International Conference in Bamberg, Germany
24-26 May 2007

Conference Report

Nature, Space and the Sacred: Transdisciplinary Perspectives.

On May 24-26, the European Forum for the Study of Religion and the Environment, coordinated by Prof. Sigurd Bergmann, University of Trondheim , held its first international Conference in Bamberg , Germany . The conference was hosted by the University of Bamberg and the local representative of the executive committee of the forum, Prof. Dr. Heinrich Bedford Strohm.

The executive committee of the Forum held an initial meeting in Bamberg in May 2006, when the preparation for the Conference began. An immediate decision was to engage as many women as keynote speakers as men, in order to secure the gender-balance of the conference, and also make the choice of keynote speakers illuminate as many angles of the theme “Nature, Space and the Sacred” as possible.

The theme of the conference was chosen in order to attract as wide a field of scholars as possible, and to make visible the interdisciplinary ambition of the Forum. The strategy was very successful: the conference gathered graduate as well as post-graduate scholars from diverse academic fields as diverse as archaeology, philosophy, geography, anthropology, ethics, theology, religious studies, ethnology, architecture, landscape architecture , history of religions and political science. The ambition of the Forum to welcome scholars from inside as well as outside Europe, was also fulfilled by the conference, which could count scholar-friends from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Swiss Republic, Germany, South Africa, Canada, United States and Kyrgyzstan among its participants.

The conference started on the evening of Thursday, 24 May with remarks of welcome by Heinrich Bedford Strohm and Sigurd Bergmann. The academic programme began with a key-note speech by theologian prof. em. Anne Primavesi, University of London , “Transforming Religious Perspectives on Nature in Response to Climate Change”, where the category of gift was used as a paradigm for the interrelation between humans and nature. After discussion, the vice President of the University of Bamberg , Prof. Dr. Rainer Drewello, welcomed the participants to enjoy a delicious buffet provided by the University.

Friday morning followed with key-note speakers geographer prof. em. Anne Buttimer, University College of Dublin presenting “Nature, Culture and the Quest of the Sacred” about the interrelations between religions and their geographical context, and prof. John Grim, Yale University “Indigenous Knowledge and a Sense of Place” about the Crow-indians and the sense of place illustrated in their Sun-dance ritual.

After this inspiring start, the programme continued with two parallel paper-sessions, where more than 20 papers were presented and discussed. The overall opinion of these sessions was that they provided thought-provoking and encouraging comments and discussions.

The late afternoon was spent with a guided walk through historic Bamberg , a Unesco world-heritage.

Friday night ended with a panel discussion where the former Mayor of Heidelberg , Beate Weber, and Andreas Starke, Mayor of Bamberg , discussed their experience of promoting policies in support of sustainable urban-planning.

The last day of the conference, Saturday 26 May, offered two splendid key-notes by Prof. Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University , and anthropologist Prof. Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen . Prof Tucker presented “The Philosophy and Practice of Ch'i in East Asia ” and Prof. Ingold “The Wedge and the Knot: Hammering and Stitching the Face of Nature.”

Before closing the conference in time for lunch, the future activities of the Forum were discussed in plenum, and the Forum decided to arrange its second conference in Abo , Finland in 2009. Many participants expressed their satisfaction with the inspiring discussions at the conference and their intention to continue this very fruitful exchange between scholars from such a variety of national and cultural backgrounds and different disciplines in the future.

Maria Jansdotter

See also : Universität Bamberg, report

See also: Report, Farah Lenser

A Conference Report (English, French, Spanish) by Anne Buttimer can be found on:
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