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Irreconcilable Differences?
Jacques Derrida and the Question of Religion

Conference Speakers:


Keynote Speaker:
Jacques Derrida: Vivre "ensemble" -- Living "together"


Gil Anidjar: "Mal de Sionisme (Zionist Fever)"

Assistant Professor of Hebrew Literature and Literary Theory in the Department of Middle East & Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, Gil Anidjar is editor of the most important collection of Jacques Derrida's writings on religion (Acts of Religion, Routledge, 2001) and author of several important studies treating Jewish-Arab relations from religious, philosophical, and literary-theoretical perspectives. These include Our Place in Al-Andalus: Kabbalah, Philosophy, Literature in Arab Jewish Letters (Stanford University Press, 2002) and a forthcoming book (also with Stanford) titled The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy, which attempts to explain the absence of a history of the enemy, and most specifically, of an account of the perspective and role of Europe concerning the enmity between Jew and Arab. Extending the types of analysis advanced in these works, Anidjar's contribution to the conference, titled "Mal de Sionisme (Zionist Fever)," will, through a reading of Derrida and Gershom Scholem, explore relations between a "Jewish secularization" (itself a charged and complex notion thanks to the deeply Christian history of the term "secularization") and Zionism as a theological and political movement.

Roxanne Euben: Islam Versus the West and Other Fictions

Roxanne L. Euben is Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, where she teaches political theory, feminist theory and Muslim political thought. Her research is in the emerging field of Comparative Political Theory, the inquiry into both Western and non-Western political thought, with a particular emphasis on Islamic political theory. She is author of Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton, 1999). She has also published several articles in comparative political theory, including “A Counternarrative of Shared Ambivalence: Some Muslim and Western Perspectives on Science and Reason,” (Common Knowledge, 2003), “Killing (for) Politics: Jihad, Martyrdom and Political Action,” (Political Theory, 2002), “Contingent Borders, Syncretic Perspectives: Globalization, Political Theory and Islamizing Knowledge,” (International Studies Review, 2002), “Premodern, Antimodern, or Postmodern?: Islamic and Western Critiques of Modernity” (The Review of Politics, 1997) and "Comparative Political Theory: An Islamic Fundamentalist Critique of Rationalism" (The Journal of Politics 1997). She is currently writing a book, Travel, Theory and the Search for Knowledge: Western and Islamic Journeys to ‘the Other Shore,’ an investigation of travel as both a metaphor for and practice of translation between the familiar and unfamiliar in both European and Muslim traditions.


Hachem Foda: "'Harâm.' The Sacred and the Forbidden in Islam"

Associate Professor (Maître de Conférences), Université de Paris VIII, Département des Etudes Arabes, Foda teaches and conducts research on the Arabic-Islamic thought and literature of the Middle Ages. He has also published a number of articles on the intersections of Derrida's work with Muslim thought, such as the acclaimed text "L'amitié entre la philosophie et la Loi révélée" (in: Le passage Des frontières. Autour du travail de Jacques Derrida, Paris, Galilée, 1994). In recent years, Foda has been working on questions surrounding the status and functions that the culture of the revealed divine word (the Koran) attributes to the literate man--and more specifically to the poet. In a world dominated by the two major categories of the allowed (halâl) and the illicit (harâm), what room is left for the 'fictitious discourse' of literature and poetry? The complicated relations between the Prophet of Islam and the poets signal important questions of sovereignty (theological and political) and of the harâm (the sacred/forbidden). Foda's contribution to the conference, "'Harâm.' The Sacred and the Forbidden in Islam" will explore these questions in the context of the crises that the Arabic and Muslim world experiences today, and it will show that such questions do not only belong to an "intellectual history" or a "history of literature" but constitute literally burning questions in our contemporary world.

Dana Hollander: "Forgiving Dissent. Jankélévitch - Levinas - Derrida."

Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies Department at McMaster
University, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in Modern Jewish
Thought, Dana Hollander's primary research areas are modern Jewish thought, 20th-Century French and German Philosophy (especially the phenomenological tradition), and German-Jewish History and Culture. During 2003-2004, she is at UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies, as the postdoctoral fellow for the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on "The Ethics of the Neighbor." She is revising her dissertation, Exemplarity and Chosenness: Derrida and Rosenzweig on the Nation of Philosophy, for publication as a book, and she has published articles on Rosenzweig and Derrida such as "Specters of Messiah," in The Art of Deconstructive Politics: Reading Derrida's "Specters of Marx," (Northwestern University Press, forthcoming); and "Franz Rosenzweig on Nation, Translation, and Judaism," in Philosophy Today, Vol. 38, No. 4 (1994). Hollander's contribution to the conference, "Forgiving Dissent. Jankélévitch - Levinas - Derrida," will explore the different positions on "Forgiving" which these three French philosophers took after World War II and the Shoah. These reflections bear directly on the issue of "forgiving the neighbor, the enemy" in the politico-religious conflicts that so deeply haunt our contemporary experience.

Charles Malamoud: Banalisations monothéistes de l'Hindouisme

Professor Emeritus at the Ecole Pratique Des Hautes Etudes, Section Des Sciences Religieuses, (Sorbonne), Paris, Malamoud is one of the world's leading Indologists, specializing in Vedic and Sanskrit studies. His numerous publications on Indian ritual, mythology and thought include most notably Le sacrifice dans l'Inde ancienne, co-authored with Madeleine Biardeau (Presses Universitaires de France, 1976); Cooking the World : Ritual and Thought in Ancient India, trans. David White (Oxford University Press, 1996); and his most recent, luminous book, entitled Le Jumeau solaire (Seuil, 2000), which is a study on the different figures of the God of death Yama. Malamoud is also a very subtle reader of Derrida, and more generally of contemporary philosophy and psychoanalysis. In his contribution, presented in English, Charles Malamoud will show how Hinduism, by becoming a nationalist ideology, has adopted modes of action and thought patterns that belong to the monotheistic religions. He will also describe an example of resistance against this banalisation by presenting a highly complex ceremony he witnessed in 1990.

Kenneth Reinhard: Jacques Derrida and the Ethics of the Neighbor

Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA and Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, Kenneth Reinhard's fields of research and teaching include Jewish Studies (Torah, Midrash, Modern Jewish Philosophy), the History of Critical and Aesthetic Theory, and Contemporary Critical Theory (Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, Political Theory). He has received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to run an interdisciplinary Sawyer Seminar on "The Ethics of the Neighbor" in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and secular modernity for 2003-2004. He is also the Director of a Residential Research Group on this topic at the University of California Humanities Research Institute for 2004. Those among his numerous publications that are the most relevant for this conference include "The Subject of Religion: Lacan and the Ten Commandments," forthcoming in With Lacan, co-authored with Julia Reinhard Lupton (University of Minnesota Press, 2001); "Revelation," in Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, 2001; and "Jewish Studies and the Secular University: Religion Between Culture and Philosophy" (co-authored with Julia Reinhard Lupton), in Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, 1:1 (December 1999). He is currently writing a book on the ethics of the neighbor in religion (Torah, Talmud, and Patristic writings), philosophy (Kant, Kierkegaard, Adorno, Rosenzweig, and Levinas), and psychoanalysis (Freud and Lacan) for Princeton University Press. Reinhard's contribution to the conference, "Jacques Derrida and the Ethics of the Neighbor," will, through a reading of Derrida, address the ethics of the neighbor in relation to contemporary religious conflicts, especially within Judaism and Islam.

Avital Ronell: Testing the Waters

Avital Ronell is chair of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature at New York University, where she teaches German, English, and Comparative Literature. Prominent among her numerous publications are: The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech (1989); Dictations: On Haunted Writing. (1993); Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania (1993), Finitude's Score : Essays for the End of the Millennium (1998), and Stupidity (2001). Avital Ronell's work investigates the intersections of continental philosophy, media technology, psychoanalysis and politics. Deciphering the "rhetorical unconscious" of discourses and texts has led her to write on a great variety of pressing issues, such as the Gulf War, AIDS, the police, and the politics of technology. Her paper will address the role of media technology in recent conflicts motivated by religion.

Regina Schwartz: The Dark Side of Monotheism: Exclusivism and Terror

Professor of English and Religion at Northwestern University, where her fields are theology and theory, poetry and religion, Regina Schwartz has published widely on topics ranging from Renaissance literature and religious thought to postmodern perspectives on theology and biblical literature. Her contribution to this conference, titled the "The Dark Side of Monotheism: Exclusivism and Terror" grows substantially out of the provocative and highly praised study she published as The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism (University of Chicago Press, 1997), a work that explores and analyses the kinds of exclusionary violence through which religious identities are commonly formed.

Ashley Thompson: (Re)inventing the Wheel: Sexual Difference, Democracy to come and the Impossible Dialectics of the Samsara

Ashley Thompson is Assistant Professor in South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and Visiting Professor at the Centre d’Etudes Féminines of the Université de Paris 8 in 2003-4. A specialist in Khmer Studies, with experience in comparative regional work concerning mainland Southeast Asia, Thompson's research interests involve questions of memory and cultural transition, cult and ritual practices, sexual difference, and the history of Theravada Buddhism. Her publications to date have focused largely on the construction of historiographical discourses in and on the post-Angkorian period (13th-18th c.); she is presently working on a book entitled Engendering History, Cambodia and the Arts of Remembrance, which treats questions of ancient as well as contemporary history from a textual point of view. Her paper draws on research in progress regarding law and justice in the aftermath of Cambodia’s ‘auto-genocide’ in an attempt to open a certain passage from “East” to “West” (and back?): from J. Derrida’s “Roue libre” (Voyous) and the “other truth of the democratic” to the Wheel of the Good Law, the Dharma, set in motion by the Buddha’s first sermon…

Hent de Vries: Minimal Theology, Global Religion

Currently Professor in the Humanities Center at Johns Hopkins University, Hent de Vries held the Chair of Metaphysics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam until January 2003, and was Director of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Internationally recognized in philosophical and theological contexts, he has authored and edited several important volumes treating the interplay of religion, philosophy, and culture in modern and postmodern contexts. Among these are two volumes co-edited with Samuel Weber, Violence, Identity and Self-Determination (Stanford University Press, 1997) and Religion and Media (Stanford University Press, 2001), and two volumes authored under the titles Philosophy and the Turn to Religion (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) and Religion and Violence: Philosophical Perspectives from Kant to Derrida (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). Seeking a middle path between scientific reductionism and confessional testimony, de Vries's contribution to the conference will draw on Derrida and Theodor Adorno in order to analyse the question of "idolatry" and its relation to religion in contemporary thought and culture.

Catherine Weinberger-Thomas: Man in the Extreme: Radical Evil from an Anthropological Perspective

Professor at the Institut National Des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (Paris); researcher at the Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (Paris); author of such works as L'Ashram de l'amour. Le gandhisme et l'imaginaire (EHESS, 1979) and Cendres d'Immortalité. La Crémation des Veuves en Inde (La Seuil, 1996; American translation Ashes of Immortality: Widow-Burning in India, University of Chicago Press, 1999), editor of ); and editor of L'Inde et l'imaginarie (EHESS, 1988), Catherine Weinberger-Thomas has been concerned throughout her work with exploring the meaning and function of cultural tradition and transformation. She has taught and published on the sociology of Hindi literature and its significance for understanding changes in modern Indian ideology (especially Ghandism); Western perceptions of India and their influence on the self-image of Indians in modern times; and widow burning and ritual suicide in India. Much of her current work focuses on anthropological analyses of "the terrible," and her contribution to the conference will explore the question of extreme collective violence and the issue of "humanity in man" from an anthropological perspective.


Conference Description/ Conference Speakers and Paper Titles/ About the Speakers/ Travel and Lodging/ Conference Registration/ Conference Program/ Main Page/ Updates and Announcements