Raymund Schwager’s idea that human beings have a glimpse of God’s love before the fall of humanity. Julia Robinson Moore’s article, “The Frontier of Race in Mimetic Theory, American Lynchings and Racial Violence,” (from the 2021 volume of Contagion) noted the scarce attention Girardians have given to the intersection of race and violence, and explored mimetic theory within the context of the African American experience of lynching.
The conference engaged new perspectives on mimetic theory that offered hope the mimetic construct can forge a path towards healing and reconciliation. Maura Junius described the mission of the newly established non-profit unRival Network whose mission is to provide “Hope in the Heart of Conflict.” The unRival Network will accompany peacebuilders to “inspire collaboration and overcome destructive rivalries.”
Andrew McRae offered a fascinating reimagining of the mimetic triangle in his presentation “Loving from Love for Another: When Lynne Cox met Something Large and Wild” that may be accessed HERE.
Karen Kepner brought insights from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s beautiful book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed Editions, 2013) that encouraged us to embrace creation as a source of learning to nurture, cooperate, and flourish.
Ellen Corcella, adopting a trauma-informed care approach to her work as a chaplain in a critical care urban hospital, illustrated ways we can model and mediate empathy, compassion, and love in the midst of tragic human circumstances. Her website provides resources for pastors, chaplains, counselors, theologians, and others about building resilience, adopting a trauma-informed lens, and coping with grief, PTSD, suicide and loss.
Pastors shared their stories of putting “boots on the ground” to build communities grounded in a loving mimesis. Tim Seitz-Brown and Wesley Dunbar work with the Poor People Campaigns in their states. Rick Waldrop and Ken Archer shared their work for peace and non-violence within the Pentecostal community.
Our visioning session confirmed that reports of the death of the Theology and Peace Conference are highly exaggerated. We are deeply grateful for the conference founders, to Susan Wright for herculean efforts that kept us connected during COVID and got us to Nashville, and to our sponsor The Raven Foundation for its generous encouragement and support.
COV&R Sessions at the American Academy of Religion
Saint Louis University
The Colloquium on Violence & Religion presented two sessions at the 2022 meeting of the American Academy of Religion, which met concurrently with the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver, Colorado, November 18-22. On the evening before, snowfall came to the area, and those who arrived Friday morning were met with sub-freezing temperatures and a nice blanket of snow.
I got in around noon on the 18th and took the airport train to Union Station, just under a mile from the conference area. Although we had planned to have six papers across two sessions, one late cancellation left us scrambling to reorganize the sessions. This brief infusion of chaos was compounded by a disparity in printed and online programs concerning the location of our Saturday morning session. We had things sorted out and began a few minutes late on Saturday with a panel convened by Dr. Chelsea King titled, “Theologies of Mercy and Black Liberation: American Christianity through the Lens of Mimetic Theory.” It contained two papers, the first by Dr. Julia Robinson Moore, who laid out what a conversation might look like between Girard and James Cone, the father of black liberation theology. Moore told a horrific tale of a 1903 lynching of a black man inspired by a Presbyterian minister and drew from it conclusions about the impact of white supremacy on Christianity. The second paper, by Dr. Jaisy Joseph, presented a Eucharistic examination of conscience and offered a framework for a theology of the church—an ecclesiology—through the lens of mimetic theory. She talked about certain “rituals of humiliation” festering within Catholic worship spaces. The presenters’ common theme generated a rich discussion among the roughly twenty participants who attended the session. After the session concluded, several attendees ventured out for a lunch buffet at a nearby Indian restaurant as conversations continued.
The next morning occasioned our second panel on “Victimhood, Mimetic Escalation, and the Current Crisis,” with Grant Kaplan presiding. Fr. Brian Carpenter, new to COV&R, presented on the Eucharist as a particularly Christian (non-violent) sacrifice, a self-sacrifice as it were. Carpenter posited that this sacrifice, being non-violent and thus different from earlier patterns of sacrifice, gave reason for a more optimistic take than the one Girard proffered in his late work, Battling to the End. Joel Hodge then presented the paradoxical feature of a modernity in which various claimants competed for victimhood status. Finally, Brett McLaughlin, a Jesuit doctoral candidate at Boston College, discoursed on the contemporary barrage of victimhood and talked about the steps required to move toward something like the love of neighbor advocated in the gospels. Again, about twenty people then engaged in a thoughtful and respectful discussion.
At the conclusion of the session we convened our business meeting, where several ideas were proposed for next year’s meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Among these were a book panel on Brian Robinette’s forthcoming monograph, The Difference Nothing Makes (University of Notre Dame Press, February 2023), the challenge of teaching mimetic theory, threats to democracy, positive and negative forms of solidarity, and the relationship of mimetic theory to justice. The call for papers should appear at the end of January on the AAR website and non-AAR members are allowed to propose papers or panels this time around, so please consider.
Although other commitments prevented me from attending lunch after the business meeting, I am told that several others did and enjoyed themselves. We missed the presence of the Michigan State Press booth at the book hall, where attendees in previous years have had the chance to catch up with Bill Johnsen. who edits two book series with the press. Still, many of us found our way to the Boston College reception on Sunday night.
By the time I left on Monday evening, most of the snow had melted, and on that day I had the best view of the nearby Rocky Mountains. I shall anticipate returning next year for the great Mexican food on offer in historic San Antonio, always a pleasant locale in late November. As always, please be in touch via email or Twitter should you have ideas for themes or papers for future sessions at the American Academy of Religion.