January 21-23, 2010
University of Chicago Divinity School
1025 East 58th Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60637
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Thursday, January 21
4:00 pm Plenary Address by David Tracy (The University of Chicago)
"Dialogue in Fragments"
5:30 pm Reception
Friday, January 22
9:00-11:00 am Panel 1: Dialogue and Disputation
Chair/Respondent: Susan Schreiner (University of Chicago)
Daniel A. Arnold (The University of Chicago)
"Staging Dialogue among Indian Philosophers: Thoughts on a Philosophical Play by Jayanta Bhaṭṭa"
Christine Mollier (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
"Buddhist and Taoist Dialogue in Medieval China: Silence is Golden"
Larry J. Simon (Western Michigan University)
“Dialogue and Disputation in the Medieval Western Mediterranean”
Dialogue between members of different religious groups can be informal, ad hoc, and spontaneous, or it can be formal, highly structured, and performative. Moreover, the dialogues that survive in written form may bear no relation to any actual conversation that ever took place. At the same time, it is the written accounts of dialogue, which tend to be highly structured even though the events they purport to recount may not have been, that are most readily available to the scholar. Given these factors, what can we say about the roles and functions of dialogue? How do these vary from place to place and situation to situation? What is the relationship of dialogue, which we prefer to think of as free-flowing and spontaneous, to more formal genres of disputation, both oral and written?
11:30 am-1:30 pm Panel 2: Reading other People’s Scriptures
Chair/Respondent: Margaret M. Mitchell (University of Chicago)
Lucy K. Pick (The University of Chicago)
"Whose Bible is it Anyway?: Contesting the Old Testament in the Middle Ages"
James T. Robinson (The University of Chicago)
"Reading Other People Reading Other People’s Scripture: Religious Polemic as Cause of Cultural Change"
Thomas E. Burman (The University of Tennessee)
"What was Riccoldo da Monte di Croce, O. P (fl. 1267-1316) Doing When He Read His Arabic Qur’an?”
A common tradition of shared texts, practices, stories, or scriptures can be one of the foundations and inspirations of inter-religious dialogue. The motive can be curiosity and education, a desire to know the source of a text or idea that is shared between two religious communities. Reading other people’s scriptures can also inspire fear and anxiety, and a desire to protect one’s own tradition from contamination or from a kind of blurring that threatens to make indistinct its boundaries. These two movements – curious inquiry and anxious boundary-maintenance – can occur simultaneously. Moreover, the act of reading someone else’s scripture can occur either across traditions, through dialogue, or in private, as it were, within the confines of one’s own community. What are the differences between, and implications of, these two kinds of ways of relating to shared scriptural and textual traditions?
1.30 pm- 3.00 pm Lunch
3:00-5:00 pm Panel 3: What is Dialogue?
Chair/Respondent: Paul Mendes-Flohr (University of Chicago)
Rachel Barney (University of Toronto)
"Dialogue versus Dialectic: Notes on a Platonic Form"
W. Clark Gilpin (University of Chicago)
"Companions: Imagining Religious Dialogue in Early Modern England"
Richard A. Rosengarten (University of Chicago)
"Toleration, Dialogue, and Civility in Locke, Lessing, and Mendelssohn"
The many and diverse forms of dialogue, East and West, modern and pre-modern, will be the primary concern throughout the conference. In many ways the goals are inductive – to collect and classify new evidence for a broad and open investigation of a pervasive characteristic of communities and cultures. Yet this focus on examples makes the larger synthetic theoretical questions especially important. What is dialogue and where does it come from? A proper genealogy requires a broad sweep, a long history, from Platonic dialogue to Aristotelian dialectic to medieval polemic and disputation to the veritable religion of dialogue during the Enlightenment. How do the various genres and practices fit together, how do they contribute to a single history if at all?
Saturday, January 23
9:00-11:00 am Panel 4: Travel and Ethnography
Chair/Respondent: Catherine A. Brekus (University of Chicago)
Joan-Pau Rubiés (London School of Economics)
"Intersections between Theology and Ethnography in the European Encounter with Other Cultures, 1500-1750"
Roxanne L. Euben (Wellesley College)
"Theorizing Past and Future, Familiar and Foreign: Tocqueville’s and Tahtawi’s Travels in Search of Knowledge"
Orit Bashkin (University of Chicago)
"Arabizing Benjamin - A Modern Arabic Translation of the Travels of Benjamin of Tudela"
Travelling to a different world means encountering “foreign” traditions and other “ways of life.” The discovery of new worlds by Western travelers led to the discoveries of new languages and traditions, as well as to the construction of the “other,” through the language of “religion” and the human sciences as well as through war and occupation. However, are Western travelers the only ones to have discovered the “other”? Is “otherness” the only way to describe and think about what is discovered in the traveling experience? Were there forms of dialogue enacted between “self” and “other” in these processes of displacement and discovery?
11:30 am-1:30 pm Panel 5: Dialogue in Everyday Experience
Chair/Respondent: Willemien Otten (University of Chicago)
Lisa B. Voigt (Ohio State University)
"Festive Dialogues in Potosí"
Emma Aubin-Boltanski (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
"The Practical Experience of Inter-religious Dialogue in Lebanon (2004-2008)"
William Schweiker (University of Chicago)
"Shared Values -- Different Religions: Dialogue and Global Ethics"
One might argue that dialogue takes place continually and everywhere, outside formal settings and official institutions, in subtle ways and through lived experience. One might argue, in fact, that ideas move easily between different religious communities as sources are borrowed silently and reinterpreted, as practices and customs are imitated and appropriated; even shared saints are venerated. This easy movement across flexible boundaries “on the ground” reveals a dynamic and often surprising interchange between cultures and communities, even those officially in conflict. It suggests a certain organic quality to dialogue, a natural affinity for cultural interchange, a complex “dialogic” network embedded in everyday life and reflected in popular practice and vernacular literature.
1:30-3:00 pm Lunch
3:00-5:00 pm Panel 6: Dialogue and the State
Chair/Respondent: Winnifred Fallers Sullivan (University at Buffalo Law School)
Matthew Kapstein (University of Chicago)
"Dialogue and Empire in Asian Early-Modernities"
Malika Zeghal (University of Chicago)
"Mobilizing Scholarly Knowledge and Networks for 'Religious Dialogue': The Scriptural State and the Production of the Amman Message"
Inter-religious dialogue has become significant today. It has become a feature of religious life in many places whereas, and perhaps because, religious conflicts also abound. Religious dialogue is often perceived as a “solution” to inter-religious strife and conflicts. In pre-modern and modern states, how and why do state authorities define, use, craft, and control dialogue between different religious traditions? Can states exclude and include interlocutors? What types of institutions (legal, religious, social, governmental) sustain dialogue? And for what purposes?