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World-renowned theorists converge at SU for Ray Smith Symposium on ‘Politics of Love,’ April 16-18
World-renowned theorists converge at SU for Ray Smith Symposium on ‘Politics of Love,’ April 16-18March 24, 2009Rob Enslinrmenslin@syr.edu
A constellation of international theorists will converge at Syracuse University to discuss how love can be redirected as a political concept. The conference, “The Politics of Love,” runs April 16-18 at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center (801 University Ave.). The event, which is free and open to the public, is the third in a series of biennial SU conferences collectively called “Postmodernism, Religion and Culture.” The conference is sponsored by the Ray Smith Symposium Series, with generous support from George M. Langford, dean of SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. For more information, call SU’s Department of Religion at (315) 443-3863, or visit http://pcr.syr.edu/.
Religion Professor John Caputo, who is organizing the event with Philosophy Professor Linda Martin Alcoff, says the topic was inspired by the seminal book “Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire” (Penguin Press, 2004). In it, co-authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri explore the “post-secular” character of the “post-modern” world. “This approach is one in which the old dogmas of secularism-the withering away of religion under the progressive impact of science and the privatization of religion discourse-are behind us,” says Caputo, who is SU’s Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities. “Hardt, who is one of our guest speakers, explores how a religious concept can function as a political one by giving critical leverage against a post-modern empire, as opposed to a centralized imperialism.”
Alcoff, who also serves on the faculties of women’s and gender studies and political science, says one of the goals of the conference is to explore love from a multiplicity of angles. “Many of these angles are religious or political in nature or both,” she says. Among the topics for discussion are the public meanings of love, the ethical and religious implications of love and the use of religion-historically, a divisive social force-as an instrument of love and reconciliation. “These are the kinds of discussions that our series wants to promote,” she adds.
Alcoff and Caputo are in good company, as this year’s panelists are some of the field’s leading lights. Jessica Benjamin (New York University) is a pre-eminent psychoanalyst, with an interest in feminism and social structure. Hent de Vries (The Johns Hopkins University) holds ties to Europe, where he occupies a research position at the University of Amsterdam. He serves as program director at the International College of Philosophy in Paris, and is co-founder the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. Hardt and Ebrahim Moosa (both from Duke University) specialize in globalization and Islamic thought, respectively. Amy Hollywood (Harvard University) is a renowned expert in Christian mysticism, with interests in queer theory, psychoanalysis and continental philosophy. Jean-Luc Marion (The University of Chicago and Paris Sorbonne University) is an internationally acclaimed Descartes scholar and is one of the world’s leading Roman Catholic philosophers. Merold Westphal (Fordham University), one of the United States’ most philosophers of religion, is known for his work in political theory and Eastern philosophy. Slavoj Zizek (The European Graduate School, Switzerland) is a premier scholar of politics and popular culture, having been an activist in Slovenia during the 1980s and a presidential candidate of the Republic of Slovenia in 1990.
Given the international status of the speakers, Caputo says, the format includes eight plenary sessions, beginning with an opening address on April 16 and concluding with a panelist roundtable two days later. “There are no break-out or concurrent sessions and no commentators. By sticking to plenary sessions, everyone in the audience hears the same talks,” he says.
“The Politics of Love” is open to SU students, faculty and staff, who should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request a registration form. The general public is invited to attend, and can register onsite or online at https://secure.syr.edu/conference/reg.aspx. There is no registration deadline.
The Ray Smith Symposium Series was established in 1989 as the result of a bequest from the estate of SU alumnus Ray W. Smith ’21 to support symposia on topics in the humanities in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. Travel for international speakers is supported with a generous grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
More information about The College of Arts and Sciences is available at http://thecollege.syr.edu.