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KEYNOTE LECTURES 2024

 

PARADIGM SHIFT

 

The expression “paradigm shift” - which came to prominence after the publication of American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) - far from fostering a relativist view of belief systems, can be fruitfully applied to scholarship regarding religion to flesh out and highlight when and how the multiple disciplines of the broader field of religious studies found ways (or were inevitably led) to change their own perspectives and the manner of defining, reading and analysing the objects of their analyses through the positive or conflictual engagement (or lack thereof) with major historical events, the use of innovative theoretical lenses to further understand the significance of what Jean Delumeau called the fait religieux, the adoption of brand new or established technologies bringing to disruptive discoveries, and the ways in which one or more katastrophé of the Anthropocene were read, or continue to be read, as apocalypses or vice versa in the historiography on religious history.

 

EuARe2024 will focus the keynote lectures and encourage the presentation of panels and papers on topics, by way of example, such as:

  • Groundbreaking authors (e.g. Eusebius as the creator of a “historical” Christian literary genre);

  • Groundbreaking events (e.g. the discovery of the Qumran Bible manuscripts);

  • Collapses of capitals, key cities and empires and their religious meaning (e.g. Jerusalem, Constantinople, the Mongol Empire, Granada);

  • Shifts of paradigm in the perception of Otherness (e.g. the religious significance of the Spanish conquest of South America);

  • Shifting patterns between reform and break (e.g. the tension between confessional concord/religious peace and political tolerance in the early modern wars of religion);

  • Paradigm changes in the perception, use and misuse of the fait religieux (e.g. the French Revolution and the secularisation of Western Europe);

  • Historical crises (cfr. Reinhart Koselleck) as drivers of religious change (e.g. the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire or Pahlavi Iran), and religious crises as drivers of historical change;

  • The political use of historical-religious paradigms;

  • The Holocaust as a change of paradigm for theologies and theodicies.

 

Scientific associations and academies are warmly invited to participate in a scientific debate on who, what, where and when they changed their own way of looking at sources, events, methodologies or disciplinary structures.

Vincent Goossaert

(EPHE, PSL, Paris)

 

Living in the Society of the Gods. A Chinese Contribution to the Comparative Study of
Religions.

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This paper is based on my ongoing work on Chinese gods and processes of subjectification
whereby such gods affirm unique personas and engage humans in person-to-person interactions.
I propose that the vast array of ritual techniques developed over the very longue durée in China to allow the gods to “talk back” to humans have allowed these gods to affirm themselves as persons and subjects – even though there was also resistance against such developments. I then wish to open a comparison with other religious cultures and explore the reasons why the presence of gods as subjects varies considerably between different cultural contexts: in some places, gods can engage humans as persons in ways comparable to the Chinese case, and in others they do not. My working hypothesis is that the availability and social acceptance of ritual techniques to allow the gods to talk is a crucial factor in such differences.

Vincent Goossaert is a historian specializing in Chinese religions, particularly Daoism, teaching at EPHE, PSL, Paris. His research explores textual production as well as ritual practices, emphasizing an anthropological historical approach. He is currently co-leading an international project (CRTA) to systematically document textual analysis, emphasizing an anthropological historical approach. Engaging in various academic activities, he is currently leading an international project to systematically document Chinese religious texts, emphasizing cross-confessional and cross-genre research,  including the training of young scholars and exploration of the impact of this extensive religious literature on Chinese societies.

Elisabeth Gräb-Schmidt

(University of Tübingen)

 

The Anthropological Turn of Religion – On the Paradigm Shift in the Theoretical Function of
Transce
ndence in Secularized Modernity.

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Adhering to religion in secularized modernity does not imply a regression to pre-modernity.
Rather, religion must be incorporated into the paradigm shift that signifies the departure from
traditional substance metaphysics or ontology, a shift that Habermas refers to as the post-metaphysical age. Such adherence to religion does not forsake the achievements of secularization; instead, it obliges religion to adopt a new soberness and clarity, one that expresses the Enlightenment's idea of "man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity"(Immanuel Kant) and serves as a testament to humanity's freedom and capacity for reason. The guarantor of religion's significance lies in its function of recalling and representing humanity's transcendental reference. However, this function is itself entangled in the paradigm shift of the anthropological turn of religion. The article explores how this function can demonstrate and prove its normative shape and role in the establishment of a concept of
religion in modernity.

Professor of Systematic Theology with a focus on Ethics and the director of the Institute for Ethics at the University of Tübingen, She holds a fellowship at the Max Weber College for Cultural and Social Studies in Erfurt and is also a member of both the German Ethics Council and the Council of Ethics at the German Medical Association. Additionally, she serves as the co-editor for the Journal of Protestant Ethics (ZEE) and the Journal of Theology and Church (ZThK). Furthermore, she sits on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Encyclopedia of Jewish-Christian-Islamic Discourses (EJCID), the Editorial Advisory Board for the series on Key Concepts in Interreligious Discourses (KICD), the Editorial Advisory Board for Distinctio: Journal of Intersubjective Studies, and the Advisory Board for RESILIENCE, the European research infrastructure on religious studies.  Outside academia, she is part of the ZDF series "God’s Cloud" and comes from a family with notable contributions to art collection, disability work, and theology.

Alexander Kulik

(The Hebrew Unversity of Jerusalem)

 

Naming God and Other Challenges of Transcultural Monotheism

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The most pivotal shift in the evolution of Abrahamic religions occurred when the Hebrew faith was transplanted onto Greek soil, giving rise to what may be termed “transcultural monotheism.” This linguo-theological transformation aligned with other important shifts—not only political developments that led to internationalization of the Greek language but also more profound cultural processes that replaced myth with speculative thought. In other words, Moses’ spiritual message had to await Alexander’s political infrastructure and Athenian intellectual tools to enable Judeo-Greek creativity. Intended to meet the inner needs of the Hellenistic Jewish community, it eventually became a factor of universal impact.
    This expansion of Second Temple Judaism, including its Christian variation, beyond the Semitic realm presented new challenges. Unique theological constructs anchored in specific
linguistic forms and structures faced the necessity of adaptation. This was particularly evident with respect to the core concept of Jewish thought—the one and only “God,” the sole creator and ruler of the universe. It proved no easy task to pick a name for such a referent that essentially lays beyond any taxonomy—i.e., unknowable and, therefore, unnamable. 
      The introduction of Greek terms for this concept, as well as their equivalents in other languages, proceeded not without deliberation or resistance. The inherent inadequacy of any term for the concept of the monotheistic God led and continues to lead to unceasing attempts to explore alternative terminology. 
      This paper aims to reconstruct previously overlooked considerations behind a Judeo-
Greek innovation in religious terminology, with a focus on its key element—Hellenization of
the Hebrew name of God. The suggested reconstruction may affect our perspective on several fields of knowledge and shed light on some unresolved questions, including the problems of biblical isopsephism, early Jewish and Christian numeric symbolism, the history of nomina sacra (including the question of their Jewish vs. Christian origins), and early binitarian theology.

Renowned philologist and historian, Prof. Kulik specializes in the cross-cultural transmission of texts and ideas. Holding the Tamara and Savely Grinberg Chair of Russian Studies at the Hebrew University, he has authored multiple books including works on pseudepigrapha and apocalypticism, and served as the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Guide to Early Jewish Texts and Traditions in Christian Transmission, edited volumes, and holds various prestigious academic positions globally.

Alberto Melloni

(University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, FSCIRE)

 

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Alberto Melloni is Full Professor of History of Christianity at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and Secretary of FSCIRE - Fondazione per le scienze religiose (Bologna/Palermo). He holds the UNESCO Chair on Religious Pluralism and Peace at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" and has been Chair of the G20 Interfaith Forum in 2021. Prof. Melloni is also Chief Scientific Advisor of the European Commission, dean of the Italian National Doctoral School in Religious Studies DREST.EU, and Scientific coordinator of the European Research Infrastructure for Religious Studies RESILIENCE. Since 2017, he is a member of the Accademia dei Lincei.

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