18-20 September 2014
University of Leuven (KU Leuven)
Dear ISRLC Community,
Our 17th Biennial ISRLC Conference took place 18-20 September 2014 at University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium, under the title “Re-Imagining Human”. Under the excellent organisation of Yves De Maeseneer and his Leuven team (Bart Philipsen, Hedwig Schwall, Brian Doyle, Julia Meszaros, Vaiva Adomaityte, and Anthropos Research Group), the conference theme produced yet again a highly energising and enriching two days of presentation, discussion, and international scholarly engagement. With Leuven in close proximity to some of the most harrowing theatres of the Great War, whose commencement began, we all know, exactly a full century earlier, the question posed by the conference was in light of the devastations this event set off: what now stands, a hundred years later, of that which we have called “human”, and how might this “human” be re-imagined?
Responses were channelled through 18 different panels spanning and combining manifold disciplines: Anthropos: Theological Anthropology/Theology of Love; Biblical Studies; Continental Philosophy and Religion; Film; Gender; Higher Education; Judaism; Liberation Theology; Literature; Metamorphoses of Christianity; Music; Postcolonial Literature; Religion and Modernity; Religious and Inter-Religious Studies; Representations of the Human in Folkloristic Receptions of the Bible; Theological Humanism; and Visual Arts.
Over 140 participants across the respective sessions made this a truly global event, with represented institutions based in 26 countries across 5 continents: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States.
Three plenary speakers helped to place the theme within the traditional interdisciplinary space on which this conference has built its reputation: Nicolas De Warren (Higher Institute for Philosophy, KU Leuven) spoke on “Malraux’s Search: The Cortege of Fraternity from Verdun to Auschwitz”; Sigrid Weigel (Center for Literary and Cultural Research, TU Berlin) presented “COMpassio. Pathos Formula of Mourning and the Shaping of a Cultural Habitus”; while David Jasper (Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow), one of the conference’s original organisers, stretching back to the early 1980s, delivered the Literature and Theology Annual Lecture, entitled “Retrieving a Theological Sense of Being Human”.
In all, the papers, the conversations, the social gatherings, the cultural riches of our host city and host University, and the tremendous organisation of the Leuven team, provided registered participants with much to ponder and to explore, with much by which to be challenged and to be inspired. It not only furthered continuity with ISRLC conferences of the past, but also, in continuing the high quality of scholarship and published output, now sets up the conference to continue on this path in two years’ time, when it will return to UK shores, under the organisation of the University of Glasgow.
The KU Leuven Anthropos Research Group published some blog posts on the conference’s key note lectures: see http://theologicalanthropology.com/blog/?category=Re-Imagining+Human. As in previous years, the special issue, consisting of highlight papers from a cross-section of the panels, will be published in next year’s volume of the journal Literature and Theology. Please keep an eye out for this issue, as well as for Prof. Jasper’s L&T Lecture, published separately within the same journal.
Please also set aside your autumn 2016 now, and be sure to join this ever-expanding community of like-minded, interdisciplinary academics, who continue to re-define what it means to engage in the scholarship of religion, literature and culture.
General Secretary, ISRLC
University of Stirling
(PS: Though several months in the past now, if anyone has photos from the conference they would not mind making public, please pass on to Alana Vincent at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will compile a photo gallery. Thanks.)