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Call for Papers: Challenging Cultures of Death

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Call for Papers

Challenging Cultures of Death

Aim:  A cross-cultural dialogue imagining a political and symbolic world based on life not death: mercy not sacrifice.

Julia Kristeva has claimed that we live under a sacrificial social contract. In the light of this claim, our current history, and the political developments that have brought our world to a state of permanent war and to the brink of nuclear disaster, cultural theorists from many disciplines are asking the question: how do we challenge the mechanisms whereby we appear constantly to achieve our identities at the expense of Others?

The language of sacrifice and martyrdom, international and ecumenical, permeates religious and political discourse and has been culturally elaborated in countless ways. Some theorists argue that the totem secret of our societies is that we periodically send out our young to die, thereby replenishing our political identities. The Reformers and Counter-Reformers challenged sacrifice, but now the sacrifice to end all sacrifices manifests as the war to end all wars.

However, the great religious prophets radical cultural critics insistently cried for mercy not sacrifice. Such prophets did not foretell, but imagined and ensured a better future for all of life. Standing in that tradition, and from the depths of their own embodiment, and experience as Outsiders , cultural theorists seek to forge new symbols, theoretical resources, and disciplinary, spiritual, and artistic practices based on life and mercy rather than on sacrifice and death.

The first in a proposed series, this interdisciplinary event seeks to identify and welcome theoretical, artistic, and other proposals that serve this overall aim.

Venue: Trinity College Dublin

Date: Fri 2nd Sat 3rd Sun 4 th Nov 07

Institute for Feminism and Religion Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Trinity College Dublin.   

Keynote Speakers (to date)

Bracha L. Ettinger, Griselda Pollock, Anne Primavesi, Genevieve Vaughan. (See below for biographies, bibliographies, and current positions).

Call for Papers

A multi-disciplinary event, we aim to bring diverse approaches to our deliberations under the following headings: Theory, Resistance, and Theology.   Priority will be given to those taking a multi-disciplinary synchronic perspective, and imaginative approaches to presenting that maximize pre-event preparation (making papers available in advance) and interactive modes of engagement with participants. We also hope to balance incisive critique with concrete strategies for practical action.


Given the violent history of the 20th century, the threats facing humanity and the Earth, and the resurgence of violent religious fundamentalisms in the 21 st century, Enlightenment optimism toward the social order has now largely collapsed. Post-modernist thinkers variously interrogate the libidinal economy (Lyotard), the sacrificial social contract (Kristeva), biopolitics (Nietzsche, Foucault, Agamben), the culture of the death drives (Lacan, Irigaray), and the violence of mourning (Klein, Fornari, Butler). 

Invited proposals

·       Proposals invited from any of the above perspectives that address the question of mercy not sacrifice.


In the most despotic regimes, isolated individuals (Bonhoeffer, Weil, Berrigans, Day, Gandhi, Mandela, Starhawk, Aung San Suu Kyi), as well as many conscientious objectors, have resisted cultural imperatives. What enables them to resist?

Invited Proposals

·       That investigate resistance from the perspective of group psychology (political or psychoanalytic)   

·       That investigate disciplinary or spiritual practices that enable resistance

·       That investigate the effects of parenting and violence, the potential of maternal thinking, or the Matrixial Sphere (Bracha Ettinger).


The main Abrahamic faiths often represent their founding acts through narratives of sacrifice. How does this relate to the cultural valorisation of death in combat, or martyrdom?  

Invited Proposals

·       That investigate current critiques of sacrifice (Girard, Irigaray, Kristeva, Maccoby, Koeningsberg)

·       That identifying prophetic resources in culture or religion that call for mercy not sacrifice.

·       That interrogate feminist, womanist and post-colonial approaches to the political implications of sacrificial theologies  

General Directions

Directions: Participants wishing to present a 10-minute contributed paper are invited to submit online a 200 to 300 words abstract for consideration by the conference committees. Abstracts should be sent (June 30 th ). All those submitting proposals will be informed of the conference committee’s decisions by July 31st 2007 (at the latest).

Online submission form will shortly be available at this website: http://www.instituteforfeminismandreligion.org 

Who Should Attend? 

We hope to attract theorists and activists committed to cultural critique. By definition, all contributors should aim to make their work accessible to a wide variety of participants at the event, and in potentially publishable form later. This initial event will be very much a conversation aiming to identify and establish ways of going forward. However, we would hope to collate contributions and identify a publisher and devise a publication plan.


June 30 07                  Abstracts proposals

July 31st 07                 Notification of acceptance

October 1st 07                        Reception of full papers

October 1st 07                        Papers will be accepted only from full registrants.


Presenters: Intending presenters should aim to provide papers in advance to be placed on our website for registrants to read in advance. Our time together is limited, and should be spent summarizing (briefly), and then discussing the papers, rather than reading them.

Participants: To ensure maximum interaction, participants should aim to read papers in advance and come prepared to discuss.   

Online registration deadline :

Online registration will be available shortly at the conference website. http://www.instituteforfeminismandreligion.org

Registration Fees  

€120:00 full participation, including teas/coffees

€60:00   full-time students,

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first registered, first served basis.

Practical details on the event will be given (and systematically updated) on the conference website: http://www.instituteforfeminismandreligion.org

Main Conference Email:  instfr@gmail.com

Conference language: English. Regrettably, we do not have translation facilities.

International Keynote Speakers (To Date)

Ettinger, Bracha L.: Professor Ettinger is one of the most influential contemporary French psychoanalytical feminist theorists and an internationally renowned artist, painter and photographer whose paintings, photos, drawings and notebooks have been exhibited extensively in major museums of contemporary art, among them: Royal Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp (Gorge(l), 2006), KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (ARS 06 Biennale, 2006), Villa Medici, Rome, (Memory , 1999), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (Kabinet, 1997), Pompidou Center (Face à l’Histoire, 1997), with solo exhibitions in the Drawing Center, NY, 2001; The Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels (2000); Museum of Art, Pori (1996); The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (1995); the Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA), Oxford; The Russian Museum, St. Petersbourg (1993); Le Nouveau Musée, Villeurbanne; (1992) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais (1988).

Born in Tel Aviv and based mainly in Paris (and of Israeli and British nationality), Bracha L. Ettinger is a groundbreaking theoretician working at the intersection of feminine sexuality, psychoanalysis, and aesthetics, a senior clinical psychologist, and a practicing psychoanalyst. Her artistic practice and her articulation, since 1985, of what has become known as the matrixial theory have transformed contemporary debates in contemporary art and cultural studies. She is the Marcel Duchamp Professor of Psychoanalysis and Art at the Media & Communications Division, European Graduate School (EGS), Saas-Fee.


Professor Ettinger is author of several books and more than eighty psychoanalytical essays on what she has named matrixial trans-subjectivity. She is co-author of volumes of conversation with Emmanuel Levinas, Edmond Jabès, Craigie Horsfield, Felix Guattari and Christian Boltanski. Her book Regard et Espace-de-Bord Matrixiels (essays 1994-1999) appeared in French in 1999 (La lettre volée), and has been published in English as The Matrixial Borderspace (2006, University of Minnesota Press, edited by Brian Massumi and forwarded by Judith Butler and Griselda Pollock). The journal, Theory Culture & Society, dedicated an issue to her work (TC&S, 21(1)) in 2004. Bracha L. Ettinger is member of the Tel Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis (TAICP).

Pollock, Griselda: Professor of the Social and Critical Histories of Art; Director of CentreCATH at Leeds;  Co-Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies; Executive Member of Centre for Jewish Studies; Executive Member of Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies

Professor Griselda Pollock’s main research interests are in the issues of gender, race and class in the formations of modernism in late nineteenth century Europe and America; the history of women in the visual arts with a current project focusing on femininity, representation and modernity 1928-1968; the work of Vincent van Gogh; women’s cinema 1940-9; the legend of Tarzan: myths of empire, identity and place, contemporary visual arts by women. Her research areas include issues of trauma, history and memory after the Holocaust and Jewish Art and Modernity.   For further details, please see her website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/fine_art/people/staff/gfsp.html

Primavesi, Anne: Born and educated in Ireland, and now based in England, Dr. Anne Primavesi, formerly Lecturer and Research Fellow in Environmental Theology at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol and Research Fellow at The Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion, Birkbeck, University of London, is currently Fellow of the Westar Institute, California and a Founding Research Fellow of the Lokahi Foundation, London.

Her published books include From Apocalypse to Genesis: Ecology, Feminism and Christianity (Burns and Oates and Fortress Press 1991); Sacred Gaia: Holistic Theology and Earth System Science (Routledge 2000), Gaia’s Gift: Earth, Ourselves and God after Copernicus (Routledge 2003); Making God Laugh: Human Arrogance and Ecological Humility (Polebridge Press, 2004).

Among numerous articles, she contributed the entry “Theology and Earth System Science” in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions , Vol.  1V, (Cork University Press, 2002), pp 695-702. More recently she has contributed the entry on “Gaia” in Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition, eds. Lindsay Jones, et al.. Macmillan Reference, Vol. 5, pp 3253-3255 (New York, 2004); the entry on “Ecofeminist Theology” in Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity, ed. Daniel Patte, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge and New York, 2006); the entry on “Ecology”in The Blackwell Companion to the Bible and Culture , ed. John Sawyer, (Oxford, 2006), pp 432-446.

Published this year is “The Preoriginal Gift—and Our Response to It” in Ecospirit: Religion, Philosophy and the Earth, eds. Laurel Kearns and Catherine Keller, Fordham University Press, (New York, 2007), pp. 217-32, and “Can Gaia Forgive Us?” in Earthy Realism: The Meaning of Gaia, ed. Mary Midgley, Imprint Academic, (Exeter, 2007), pp. 68-73.

Vaughan, Genevieve: Genevieve Vaughan works at the intersection of theory and practice through her theorization of the gift economy as a counter-discourse addressing patriarchy and global capitalism.

The gift economy is one in which goods are distributed to needs.  The logic is based on “mothering” in which a relationship between giver and receiver is one in which the former responds to the needs of the latter.   The transaction of giving and receiving creates bonds which can be seen as the basis of the circulation of goods in economies without markets as such.   These gift transactions have been viewed through the market perspective as exchanges ( do ut des); however, the maternal distribution of good directly to needs can be seen as a foundational social principle which has been absorbed and co-opted by market exchange, but not eliminated.

Considering mothering as a mode of distribution that coexists with or lies beneath the market economy allows us to think of it as an economic structure with its own superstructure of ideas and values: other-oriented, people-before-profits values, coming from and validating the process of unilateral giving and receiving.

The gift principle informs Homo Donans in opposition to ego centered homo economicus and is an important element in the values that motivate work for social changes and a vision of alternative “nurturing” economics based on need and not on profit.

These values and the gift mode of distribution already exist though they are presently burdened by parasitic Patriarchal Capitalism. By bringing them forward we can create the leadership necessary for a maternal revolution.

Genevieve Vaughan has made three ebooks available (free) online at her website: Homo Donans; Athanor; and For-giving. Website: http://www.gift-economy.com/index.html

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