26 March 2010

CONF: Orthodox Constructions of the West

The Solon and Marianna Patterson Triennial Conference for the Theological and Historical Examination of the Orthodox/Catholic Dialogue "Orthodox Constructions of the West", hosted by the Orthodox Christian Studies Program at Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus, O'Hare Hall, New York City, USA, 28-30 June 2010


From the rationale: "Orthodox authors, especially in the twentieth century, had created artificial categories of 'East' and 'West' and then used that distinction as a basis for self-definition. The history of Orthodox Christianity is typically narrated by Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike as developing in the 'East', which is geographically ambiguous, but usually refers to the region in Europe east of present-day Croatia, Hungary and Poland. In contemporary Orthodoxy, 'West' refers not simply to a geographical location, but to a form of civilization that was shaped and influenced by Latin Christendom, which includes both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The 'West,' thus, represents a cluster of theological, cultural and political ideas against which Orthodox self-identify. In other words, Orthodox self-identification often engages in a distorted apophaticism: Orthodoxy is what the 'West' is not.

"Given that much of the Orthodox world has until recently suffered oppression from the Ottomans and the Communists, one can read the creation of the 'East-West' binary as a post-colonial search for an authentic Orthodox identity in the wake of such domination. After centuries of repression, it is not surprising that the Orthodox recovery of identity would take the form of opposition to that which is seemingly the religious, cultural and political 'Other.' The question that the conference will attempt to answer is whether such a construction has as much to do with Orthodox identify formation vis-à-vis the West as it does with genuine differences. By creating this opposition to the 'West,' do Orthodox communities not only misunderstand what Western Christians believe but, even more egregiously, have they come to believe certain things about their own tradition and teachings that are historically untrue?

"The importance of addressing these questions is not simply limited to the theological realm. There is evidence of anti-democracy and anti-human rights rhetoric coming from traditional Orthodox countries that have recently been liberated from communism, and this rhetoric often associates liberal forms of democracy and the notion of human rights in general as 'Western' and, therefore, not Orthodox. In other words, the self-identification vis-à-vis the 'West' is affecting the cultural and political debates in the traditional Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe. Insofar as this conference addresses the broader theme of identity formation, its impact is potentially far-reaching, as it hopes to influence the production of theological, cultural and political ideas within contemporary Orthodoxy."

Keynote speakers: Robert F. Taft, SJ (formerly Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome) and Sarah Coakley (Cambridge)

According to the website, registration for the conference was set to begin in February. There is however no registration information to be found yet. I presume that it may be added soon.

Alternatively, contact one of the Co-Founding Directors of Fordham's Orthodox Christian Studies Program, George Demacopoulos: damacopoulos@fordham.edu
or Aristotle Papanikolaou: papanikolaou@fordham.edu

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