COV&R-Bulletin No. 17 (Oct. 1999)
As membership in COV&R increases and the influence of the mimetic theory Advanced by René Girard extends, it is important to recall our small beginning at Stanford University in 1991 when 15 scholars gathered to form the Colloquium we now know as COV&R. There are presently over 225 members throughout the world. The seventh annual issue of the journal Contagion has recently been published and the seventeenth issue of the Bulletin has been distributed. No small measure of thanks goes to scholars such as Cesareo Bandera - our parting president - who recognised in René Girard many years ago the potential for a dramatic reconsideration of the anthropology of human behaviour and its relationship to religion, literature, psychology, and culture.
We are grateful for Cesareo's presence among us and his scholarly contributions to the mimetic theory, not only in early monographs such as Mimesis Conflictiva published before the establishment of COV&R, but in major works such as The Sacred Game: The Role of the Sacred in the Genesis of Modern Literary Fiction. We trust that Cesareo's work with COV&R will continue. We need his scholarly contributions and his always gentle advice.
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Report from the Annual meeting of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
(June 3-5, 1999)
On June 3, 1999 we convened the eighth annual meeting of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The report that follows is based on my observations and perspective as the principal conference organizer. However I also benefitted from the sustained support of COV&R member Fred Smith, a staff member of the Carter Presidential Center's Interfaith Health Program, and of my graduate student assistant and conference manager, Maggie Kulyk (a Girardian thinker in her own right). Let me also acknowledge here the support and post-conference appreciations of so many COV&R members, including that of the Girards and of the Advisory Board. Thanks to all COV&R and Emory University members who helped make this conference the success that it was!
What They Said
"An incredibly rich and interesting meeting with not one boring minute from the beginning until the end. Life seems just a little flat now that we are back at home and can't count on hearing something new and stimulating at every meal."
"I am sure that people will be thinking of Emory as a model as they organize future meetings." "This was an extremely well-organized meeting, evident in everything from the facilities to the energy and enthusiasm of the student assistants and participants."
"I know from afar some of the scholastic resources at Emory, but I had never been there before, and am now looking forward to returning." Those are a few comments from conference participants. Many of them especially praised us for the"fabled southern hospitality" of our Student Host Committee, of the Conference Office and catering staffs, and for the expertise of my graduate assistant and conference manager, Maggie Kulyk. In addition you will find a selection of media articles enclosed.
Many of the presentations have papers posted on our website, accessible through the Religion Department homepage under "Colloquium on Violence and Religion." Please browse at your leisure. In addition the plenary sessions of the Symposium were videorecorded.
Thursday morning, June 3
My introductory remarks were self-critical: How far are we theorists of violence ensnared by the monolithic appearance of violence, so that we ourselves lack the imagination, vision or fortitude for the kind of violence reduction that engages so many practitioners? In that regard the conference effectively challenged us to become much more publicly accountable concerning the consequences for practice of the theories of violence that we explore. In particular I pointed out both the benefits and the moral accountability of our work to such violence reduction practitioners (local but regrettably absent) as President Jimmy Carter, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu visiting at Emory this year.
Hominization & Violence
The opening volley of presentations began with Eric Gans of the UCLA French department. As a language scholar Gans argued that a key factor in "hominization"--the prehistoric process by which our species emerged from earlier primate species--was the need to defer the onset of violence by means of language. Early hominids were forced to improve on gestural and guttural communication in order to protect their young for example (with their longer maturation cycles) from in-group outbreaks of violence. The cascading effect of such violence-deferral imperatives produced a language- proficient species with increased brain size and culture-building traits and has led to present- day humans.
Gans was followed by Frans DeWaal of the Yerkes Primate Center. Prof. DeWaal went beyond his renown presentations on conflict resolution among monkeys and apes by insisting that "reconciliation" is not merely a religious (or Christian) theme. Rather, as he demonstrated with slides and research data, reconciliation already occurs in primate behavior and is thus a universal hominid phenomenon linking us to our cousin species. As Professor Girard remarked from the audience, the first two presentations together displayed some of the convergences as well as differences between the humanities and social sciences in terms of data selection, methods of study, styles of presentation, and modes of persuasion. Indeed the two scholars themselves were unintentionally dramatizing the separation of their disciplines until the moment when Gans, closing the distance from the other side of the stage, initiated a light-hearted embrace of DeWaal in congruence with his conciliatory theme. Much audience laughter ensued.
Thursday afternoon, June 3
Violence Reduction in New Guinea
The first cycle of sessions concluded with Bruce Knauft from our own Emory Anthropology department. Knauft presented the results of his recent research among the rainforest people in Papua New Guinea that he has studied for several years. He was especially eloquent about his ambivalent response as a researcher to the Christianization of the people and their loss of traditional culture on the one hand. On the other hand he welcomed of course the resulting decline of violence due to the churches' influence against witchhunting in the community. Knauft's frank self-disclosure and openness as a researcher paralleled my own efforts earlier that morning to be direct, forthcoming, and challenging to colleagues and students.
A number of concurrent sessions and practicums followed, ranging from a comparison of collegiate violence to "cargo cults" (Vehse); a Girardian treatment of the curse of Ham in Genesis 9 (Haynes); a literary analysis of legislation and violence against women in the fiction of Miriam Grace Monfredo (Johnsen); an analysis of international war and reconciliation (Brecke and Long); and a Girardian approach to business ethics and mimetic rivalries in the workplace (Grote). Each of these sessions, like the other concurrent sessions throughout the three days, featured a participant evaluation form asking the audience to evaluate the session with respect to its import for "violence reduction in theory and practice."
Thursday evening, June 3
Truth & Reconciliation
The first day of the conference concluded with an evening presentation by Charles Villa-Vicencio, a South-African theologian and researcher for his nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Out the context of the TRC and its recently concluded hearings, Villa-Vicencio challenged conferees to consider not only the perpetrators of violence during the apartheid era, but also the hidden "perpetrator within" the rest of us who acquiesces in, tolerates, or permits such violence even in the name of liberation from, or retribution against, oppressors and informers. Particularly poignant was the audience's privilege to hear Prof. Villa-Vicencio and a fellow South African share the pathos of their respective decisions to leave or remain in their homeland during its most oppressive and genocidal years.
Friday morning, June 4
War as Sacrifice
The second day began with a challenging and much debated treatment of the Nazis and the WWII holocaust based on a theory of warfare as "sacrificial" rite. Richard Koenigsberg, director of the Library of Social Science, reflected on a series of parallel developments that rendered Nazi soldiers increasingly similar to their Jewish victims. Perhaps most astonishing among Koenigsberg's data was the little-known fact (for example) that the number of German soldiers killed in the war approximated the number of Jews killed: six million. Citing other such convergences he argued that the ostensible goals of that war and others are subordinate to their sacrificial imperatives: to generate unity by requiring all groups in the state to place their lives at the disposal of the state. Although the requirements of such sacrifice may vary greatly for each group, a perverse unity is finally achieved as they all become identified with one another by virtue of the fact that they all perform their designated sacrifice. It is fair to say that the audience was outraged by this theory's structural atrophy distinctions and erasure of moral differences between victims and perpetrators. However there was also an appreciation of Koenigsberg's mimetic portrayal of the simulacra that violence creates between victims and perpetrators.
Concurrent sessions that morning included a nonsacrificial and "perichoretic" theology of the cross (Flores); a literary analysis of scapegoating motifs in Faulkner's "United States of Lyncherdom" (Kratter); a Girardian analysis of restorative justice (Osborne); a nonscapegoating model of prison ministry (Kirkegaard and Northey); and an analysis of ritual structures involving ostracism and revenge in school violence (Perlmutter; especially timely in view of the still recent shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado). Two concurrent workshops in the afternoon dealt with (1) an alternative (non-Girardian) psychosocial model of human cultural development called "Spiral Dynamics," presented by Don Beck of the National Values Center, and (2) a workshop on the "psychology of mimetic theory" based directly on Girardian thought and conducted by COV&R psychologists Tom Pace and Rusty Palmer with psychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian (an interlocutor in Girard's most definitive statement of his theory, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World).
Friday evening, June 4
Plenary Address: René Girard
That evening René Girard provided his traditional cautionary view of mimetic theory and its implications for issues of violence and violence reduction. Girard chose as his text the biblical saying of Jesus, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword," (Matthew 10.34). Joining his own ironic wit to that of Matthew's Jesus, he reminded the audience that violence theories do not necessarily reduce violence. As when agents of nonviolence (like Jesus) expose its deep structures, violence may take even more extreme forms in order to produce the cathartic effects that it typically and perniciously confers in religion and culture. Such exposs of violence may produce "sacrificial crises" that aggravate rather than ameliorate violence. In this connection Girard implicitly challenged conferees to heed Jesus' admonition stated earlier in the same gospel passage: "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10.16). For contemporary theorists and practitioners this means not to be naive or credulous about the relationship between violence theory and violence reduction, but neither to be cynical or quietist, Girard also averred.
Saturday morning, June 5
Regina Schwartz opened the last day of the conference with an address that attempted, among other goals, to correct her misrepresentation as a "Bible-bashing atheist." Schwartz's best-known work is The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism. In the July 3, 1997 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education she was sensationalized as an English professor who "explores the 'dark side' of monotheism" by locating "the seeds of future violence
in the Bible" (A17). A highly critical review of Schwartz's book is anticipated from Emory's own Luke Timothy Johnson, New Testament professor in the Candler School of Theology, in an upcoming issue of Commonweal, a journal of public affairs, religion and the humanities.
Schwartz's presence at the conference was all the more intriguing because her work contrasts implicitly with that of Girard. For Girard, as a biblical interpreter, avoids attributing violence either directly to the God of the Bible or indirectly to biblical monotheism. He assigns it instead to the "primitive sacred" that counterfeits the true God (cf. also "the struggle between the two voices of God in Torah" developed by Michael Lerner in Jewish Renewal.) In this regard Schwartz has been described as hermeneutically ambivalent: "Schwartz is swaying on a fence. Even while she almost (but not quite) says that biblical monotheism is the cause of violence, she almost (but not quite) realizes that biblical monotheism is the origin of her own ability to denounce violence--the Bible the unique text that reveals the structure of violence in sibling rivalry and victimization rather than covering it over" (James Alison review in First Things 78, December 1997; 48-52) At our conference Schwartz came farther off that fence by calling for "utopian" constructions of the Bible for our time.
Saturday morning and afternoon, June 5
The remaining concurrent sessions of the conference included a panel exploring convergences between the work of literary theorist Kenneth Burke and that of Girard on scapegoating (Goodhart and Mishler); the theology of the Fall as a biological problem (Hamerton-Kelly); a "popular communication" model of Girard's work (Hewett); and an application of Girard's theory of sacrifice to the operation of the death penalty in the United States (Atty. Mahoney). Saturday evening concluded the conference with a "liturgical consummation" featuring an innovative and interreligious rite of reconciliation (Adams), followed by a dessert reception.
Earlier that afternoon an organizational consummation also occurred: at the COV&R business meeting new officers and board members were elected and--most significant as regards the conference theme--a consensus emerged. By consensus it was agreed that a professional society such as COV&R should be more visible and serviceable in the public domain, on behalf of the public's need for more intelligent and discerning approaches to the treatment of violence, and as an expression of members' desire to more integrally link theory and practice.
Finally, the Religion Department is considering an initiative to maintain a violence and religion focus in the department, perhaps bearing some institutional affiliation with COV&R if mutually agreeable. You may be hear more from us on such topics in the semesters ahead, especially in view of the increasing interest in the University on issues of mediation and reconciliation. The Department may also explore the possibilities of foundation funding for post-conference research (for example, a national survey of faith-based and interfaith resources for violence reduction) and related intiatives.
Assoc. Professor of Religion, Emory University
See also the Colloqiuim website:
From June 3-5, 1999 I attended the annual meeting of COV&R in Atlanta. As compared with my only other COV&R meeting, in Chicago in 1995, the talks were wider-ranging and more thought-provoking, but they included fewer academic applications of Girardian theory.
The conference was very smoothly and professionally run by Theophus (Thee) Smith of Emory's Religion Department with the able assistance of Maggie Kulyk, a graduate student in Religion, and several other devoted volunteers. Southern hospitality is a reality; when Atlantans tell you to have a nice day, they really seem to mean it.
On the personal level, it was a very positive experience; I felt fully welcomed into the Girardian fold. I look forward to working in COV&R with a couple of fellow old-time students of Girard: Sandy Goodhart, the new Executive Secretary, and Andrew McKenna, a member of the Editorial Board of 'Anthropoetics' as well as the Editor of COV&R's print journal 'Contagion'. Possible projects include cooperation between 'Contagion' and 'Anthropoetics', new website features, and more ambitious publishing possibilities.
My reportorial skills being limited, I will recount a single revelatory incident. My opening talk on the origin of language was followed by a presentation by Frans DeWaal, the director of Emory's renowned Yerkes Primate Research Center. During the common question period, I observed several times that he attempted to stand as far away from me as possible. I took this expression of "territoriality" not as a personal affront but as a sign of the distance that a practicing scientist feels the need to establish between himself and an "armchair" student of culture like me.
This incident led me to reflect once more on the difference between the scientific and the "humanistic" or, as I prefer to call it, the 'generative' approach to cultural matters. What attracted me to René Girard from the first, as a graduate student in 1960, is that his work is rigorously minimalistic, always directed toward the most parsimonious explanations of cultural phenomena. I was reminded of this the other day when reading a recent book, best left unnamed, on (purportedly) the origin of religion. This work makes a long detour through Freudian theory, discussing the evolution of "the child" through oral and anal stages to his fears of castration with the onset of the Oedipus complex. None of this discourse of desire, needless to say, is supported by one iota of proof beyond Freud's own authority. What is truly egregious in Freudian (and Lacanian) discourse is its utter reliance on narrative plausibility. "The child" is made the protagonist of a series of adventures about which we can know nothing directly because he is not yet capable of telling us about them. Instead of presenting experimental data, psychoanalysis offers just-so stories that we must accept on the faith of an undemonstrable "clinical experience." In Girard's work, on the contrary, there is no appeal to any experience that is not immediately shared with the reader. Although a book like 'Violence and the Sacred' contains no tables of data, it offers a clear thesis and a simple model that, one would think, could be easily tested in the laboratory.
One of the more popular sessions at Atlanta was one conducted by a trio of psychologists using mimetic theory in place of the usual Freudian dogma. As psychotherapist Rusty Palmer put it to me over lunch, patients don't pick up readily on suggestions about their repressed conflicts with their father, but they react immediately to an observation like "that fellow at work really has a piece of you." Mimetic theory suggests that one mediator is like another, that the one we really care about and prefer to "repress" is not the first but the latest. In this sense alone, the mimetic theory of desire is a "structuralism": what matters most is not tracing desire to its source in some childhood experience but understanding the mechanism itself. Perhaps that fellow at work's resemblance to my father makes it easier for him to "have a piece of me," but the time it would take to explore the past in an effort to find out would be better spent on reflecting on the mimetic situation in which I presently find myself.
Adapted to the study of culture, this conclusion would imply, not that we should be concerned exclusively with the present, but that we should focus on the specific manifestations of mimetic desire that characterize the times and places that interest us. What is important about a given culture may be described according to Rusty's criterion; our task is to discover what had "a piece of" the members of this culture, including those members - here I do not disagree with proponents of such things as "women's history" - whose unpublicized resentments would surface only in future generations.
As we examine the literary works and other discourses of an era, mimetic theory makes us particularly sensitive to the presence of mediations that authors are at pains to deny. To give an obvious example that "literary history" is still far from having assimilated: if the nineteenth-century proponents of 'l'art pour l'art' castigated the "bourgeois" for his vulgar desires, instead of taking them at their word as true aristocrats of the soul shocked by vulgarity, we will get much farther by understanding the hated bourgeois as "having a piece of" the artists of the period, none of whom could credibly claim to have remained uninfluenced by the values of the expanding marketplace.
"The lady doth protest too much" is not a new idea, but the generative theory of mimetic desire allows us to go beyond the mere imputation of denial. The resented mediations that generate such denials reflect the circulation of desire in the society. The need to differentiate ourselves from that which threatens us by its absorbing sameness reveals a culture's historical specificity - how does 'poëte'-vs-'bourgeois' compare with, for example, the poet/lover-vs-jealous 'lozengier' in medieval love-lyric? - but at the same time its "universality," by which we mean not that all literary works convey the same message, but that they progressively display new levels of anthropological revelation as their characters become less like gods and "more like us." Whether or not, as I have suggested, this double progression of literary works toward specificity and generality reaches its historic high point in the postromantic era around the turn of the twentieth century is itself a question for Generative Anthropology, although not one I can deal with here.
The skeptic may reply that although Freudian discourse is an extreme mystification, Girardian discourse is only a sparer one. Why, in order to study cultural phenomena "objectively," do we need a "theory" at all beyond the basic principles of scientific method? Hypotheses, in this view, should be local, formulated only after the study of a particular set of data. Whether we call it "mimetic theory," "fundamental anthropology," or "Generative Anthropology," Girardian thinking asks us to accept an a priori understanding of human behavior rather than trust to empirical observation and its extensions in the cautious generalizations of the social sciences. As for explaining the seemingly unshakable popularity of Freud: if Freudianism and Girardianism are systems of faith, "religions" of a kind, then it is easy to see why those of a religious disposition would prefer the richer ritual and mythic atmosphere of the first over the relative austerity of the second. There are more Freudians than Girardians for the same reason that there are more Catholics than Unitarians: those whose temperament makes them suited to a minimal religion or a minimal hypothesis are even more suited to no religion and no hypothesis at all.
My answer is that, whatever the theory of temperaments predicts, at the end of the day the most productive theory will prevail. Scholarly projects are experiments whose payoff cannot be measured by their concordance with the personality types most prevalent in the academy. In one of my Chronicles, I called GA the "little bang" theory. Now I shall try to show not only that our "little" hypothesis of origin derives from the Girardian model of human desire, but that it offers the minimal justification for the adoption of 'any' a priori hypothesis concerning human desire.
Readers of the recent series of 'Chronicles' on the origin of language will recall that as scientists come closer to understanding the brain functions that make human language possible, they are increasingly respectful of the fundamental difference between language and the ape-calls that earlier generations saw as the unproblematic predecessors of language. This difference appears mysterious, not because it is so large, but because it is so small. What indeed distinguishes a word, a linguistic sign, from a signal, 'prior to' the existence of a system of signs?
My claim is that the "mystery" is not a feature of the reality of the origin of language but of the method used to describe it. If "scientific method" cannot accommodate the singularity of an originary moment, then rather than denying the necessity of such a moment, we must modify scientific method. The "little bang" of the originary hypothesis accomplishes this task in a minimal fashion.
The little bang is a way to conceive the origin of language as the passage from one kind of communication system to another. But communication through signs is a form of mimesis. To the skeptic who claims that we need only formulate our hypotheses on the basis of the data, without an a priori theory, we answer that in order to model the origin of language, we need to find the basis for this originary singularity within the repertory of human behavior, and that the mimetic theory of desire is the minimal structure of paradoxical behavior or "pragmatic paradox" that provides such a basis. To learn from imitating another what to appropriate from the world is "at the same time" to enter into conflict with him over the object of this appropriation. This conflict cannot in principle be contained through animal hierarchies because its intensity cannot be matched by the differential energy available to such hierarchies. (This would require, for example, that as mimetic tensions in the group increase, the differences in strength between alpha, beta, and other animals must increase at the same rate.) Thus when conflict becomes inevitable, it can be forestalled only by a new form of relation to the object that we call the sign. The singularity of the "little bang" and the mimetic model of desire have this in common: they refer to a structure that is necessarily inaccessible to empirical observation. It is this minimal structure, rather than the complex syntax of mature language, that provides the basis for Chomsky's famous "refutation" of Skinner's attempt at a behaviorist analysis of language. No "language module" is required for this purpose; what suffices is the communal accord concerning the central sacred object and the sign that is taken to represent it.
Thus the ultimate contribution of the Girardian thinking that inspires the Colloquium on Violence and Religion is the opportunity to understand the origin of the sign in terms exclusively of the paradox of mimesis, that is, without the intervention of "supernatural" forces. But the originary hypothesis explains at the same time why such forces are necessarily evoked. To understand the origin of the sign, we must understand the sacred quality of its referent. The sign is the name-of-God; the sacred, what is designated by the sign. Paradox is the minimal explanation, but there is no higher criterion by which to decide if paradox by itself is explanation enough, if our connection to the community through language can be understood otherwise than in terms of a subsisting mediating being. Whichever may be the case, an invisible barrier will always separate the purely empirical study of human behavior, including that of the brain, from the human essence revealed in the birth of language. If there is to exist a true science of the human or 'science humaine', it will be through the acceptance rather than the denial of the revelation that COV&R has chosen as its mission to preserve.
This article was previously published as 'Chronicles of Love and Resentment' No. 170, June 12, 1999.
These Chronicles are Eric Gans's WWW column.
ATLANTA, GA., June 2, 1999
Present: Thee Smith, Eric Gans, Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, Sandy Goodhart, Robert Daly, Julie Shinnick, Cesareo Bandera, Dietmar Regensburger, Wolfgang Palaver, Johan Elsen, Diana Culbertson
Presiding: Cesareo Bandera
The meeting was called to order by President Bandera at 9:15
1. The minutes of the meeting in 1998 meeting in St. Denis were reviewed and discussed. (Moved by Robert Daly, seconded by Cheryl Kirk-Duggan) Approved.
2. Treasurer's Report
Julie Shinnick, the American treasurer, reported that the present balance is $6430.25 Discussion followed on the topic of prospective debts and possible future income. Dietmar Regensburger reported that the European financial situation with a balance of $8162.93 is less than encouraging because the distribution of the next issue of the Bulletin will exhaust the (checking)account.
In view of the pro-tem status of Diana Culbertson as Executive Secretary until Sandor Goodhart was established at Purdue University, Sandor Goodhart was elected Executive Secretary. Goodhart then nominated Diana Culbertson for president. Discussion followed. Culbertson was elected.
In subsequent voting, the term of Marie-Louise Martinez was renewed for three years and the following were nominated and elected to the Advisory Board: Cesario Bandera, Gil Bailie, Eric Gans, and Josef Niewiadomski.
In view of their immense service to the Colloquium and in recognition of their scholarly contributions to the mission of the Colloquium, James Williams and Raymund Schwager were both elected lifetime members of the Advisory Board. The Advisory Board now includes the following members:
R. Girard honorary chairman for life
Gil Bailie first term expires 2002
Cesario Bandera first term expires 2002
R. Daly first term expires 2001
G. Fornari first term expires 2000
H. Jensen first term expires 2000
C. Kirk-Duggan second term expires 2001
M.-L. Martinez second term expires 2002
W. Palaver first term expires 2000
(completing Elsen's term)
R. Schwager (lifetime)
T. Seibers first term expires 2000
J. Williams first term expires 2000
(completing Shinnick's term)
D. Culbertson term of president expires in 2001
S Goodhart term of executive secretary
expires in 2002
Thee Smith will be invited to function as a consultant to the Advisory Board on planning the next conferences. The nominating committee for the COV&R 2000 meeting will be Diana Culbertson, Sandor Goodhart, and Wolfgang Palaver.
4. Thee Smith discussed details of the forthcoming meeting in Atlanta. Extensive discussion included the announcement that all papers would be posted on the Conference Web site (http://www.emory.edu/College/Religion/VR). Further discussion included the possibility of archiving all conference papers at the COV&R Web site.
5. Diana Culbertson announced the topic of the COV&R conference to be held in conjunction with the AAR/SBL meeting in Boston, November 20. Space has been requested for the 9a.m.-12 time period just before the official opening of the national meeting which extends from November 20-23. The topic is "Ruach Elohiym/Holy Spirit: The Breath of Non-Violence." Speakers will be Sandor Goodhart and Tony Bartlett. We are working on inviting a respondent.
6. Robert Daly announced plans for the COV&R meeting at Boston College in 2000 (May 31-June3). An outline of the meeting was provided which received general approval. Discussion focused on the integration of the theme of the Conference (comparative theology) with mimetic theory and the Lonergan/Girard nexus. The tentative title of the conference is "Violence and Institution in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism."
7. Sandy Goodhart invited the Board to consider the advantages of a conference at Purdue University that would convene in connection with a funded Buddhist meeting. Johan Elsen proposed a meeting in Antwerp in the year 2001. Wolfgang Palaver proposed a meeting in Innsbruck in 2003. Plans were not definitive for any of these conferences.
8. Johan Elsen reported on the status of the Bulletin. Discussion followed on its content and format. In future issues, a complete Bibliography might no longer be provided in the Bulletin, but readers will be referred to the Web site. Emphasis will be on significant articles and books that address issues of interest to the members of COV&R.
9. Andrew McKenna (in absentia) submitted a report on Contagion. Volume 7 will be published shortly. The journal's checking account of $1460.92 plus $1,500.00 from Loyola University will be used to defray printing expenses for the next issue. Since Andrew McKenna will not be department chair, and has a new dean, support from Loyola University for the volume 8 is still problematic.
Administer the COV&R Listserv and U.S. Web site. The List will be transferred from East Carolina to UCLA. Andrew McKenna and Eric Gans will collaborate on linking Contagion to Anthropoetics, the electronic journal presently administered by Eric Gans. This link will strengthen COV&R's presence and encourage more discussion and exchange of ideas than has been the case with the present ECU Listserv.
10. Finally, Wolfgang Palaver clarified the purpose of the special working groups already approved at the Graz Conference in 1997. Each Conference planner is urged to set aside half of one day for papers and discussion among participants who have particular academic specialities. These include literary criticism and aesthetics, political science, biblical theology, systematic theology and philosophy, psychology and psychiatry, education, anthropology, religious studies, gender concerns.
Executive Secretary, 1998-99
June 5, 1999
Cesareo Bandera Presiding:
At the annual business meeting of COV&R, Cesareo Bandera announced nominations for the Advisory Board. The following were elected to three-year terms: Gil Bailie, Marie-Louise Martinez (second three-year term), Eric Gans. Diana Culbertson was elected President of COV&R and Sandor Goodhart, Executive Secretary. In view of their immense service to the Colloquium and in recognition of their scholarly contributions to the mission of the Colloquium,, James Williams and Raymund Schwager were both elected lifetime members of the Advisory Board.
Further announcements followed: the semi-annual COV&R conference at the AAR/SBL November 20 and the next annual international conference at Boston College in 2000 (See details in Bulletin.)
Plans are going forward for a European meeting in Agen, France, in 2000. Further information will follow.
Considerable appreciation was expressed for the beautifully organised and academically stimulating conference in Atlanta organised by Thee Smith and colleagues at Emory University. Thee will continue to advise future conference planners. Papers from the conference (Violence Reduction in Theory and Practice: From Primates to Nations) are available at http://www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/RELIGION/VR/COVR99meeting.html
The Listserv for COV&R which has been sent from East Carolina University for the last seven years will now be administered from UCLA by Eric Gans. Collaboration between Anthropoetics and COV&R will benefit both groups. (Send the message "Subscribe" to COVRlist-request@ humnet.ucla.edu)
COV&R members were invited to bring Rene Girard's theory to the attention of the national media by suggesting speakers for television forums and to consider forming special programs within other professional organisations.
Finally COV&R members thanked Cesareo Bandera for his leadership in the last two years.
Semi-annual meeting of COV&R
November 20, 1999, 9:00 a.m.-11:30.
Ruach Elohiym/Holy Spirit:
A Breath of Non-Violence.
The semi-annual meeting of COV&R,held in conjunction with the AAR/SBL will be November 20 from 9:00-11:30 in Room Constitution A at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston, MASS.
The topic is: Ruach Elohiym/Holy Spirit: A Breath of Non-Violence.
Speakers will be Sandor Goodhart (Executive Sec'y of COV&R) and Tony Bartlett of Syracuse University.
If you are interested in responding to their papers, please get in touch with them or me (at email@example.com) This will be announced in the annual meeting program.
COV&R 2000 at Boston College
Wed. May 31 - Sat. June 3, 2000
Preliminary Program Planning
Violence and Institution in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam
A René Girard - Bernard J.F. Lonergan "Conversation"
The opening session will run from about 5-9 pm (including a break for a simple supper) on Wed., May 31, and will be devoted to the subsidiary theme. The pre-supper sessions will feature a paper by James Alison on 'Girard for the Non-Girardians' and a paper by Charles C. Hefling, Jr. (editor of the Lonergan Journal, METHOD) on 'Lonergan for the Non-Lonerganians.' The after- supper session will be devoted to a discussion of these two papers, and to the significance of this 'conversation' for the work of COV&R.
The remainder of the conference, Thur. June 1st Sat. June 3, with a schedule similar to the one we are enjoying here in Atlanta, will be devoted to the main theme. Our starting point is the assumption that people who call themselves Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists have been in the past and are in the present, actively and/or passively, involved with violence, and that this involvement has something to do with the theological, religious, cultural, and socio-political institutions of their respective traditions. In other words, however they may be conceived or expressed, 'violence' and ''institution' are to be found in all of these traditions. But we must not presume that the ways in which we (mostly Western-Christianity types) understand these realities and try to make sense of them with the help of mimetic theory will be congenial to representatives from the other traditions. That is why the main presenters from each of the five traditions will be asked to begin talking about violence and institution FIRST in ways that make sense within that tradition, and SECOND in ways that can also reach out in dialogue to others in the other traditions. THEN it will be time to compare notes, see what sort of a discussion we have begun, and see what sort of light can be shed on the discussion from mimetic theory, or on mimetic theory from the discussion. One scholar from each of these five traditions will be assigned the task of main presenter; others, we expect, will be chosen to assist in the discussion, especially in relating the discussion to mimetic theory.
In addition, the Board of COV&R reaffirms the place in our annual conference of special interest subgroups or themes that are not necessarily connected with the main theme. We will try to arrange these under the 'special interests in the following fields' which are listed on the COV&R enrollment form (see Bulletin no. 16 [April 1999] p. 3):
- Literary Criticism, Aesthetics;
- Political Science, Economics,
- Social Ethics;
- Biblical Theology;
- Systematic Theology and Philosophy;
- Psychology and Psychiatry;
- Education, Practice;
- Anthropology, Religious Studies;
- Gender Concerns.
The seven main presenters of the subsidiary theme and of the main theme will soon be at work to write first drafts of their presentations. These will then be shared among the seven and revised for distribution to the conference participants ahead of time. Thus, when the colloquium actually meets, we will not need as much time for the paper presentations, for the discussion will already be under way.
The next issue of the Bulletin will contain the formal announcement and call for (special topic) papers, and for volunteers to help convene the various sessions. In the meantime, comments and suggestions, as well as preliminary special topic proposals may be sent to:
Robert J. Daly, S.J.
Boston College Department of Theology
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Tel.: (617) 552-3887 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Colloque d'Agen, France
"Droit de l'homme et incarcération".
This colloquium will be organised by "l'école Nationale de l'Administration Pénitentiaire" in Agen, either the week of October 16, 2000 or the week of November 13, 2000.
More information in the following issues of the Bulletin.
COV&R-meeting 2001 in Antwerp, Belgium
MAIN THEME :
the place of Girard's mimetic theory
in the history of philosophy
The university of Antwerp, at the very heart of the historical city, will be our host university for the COV&R meeting in 2001.
Preliminary data: May 24-26, 2001.
The colloquium will be organised by Guido Vanheeswijck and Paul Pelckmans (University of Antwerp), and Johan Elsen (COV&R).
In general, René Girard's work is situated in the field of the humanities, more than in that of the history of philosophy. However, since the mimetic theory aims at a global vision of man, it cannot but be associated with the questions that are typical of fundamental philosophy.
This philosophical dimension, inherent in Girard's thought undoubtedly remained underexposed during the last decades. This colloquium intends to fill up this gap by confronting Girard's work with current philosophical mainstreams.
More specifically, three topics will be dealt with:
1. René Girard and the philosophical tradition:
Important philosophers as Plato, Augustine, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre...often function as interlocutors in Girard's work. A number of lectures may focus upon the discussions between these philosophers and Girard.
2. René Girard and the return of religion
When Girard published Des Choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde in 1972, his appraisal of judeo-christian tradition seemed to be completely against the grain. Recently, a lot of philosophers have shown a renewed interest in the phenomenon of religion. Where can we situate Girard's thought on religion in the context of this renewed interest for religion (e.g. the relation Vattimo-Girard)?
3. Mimetic theory and economics
Recent philosophical-anthropological reflection on economics has been criticising the typically modern stress on autonomy, self-interest... (cfr. the controversy between liberalists and communitarians). This criticism is in line with the link Girard makes between internal mediation and the artificial creation of needs... What is the relation between this widespread feeling of the 'malaise of modernity' and Girard's exposure of the 'romantic lie'? How can this criticism be translated in the field of economics?
It goes without saying that these three topics can be enlarged, dependent on the number and the quality of the different proposals.
More information in the next issues of the Bulletin.
Comments and suggestions may be sent to: Johan Elsen,
Lindenlaan 19, B-8700 Tielt, Belgium.
René Girard and Sigmund Freud:
A comparative study.
The Oedipus complex of the man:
A non-published master-dissertation by Bartel Volckaert, Centre for research of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychology, Catholic University of Leuven. 1999.
René Girard claims that an approach in terms of the mimetic theory makes the Oedipus complex much simpler to understand. - In fact, Girard claims having found a more economical theory than Freud's psychoanalytic theory. - Firstly, the dissertation looks in detail at Girard's alternative explanation of the Oedipus complex of the man and its inherent concepts, such as the intrinsic desire to the mother, identification, prohibition of incest, the role of sexuality, ambivalence, bisexuality and homosexuality. Secondly, the thesis discusses this mimetic view at length.
In a first and general reply to Girard's criticism, detailed in chapter three, light is thrown on the context in which the Oedipus complex took shape. In addition, the author set out - equally built up to Girard's criticism he elaborated before in chapter two - some important psychoanalytic concepts which gain an insight into the Oedipus complex (e.g. the sexual drive and its object, the castration complex, the super-ego, the unconscious, repression...) and are in contrast with Girard's own comprehension of these Freudian notions. All this intents to show that Girard's reading and understanding of the Oedipus complex is too limited. According to the author, this shouldn't be a surprise. After all, he says, Girard's criticism on the Oedipus complex is mainly based on only two Freudian texts, namely Massenpsychology und Ich-Analyse and Das Ich und das Es. Besides, Freud never gave a complete and systematic specification of the Oedipus complex. Freud's psychoanalytic theory was always in progress. So was his explanation of the Oedipus complex. In that way, Girard's criticism ought to be seen as very fragmentary.
In a second and more specific reply, detailed in chapter four, Bartel Volckaert reread the Freudian texts Massenpsychology und Ich-Analyse and Das Ich und Das Es. He demonstrates, after a thorough exegesis, that Girard also read those two Freudian works too selectively. For example: Girard contends that Freud claims in Massenpsychology that the identification with the father is presented anterior to any choice of object. In fact, Freud never did so. (Freud wrote that "gleichzeitig" as this identification with his father and "vielleicht sogar vorher" the boy has begun to develop a true object-cathexis towards his mother.) In another passage Girard states that Freud initially saw the path of mimetic desire stretching out before him in Massenpsychology and deliberately turned aside from it in Das Ich und das Es. Girard illustrates this, postulating that Massenpsychology deals with an intensification of the object-cathexis by the identification with the father - a so called mimetic influence - and that this intensification rests unmotivated in Das Ich und das Es. However, this is a new misreading. In fact, this intensification of the object-cathexis only appears in Das Ich und das Es. Therefore, there couldn't have been a deliberate turning aside of the path of mimetic desire.
In spite of this analysis of Girard's criticism, the author emphasises the common ground that exists between Girard's mimetic theory and the Freudian psychoanalysis (e.g. the notion "die Bedingung des Geschädigten Dritten", chapter four of Massenpsychology: Suggestion and Libido, ...).
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