29th – 31st July 2012
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
International Forum Bosnia organised the Seventh International Conference on Unity and Plurality in Europe that was held in Mostar over three days, from 29th - July 31st 2012. The conference was organized in cooperation with individuals and partner organisations from all over the world and took the form of a dynamic exchange among researchers, public activists, and media around three plenary sessions:
• Religion, Identity, and Society,
• Centre and Periphery in Social, Economic, Political and Cultural Life, and
• Europe's Internal and External Others.
The plenary sessions and the public discussions took place at the Hotel Bristol in Mostar, where all official participants were provided with accommodation. Papers presented during the sessions and the inaugural and special lectures will be published in the proceedings of the conference, as in previous years.
1. Project Description
IFB organised the Seventh International Conference on Unity and Plurality in Europe that was held in Mostar from 29th - July 31st 2012, on the theme of Challenges for the Integration of Europe: Peripheral Perspectives.
The three main panels were on Religion, Identity, and Society; Centre and Periphery in Social, Economic, Political and Cultural Life, and; and Europe's Internal and External Others..
International Forum Bosnia hosted six annual International Conferences on Unity and Plurality in Europe (ICUPE) since 2006 in the town of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Previous conferences have been on the themes of the Muslim Question in Europe, the Roma Question, Cultural Diversity, Religion and Public Life, and Diversity, Religion, and the University. The conferences have attracted participants from leading universities in the Balkans, Europe more widely, the near East, and North America, as well as from relevant non-governmental and civil society organisations. Their success in their basic goal of promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue has been accompanied by considerable media and academic interest and many participants have become regular attendees.
Given the evident need for a gathering of this kind, bringing together prominent academics and activists in the areas of cultural and religious dialogue and human rights, the IFB management and its partners determined to expand and institutionalize the event. Since 2009, the conferences have been opened by an inaugural lecture. The keynote speakers for 2009 and 2010 were Prof. Miroslav Volf of Yale and Prof. David F. Ford of Cambridge. Since 2009, the conference has also included a number of public lectures on topics of plural heritage, plural traditions, and human rights, as well as an annual public panel on nationalism in the Balkans, in which leading experts, Prof. Ivo Banac of Yale and Zagreb Universities, Sonja Biserko of the Serbian Helsinki Committee and Prof. Rusmir Mahmutćehajić of the International Forum Bosnia, present their report on developments over the preceding year and their assessment of the outlook for the coming year.
The Conference is a unique global initiative. It combines pluralistic perspectives on religious thought with social scientific research on tolerance, civil society, cultural heritage, and identities. The conference aim is to set in motion changes in knowledge, views, and approaches in the interpretation and application of modern and traditional understandings of the relationship between religion and public life. The entire conference is conceived as a long-term exercise in developing international networks for this type of exchange of knowledge, views, and approaches. The organizers believe that this will contribute to the interpretation of religion as an active factor of peace and act as a barrier to its abuse by ethno-national, ethno-religious, and other ideologies and sources of tension and conflict.
3. Situation analysis
Certain values and ideas whose historical origin is in Europe are often claimed to be universal, the only ones capable of underwriting modern democracies, particularly in the lands of the European periphery (the countries in transition). The liberal and secular ideas of the self and society as atomistic, autonomous, and essentially rational are not, however, automatically accepted in much of the world. Very often the processes of globalization affecting economic processes, knowledge systems, cultural forms, and social structures are experienced as the spread of European forms of mass consumption and the standardization of the structures of everyday life under cover of a claim to Universalism, as the reduction of local identities in the name of political and social freedoms that call on Universal values but are in fact constituted and legitimated against a background of negative projections of Europe's internal and external others. This is particularly true in areas where the public sphere is not secularized, religion remains a public and not a private matter, politics are articulated along with visions of a truth community, and the self is seen as constituted by collective definitions and desideration rather than by purely individual pursuits and interests.
There has been a resurgence of such communitarian views in Europe too, particularly as the expansion of the European Union has brought to the fore alternative value and identity systems that coexist with Enlightenment Universalism in the European space. This has fore-grounded an Other Europe, whose lines of filiation indicate other sources of inspiration and tradition.
The "end of History" has thus proven to be an unravelling, an opening up of Europe to the untidiness of the real historical processes that created it and the plural histories and identity systems they produced. There has been a simultaneous reaction and erection of simplistic master narratives that justify ever more rigid barriers that favour grand antitheses and false dichotomies. The processes of rediscovering diversity, seeking commonalities, recognizing and at times exaggerating differences, and taking refuge in stereotypes are natural and take place both innocently and not so innocently, but the reaction risks a heightening of majoritarian ethnocentricities buttressed by a whole series of internal and external others.
One way of stating the problem facing Europe is in terms of how to recognize the multitudes it contains and accept this diversity as constitutive of its richness, while retaining a common framework of tolerance and pluralism that guarantees the rights and freedoms of all. Another is in terms of how to ensure that the processes of economic and social globalization do not undermine the diversity of cultural and identity systems that constitute Europe. This problem has become increasingly urgent as fear of diversity, under the sign of the threatening, irrational other, has produced a reaction that stresses the (Western) Christian heritage of Europe as constitutive of its identity and ultimately of its Universalism. According to this reaction, the West stands against the Rest and the main questions are where to draw the boundaries and who qualify as Real Europeans.
Critical evaluation of these processes, based on inter-faith understanding grounded in our differences and inter-ethnic understanding grounded in our common humanity, is sorely needed. The terrible simplifications of the Other must be deconstructed in favour of community based on diversity. The ICUPE is devoted to furthering these goals.
The Conference objective is to transform both the theoretical models and concrete practices through which religious orientations and secular models of politics and society engage with one another in the European space, with a particular stress on minority perspectives. Its guiding principle is that if relations of tolerance and understanding between groups are to be built and a civil society shaped, the perceived barrier between secular modern and more traditional religious values must be broken down. Political orientations and social practices must be developed that will draw on both religious traditions and the insights of secular modernity in new and creative ways.
The ICUPE furthers this goal by providing an international, inter-religious conference that explores these issues with participants, civic leaders, and prominent academics from different countries. The conference will be centred on three panels, together with processes of group building and the construction of working relationships across religious and ethnic identities. The didactic goals of the conference are social as well as theoretical.
As this is a regional project, it is supposed to enhance regional cooperation and collaboration by creating stronger cross-border cooperation between citizen and other groups to address common challenges, sharing best practice throughout the region, establishing regional networks, building networks among governments, NGOs, civic initiatives, or other institutions working to improve understanding and cooperation throughout the region.
This year's programme was organized by the International Forum Bosnia (Sarajevo), in cooperation with the Bosnian BH TELECOM.
The conference programme had two separate but related components.
1. The core activity was a number of plenary sessions, at which academics and activists from Bosnia, the wider Balkan region, the near East, Europe, and further afield will present individual papers, to be followed by open discussion. The three sessions were thematically linked with a view to developing new understandings of the intersection of value systems with public life, particularly with regard to social coexistence and plural communities. The topics were:
• Religion, Identity, and Society,
• Centre and Periphery in Social, Economic, Political and Cultural Life,
• Europe's Internal and External Others.
The second activity was a series of three public lectures and discussions. This year the themes were: "Yet another Abraham", "Nationalism and the future of the Balkan countries" and "Libya and Europe".
The three plenary sessions were on:
a) Panel 1: Religion, Identity, and Society
As in the past two years, the first panel was on "Religion, Identity, and Society," a problematic of increasing relevance and urgency in today's world. On the one hand, there is the widespread claim that religion has no direct or explicit place in political process and that it should be excluded from politics on account of its inflammatory potential, while, on the other hand, religion is recognized as an important source of identities, social values, and social institutions, not to mention its role in informing and often directly inspiring the action of political activists. The panel will explore different ways in which systems of religious values, systems of identity management, and understandings of society interact, both in the service of tolerance and pluralism, and as handmaidens of violence and intolerance. A particular stress will be on giving a voice to perspectives which are considered foreign or other by the mainstream and tend to be socially excluded.
b) Panel 2: Centre and Periphery in Social, Economic, Political and Cultural Life
The University is often considered a European invention. As a European institution, however, its roots lie in the first process of globalization, as the pressure of Arab, Mongol, and Turkic incursions prompted the creation of a (Western) European consciousness. As one of the great integrating institutions of the high Middle Ages, the University promoted unity, not infrequently by suppressing diversity. It also proved a cradle of heresies and new forms of knowledge.
Under the current process of advanced globalization, the European University again plays a key role, offering an unrivalled paradigm for the accumulation, management, and exploitation of knowledge via society-permeating information networks. Of all the areas affected by globalization, none is more standardized than knowledge, reflecting the University's primary responsibility of providing the knowledge technicians required to run our societies. The globalization of knowledge works hand in hand with the transformation of social and economic structures around the world. On the other hand, the University is the ultimate cultural institution, within which our cultural traditions are canonized, cherished, and studied. It is the locus of free speech and free thought within society and the enabling environment for critical reflection and the generator of the vision integrating our social and cultural values into an overall framework of social, political, and communal action.
Panellists are encouraged to debate the multiple aspects of the University under globalization and the balance that must be struck between knowledge transfer and the cultural and social standardization it promotes, on the one hand, and the desire to preserve cultural and communal identities that are not mere post-modern simulacra, on the other. Panellists are also encouraged to discuss the potential for a creative co-option of the University by non-European societies in ways that transcend or at least differ markedly from the European paradigm. One particular area of interest is the creation of non-Christian and non-Secular traditions of the University and their relevance for a Europe open to alternative influences.
c) Panel 3: Europe and its Internal and External Others
The third panel dealt with the European process at its most hopeful and its most problematic. Europe is less a clearly defined geographical or even cultural entity than an idea and an ideal of social and political order. Europe is often identified with democracy, equity and social justice, political rationality, and personal liberty, as a model that stresses the combination of economic prosperity with a just social order. This explains the attractiveness of the European Union model in the past two decades. Unfortunately, this social and political model is often presented as though organically related to a particular civilizational model, that of (post)-Christian Europe, through a discourse of the fundamental incompatibility of European and non-European cultural traditions, of the inherent superiority of certain traditions over others, and of elective affinities for democracy or tyranny, tolerance and intolerance, and liberty or submission. This has fostered the constitution of a range of internal and external Others, as even within the new, expanded European Union, lines are drawn between North and South, East and West, Native and Foreign, Secular-Christian and Fundamentalist Muslim, the main purpose being to establish hierarchies on the basis of a terrible simplicity. This forces the peripheral countries to ask what the European project means for them – subordination, assimilation, or empowerment?
Alternatives perspectives exist, however. Under conditions of European expansion and the creation of a common European space, the multi-national cities of Eastern Europe and the Balkans and the patchwork of small peoples and cultures that spread from Austria-Hungary to Russia appear less as relics of the past than as precursors of an increasingly variegated future. Similar plural societies are springing up all over the European Union, thanks both to European migration and high rates of immigration from outside of Europe. It has become almost meaningless to ask what is the ethnicity of the typical Londoner, Parisian, or Berliner and there has been a rediscovery of the diversity and hybridity of all culture and of the dialectical nature of the civilizing process (a better and more useful concept that that of civilizations).
29th July 2012
Gil Anidjar, "Yet another Abraham"
Moderator: Krsto Mijanović
July 30th 2012
Gil Anidjar and Arif Ali Nayed
THE FIRST PANEL
Religion, Identity, and Society
Panel moderator Gareth Jones
Ivo Banac, "Coexistence and Confrontation: The Confluence of Religion and Politics in the Balkans"
Mile Babić, "The Abrahamic Religions between Confrontational and Relational Thought"
Muhammad Al-Hussaini "Sacred Text, Holy War: Islamic and Jewish Exegetical Scholarship in Countering Intolerance"
Israel Knohl, "The Beginnings of Biblical Monotheism and the Possibility of Religious Tolerance"
William Fisher, "From Racism to Culturalism: Re-examining Anthropological Tool Kits in a World on Edge"
Ori Goldberg, "Meeting God: An Anthropological Framework for a Particular Religious Experience"
Dalia Knohl, "The Criticism of Grief in Hebrew culture"
Marko Antonio Brkić, "Recognition as an Upgrade of the Identity Formation Process"
Kurt Anders Richardson, "Religious Democracies in the 21st Century: Possibilities and Realities"
Rusmir Mahmutćehajić, "Democracy within the doctrine of the closure of prophecy"
Centre and Periphery in Cultural, Social, and Economic Life
Panel moderator Asim Zubčević
Amra Hadžimuhamedović "Bosnian Historic Urban Landscapes under Pressure of Amnesia and Simulacra"
Asim Zubčević "Relations between Muslim and Christian Characters in Bosnian Muslim Folk Poetry"
Džamna Duman, "Child Rights in contemporary international law: A Bosnian perspective"
Lejla Nakaš "Old Bosnian Alhamijad Poetry on the Paraclete"
Lada Buturović "Chretien de Troyes and Avdo Medjedovic: Written vs. Oral"
Nerin Dizdar "The Synchronized Tabooing of Mass Crimes (The Hasanaginica Case Study)"
Kerima Filan "Profane and Sacral Time in the Chronicles of Mula Mustafa Bašeskija"
Andrea Feldman "Imbre Tkalac's perspectives on Bosnia"
Gorčin Dizdar "Stećak and Ororots: Traces of a Heretical Visual Culture?"
Safet Hadžimuhamedović "And God Saw that It Was Good: Bosnian Landscape as the Language of Organic Unity"
Nationalism and the Future of the Balkan Countries
Panellists Sonja Biserko, Ivo Banac and Rusmir Mahmutćehajić
Moderator Desmond Maurer
July 31st 2012
Europe's Internal and External Others
Panel moderator Aleksandar Bošković
Paul Ballanfat, "Poisoning politics"
Obrad Savić, "Europe in the Age of Victims: the Rhethoric of Apology"
Mohamed Elsharkawy, "World plurality within Muslim intellectual perspectives"
Desmond Maurer, "Europe: Sovereignty, Supremacy and Peace"
Dušan Bjelić, "From "Family Myth" to "Family Resemblances" or, How to Think about the Euro-Family without Castration"
Fikret Čaušević, "State Capitalism versus Private Capitalism: a Crisis of Economic Science"
Fatima Mahmutćehajić, "The Dignity of Consumers in the Cyber World"
Aleksandar Bošković, "Ship of Fools: Serbian politics in Search of Europe"
Niyazi Öktem, "Secularism and Religious Minorities in Turkey"
Samir Beglerović, "A Review of Two Documents regarding the Resolution against the Prosecution of the Serbs and Jews Written in Višegrad (Eastern Bosnia) during the Second World War"
18.00 - 19.30
Aref Ali Nayed "Libya and Europe"
Moderator: Rusmir Mahmutćehajić
A public performance of
Bosnian Love Songs,
Amira Medunjanin and Boško Jović
THE HIDR GALLERY
During the conference, the first exhibition of the HIDR Gallery will be held. It comprises 20 pictures by students of Sarajevo University's Architecture Faculty during their study visits to Stolac. The students have donated their work for sale to raise funds for the restoration of the cultural heritage of Stolac. The HIDR Gallery is a long term joint project of the International Forum Bosnia and Sarajevo University Architecture Faculty and the regular exhibitions will showcase the heritage of different Bosnian towns.
8. Materials and interactions
Chair speakers are expected to prepare written contributions after the Conference and latest by November 30th. The complete agenda and accompanying materials (original contributions and selected readings) will be prepared for each panel and sent to participants in advance.
The conference programme included 48 researchers from all over the world, as well as participants in various enterprises focused on understanding and strengthening trust among the different collective identities in contemporary societies. Participants at the conference were leading researchers from all over the world. The panels were open to interested politicians and policy makers, researchers, third sector activists, and the media from the region and beyond.
Following each conference, the materials that were basis for the plenary sessions have been collected and conference proceedings prepared as issues of the journal Forum Bosnae: no. 38/07 and no. 39/07 with contributions from 2006; no. 44/08, covering topics from 2007, no. 46/08, and no. 48/09 with materials from 2008, and no. 49/10 and 51/10 with papers from 2009 and 2010. Same will be prepared this year.