Past Conferences

The 4th annual conference of the Australian Girard Seminar was hosted at St Patrick’s Campus (Melbourne), Australian Catholic University, on 17th-18th January 2014. The topic of the conference was “Crisis and Its Management: Leadership and Relationship in Organisations and Communities”, with keynote speakers, Assoc. Prof. Jennifer George (Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne) and Rev. Prof. Józef Niewiadomski (University of Innsbruck and visiting fellow, ACU). 46 people were registered for the conference. On the Friday evening of the conference, the collection of essays, “Violence, Desire, and the Sacred, Volume 2: René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love and Literature” (edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming and Joel Hodge, published by Bloomsbury, ) was launched by Right Rev’d Dr Stephen Pickard, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/violence-desire-and-the-sacred-volume-2-9781623561963/). Following the launch, there was a public lecture, “Risky Business: Mimetic Theory, Executive Envy and Corporate Competitiveness”, by Assoc. Prof. Jenny George. Both events were well attended, with over 65 people. The feedback from the conference was very positive. Many thanks to the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University, for supporting the conference, especially for it to be hosted at ACU.

We hope to see everyone again in 2015!

The keynote speakers for the conference were:

– Associate Professor Jennifer George, Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne:

Title for the Public Lecture: “Risky Business: Mimetic Theory, Executive Envy and Corporate Competitiveness”, 17th January 2014, 7.30pm.

Description: Have you ever wondered why CEOs are paid so much? Or why organisations develop so much internal bureaucracy? Business theorists have found some of these questions difficult to answer using purely economic or rational arguments. A Girardian analysis of aspects of the business world is a new lens that sheds light on these difficult issues. This talk will discuss the elevation of the CEO, the use of organisational hierarchy to curb mimetic rivalry, the use of scapegoats and the co-option of mimetic desire by corporations.

- Rev. Professor Józef Niewiadomski, Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Innsbruck – “Resident Aliens? The Role of Christian and of the Church in managing  and transforming mimetic crisis”.

The Conference Program is available here: Program for Conference.

The Conference Flyer is available here: Conference flyer.

3rd Annual AGS Conference (January 2013 in Sydney): “Mimesis, Movies and Media”

University of Western Sydney, Friday 18 and Saturday 19 January, 2013

Following a promising inaugural conference at St Paul’s College, The University of Sydney, in January 2011, and a very successful second conference at St Mary’s College, The University of Melbourne, in January 2012, the third annual conference of the Australian Girard Seminar was held on the Parramatta Campus of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) this January, again on the Friday-Saturday before the Australia Day long weekend.

For our first two years we were very grateful to receive support from Imitatio (http://www.imitatio.org) to run our conferences, and this year we attracted sponsorship from the Writing and Society Research Centre at UWS, through Chris Fleming (AGS Vice-President). Thanks to Suzanne Gapps from that Centre, we had the benefit of online registration, help with accommodation on campus and nearby, and support on the ground.

This year’s theme was ‘Mimesis, Movies and Media’, and our invited international guest was the Canadian Girardian philosopher Paul Dumouchel, currently Professor in the Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. As in previous years our invited leader in the field gave a public lecture on the Friday night, in this case entitled ‘Mirrors of Nature: Artificial Agents in Real Life and Virtual Worlds’. Earlier in the day, however, a group of scholars from the Australian Girard Seminar working on the mimetic theory joined with Paul for a discussion of his recent published work, followed by a lunch at Rydges Hotel, Parramatta. After mid-afternoon registration, the conference began with Scott Cowdell giving the introductory ‘Girard 101’ lecture (to help bring newcomers up to speed on the mimetic theory). During drinks – and before a lively and enjoyable conference dinner in the modish Boilerhouse Restaurant at UWS – Professor Anthony Kelly CSsR launched our first publication, Violence, Desire and the Sacred: Girard’s Mimetic Theory Across the Disciplines, edited by Scott Cowdell, Chris Fleming and Joel Hodge (London and New York: Continuum, 2012). With over 40 present at the launch on a record hot day, Professor Kelly spoke about the twin challenges of an inter-disciplinary approach, which the books champions, and the journey of “conversion,” with which Girard is greatly concerned. Copies of Joel Hodge’s new book Resisting Violence and Victimisation: Christian Faith and Solidarity in East Timor  (London: Ashgate, 2012) were also for sale, and both titles sold out.  Convivial drinks at Rydges Hotel after the public lecture ended a very pleasant evening.

Saturday was devoted to members’ papers, mostly on films and television series, including two papers on The Dark Knight, one on the serial killer Dexter, another on Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, and one on the increasingly anti-romantic films of Woody Allen. Saturday’s stand-out presentation, however, was from the award-winning Australian journalist-turned-academic Emma Jane, of the University of New South Wales, with an entertaining yet quite searching keynote address on the scapegoating of cheerleaders (who emerge as a class of pharmakoi). After a short business meeting at which potential future projects, conference themes and conference locations were discussed, proceedings concluded mid-afternoon.

A highlight of the conference was our announcement that a contract has been offered by Continuum for Volume 2 of Violence, Desire and the Sacred, which we have agreed to subtitle René Girard and Sacrifice in Life, Love and Literature. This will be based on (but not limited to) proceedings of our 2012 conference, as Volume 1 largely comprised our inaugural 2011 conference papers. We also shared the news that we had been approached by a scholarly publisher concerning proceedings of this 2013 conference, with an interest in something on Girard and film. Prof Dumouchel suggested that we consider beginning a series, and since the conference we have begun conversations to that effect with Continuum. We were also delighted to hear that our friends at Imitatio wish to continue supporting our ventures and have offered to underwrite professional copy editing of our forthcoming Volume 2.

Numbers at the 2013 conference were a little lower than at our 2011 Sydney conference (probably, in part, due to organisational factors), although a number of members sent their apologies. With 29 registered for this 2013 conference, this was just over half the number present in Melbourne last year. This led us to conclude that Melbourne may be the natural home of our conferences, because there is a larger Girardian constituency in that city. We agreed to hold our 2014 conference in Melbourne, and perhaps to hold two future conferences in Melbourne for every one held in Sydney.

2nd Annual AGS Conference (January 2012 in Melbourne): “Sacrifice in Life, Love and Literature”

The second annual conference of the Australian Girard Seminar took place at St Mary’s College, the University of Melbourne, on an unseasonably cool Australian Summer weekend in mid-January. Numbers were up nearly 50% on the inaugural 2011 conference, with 55 registered participants. The conference theme was ‘Sacrifice in Life, Love and Literature’, which generated a diverse range of papers from post-Soviet literature to Australian Literary autobiography, from the scapegoating of internet sex offenders to the sacrificial masculinity of Fight Club. The conference began with a late-afternoon ‘Girard 101′ session followed by a conference dinner with invited guests–including the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, the leading Australian theologian, Prof. Gerald O’Collins SJ, and Prof. Anne Hunt, the Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University. Thanks to Imitatio,the Australian Girard Seminar had the privilege and pleasure of bringing the CoV&R President, Prof. Ann Astell, from the University of Notre Dame as our guest. Ann gave the Friday night public lecture entitled ‘Hearing the Cry of the Poor: Rene Girard and St Augustine on the Psalms’. Saturday was a busy round of papers, this year requiring two streams to cover the volume of material received. In response to feedback from the previous conference, two 90 minute seminars provided more opportunity for participation. Serendipitously, Michael Hardin was in Australia and available to lead a seminar on the non-violent atonement. Retired Anglican Bishop, author and ‘Girardian therapist’ Bishop Bruce Wilson also provided a workshop, based on a case study of pastoral care and church conflict illuminated by Girardian interdividual psychology. A productive business meeting closed the conference with a number of excellent suggestions to improve future conferences, most notably an afternoon ‘Girard School’, before the conference proper, for newcomers to get properly oriented.

The organisers (Scott Cowdell, Joel Hodge and Chris Fleming) once again thank Imitatio for their support, and are happy to report that an energetic new Girardian community is clearly taking shape ‘Down Under’. The forthcoming publication of their jointly-edited volume “Violence, Desire, and the Sacred: Girard’s Mimetic Theory Across the Disciplines”, with Continuum Press (London and New York), based on papers from the inaugural 2011 conference, is a further sign that Imitatio’s support is bearing fruit.

Inaugural AGS Conference (January 2011 in Sydney): “Violence, Desire, and the Sacred”

The inaugural conference of the Australian Girard Seminar, entitled “Violence, Desire, and the Sacred”, was held with great success and enjoyment on 14th-15th January, 2011, at St Paul’s College, the University of Sydney. The conference was significantly funded by a grant from Imitatio.

As is common for meetings on Girard’s work, this conference was inter-disciplinary attracting scholars from various fields (e.g., theology, anthropology, philosophy, literary studies, psychology) as well as others from outside academia, including clergy and those working in church and other organisations.

The conference attracted much interest (on short notice), with approximately 40 registered participants, and a range of high quality papers. The keynote address was given by Prof. Wolfgang Palaver, current President of COV&R. Prof. Palaver spoke on “Religion & Violence: The Perspective of Mimetic Theory”, which was recorded by ABC Radio National for a program called Encounter. A Jesuit online publication, Eureka Street, also recorded parts of the conference. Prof. Jeremiah Alberg, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the International Christian University (Japan), provided a response to Prof. Palaver’s paper which provoked a wide-ranging discussion.

The papers at the conference covered topics utilising the mimetic theory in such areas as biblical hermeneutics, literature, theology, science, philosophy, atonement theory, the human rights discourse, peace studies and the history of the English Reformation. Speakers included Prof. Vijay Mishra (ARC Fellow and Professor of English Literature, Murdoch University), Rev. Canon Dr. Scott Cowdell (Associate Professor, Charles Sturt University), Rev.
Canon Dr. Ivan Head (Warden, St Paul’s College), Dr. Drasko Dizdar (Emmaus Monastic Community, Tasmania) and Prof. Neil Ormerod (Professor of Theology, Australian Catholic University).

Alongside the conference, the support of Imitatio enabled a specialised seminar to be held for invited scholars (immediately before the conference). The seminar’s aim was to allow a small group of scholars to converse on “Girard and the state of the world today”. Scott Cowdell began the conversation with some excellent reflections. The seminar was followed by a convivial lunch. The experience of this lunch as well as the conference dinner and other meals (so well prepared by St Paul’s College) were important in forming a collegial and friendly atmosphere. The bonding of the participants was an important aim of the conference so to enable a strong foundation for the future.

The conference excelled in achieving its main aim to provide a forum for discussion of Girard’s insights in Australia. There was much positive feedback on the conference with participants saying how they valued the chance to explore Girard’s insights in more depth, particularly through stimulating papers and a friendly atmosphere. Participants also
commented on how inexpensive the conference was in comparison to the quality of the conference (which was possible because of Imitatio funding).

The conference had a number of important outcomes. The participants agreed to formalise the Australian Girard Seminar (AGS) and form a standing committee. The participants were also very keen to hold another conference in 2012 as well as establish reading groups in major Australian cities to further the discussion of Girard’s work. There are also plans to develop a regular newsletter.

The conference was also given administration and other support by Charles Sturt University, the University of Western Sydney and St Paul’s College.

For videos of the keynote addresses and interviews from the conference:

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=27104

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=27103

 

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