Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Opening of the International Graduate School of the University of Graz and the Max Weber Kolleg of the University of Erfurt

The opening of the International Graduate School " Resonant Self—World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices" took place at the Karl Franzens University in Graz from 16th to 18th October. On the 1st of October the joint International Graduate School (IGS) of the University of Graz and the Max Weber Kolleg of the University of Erfurt commenced its work under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt) and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Spickermann (Graz). Over the next three years the first cohort of doctoral students from both locations will work on their PhD-thesis in various disciplines and also using Hartmut Rosas resonance theory.  
Together with members of the Erfurt and Grazer faculties Teresa Morgan (Oxford) and Hubert Knoblauch (Berlin) acted as key-speakers during the conference. The resonance theory was applied in various historical and theoretical contexts. The core of the conference was the presentation of the doctoral thesis of the erfurter and grazer PhD-Students - which were presented for the first time to the entire faculty.
The conference served as thematic, methodical and theoretical orientation of the research program. It also built a platform for all researchers who are involved in this program and will work together in the coming four years, to get to know each other. An essential element of the program is an one-year research stay at the respective partner institution.
As highlight of the autumn-conference an agreement was signed between the Karl-Franzen-University of Graz and the University of Erfurt, thus officially confirming the joint education of the young researchers. While the Prof. Dr. Spickermann (Graz-Speaker) underlined the will of academic cooperation between the researchers of Graz and Erfurt, Prof Dr. Walter Bauer-Wabnegg (President of the University of Erfurt) emphasized the importance of the signed joint agreement for doctoral studies. The agreement does not only emphasize the internationality of the institutions involved, but also expresses the demand for high quality standards in the participating humanities in Erfurt and Graz. Univ.-Prof. Dr. Christa Neuper (Grazer Rector) spoke about the high expectations of the doctoral students of the joint program. The program is the first graduate-research-program in the field if humanities at the university of Graz.
The joint program is funded jointly by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). It will initially run for the next four years, with new work positions and PhD proposals every year.

The next IGS-Conference will be held in Erfurt in April.

Monday, 23 October 2017

A Conference is taking place on "Urban Religion in Late Antiquity"

The role of religion in creating socio-spatial and temporal order in cities has been an important topic in research: from ceremonial centers and cities of Meso- and South America through not only Near Eastern and ancient Mediterranean, but also Chinese, Indian and medieval European cities. Historical research has reconstructed such functions in many instances, and recent sociological studies, above all research on migration, have inquired into processes of inclusion and exclusion, tolerance and competition caused or experienced by immigrating minorities that proffer different or identical religious identities. Yet some questions still need to be tackled. How is religion used by different agents to appropriate and ‘craft’ urban space over time? How do religious practices and imaginaries produce a transcending global that is different from other projections of the trans-urban? And how does the urban context change different or even competing practices of religious communication and the ensuing forms of sacralization? In addressing these questions, we do not suppose an easy evolutionary path. We rather assume high variability in the mutually productive relationship between the developments of urban-based religious practices and the developments of cities being confronted with, and building on, agents who use religious practices in different phases of the history of religion.

Within the wider framework of a larger comparative approach, this conference aims to focus on these processes in the historical context of the advanced imperial and late antique Mediterranean space (2nd century CE–8th century CE). This is a period of sustained change and ever new appropriation of urban spaces by ever different agents within clearly articulated and monumentalized built environments. We are interested in the individuals’ making of urban space and in the processes of groupings following on, or directed against, such built environments. We are looking for archaeological evidence not only of new structures, but also of rebuilding, ignoring or actively avoiding spaces, as well as of creating coherent or dis-coherent urban spaces by patterns of movements or marking in religious terms. We are searching for textual evidence for such strategies, as well as for imaginations of urban spaces, ritual practices, religious narratives or norms of re-interpreting and transcending them. We are as much interested in the mutual constitution as in the mutual critique of the urban and the religious in a global horizon.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Felipe Torres gives a working paper on "Conceptualize Future(s). Utopia and Acceleration"

Is there a relation between Utopia and Acceleration? And both of them with the future? How we can think the modern notion of utopia related with a notion of acceleration? Are they in fact linked with a conception of future?
As it is well-known the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe is a project particularly focused into define the fundamental concepts of Modernity. Two of these concepts identified by Reinhart Koselleck are Utopia and Acceleration. In simply terms Utopia is a crucial concept in at least 3 levels: a) political because it is the emergence of a new world possible, b) historical in terms of speech that must be oriented to the History in the future (not the past as in the Historia magistrae vitae); and c) temporal because all this concluding in an increasing of speed in order to reach a World conception similar to the utopia, that creates conditions for that some scholars have called acceleration (Virilio 2012; Rosa 2013; Avenessian & Mackay 2014). On the other hand, acceleration is understood by Koselleck as consequence progressive increases of frequencies of change. In this sense acceleration is related with structural conditions of modern history.
In this respect, there are a group of several writings in which Reinhart Koselleck (2002; 2006; 2012) describes the main characters of the utopia and acceleration separately as crucial concepts of Modern Times. The utopia it is described as a projection of new and better society inside the future. Meanwhile acceleration is understanding as progressive increase of frequencies of change, results in a temporalization of the history, particularly in a futurization one. At this point emerges the first point of convergence between them: both utopia and acceleration concludes in a futurization of history.
However, Koselleck´s approach has not its focus in the possible mutual implications on these 2 concepts. At least, the relation among them was not attended as principal issue. Following a couple of emblematic texts from conceptual history on this (Hölscher 1999; Koselleck 2006) we propose to explore the relation between the emergency of a utopian conception of the history and the acceleration of different processes as consequence of purposes for a better society(ies) into the future. Believing in a better future that can be reached by precise efforts, utopia promotes a fruitful environment for an acceleration of sociohistorical processes.
Shortly, the hypothesis with we will work is the following: there is no acceleration process possible without a utopian notion, and this have not just severe consequences in compression of History, but in political terms, i.e. as temporalization of promises for better societies on the future (as utopia), but as soon as possible (in terms of acceleration).

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Bettina Hollstein gives a working paper on "Corruption indices in the light of pragmatist ethics"

At the international level and in the general public, corruption is acknowledged, in particular, by the work of Transparency International (TI). A major impetus to raise awareness about corruption is the wide range of empirical research and rankings of corruption indices, which comparatively assess levels of corruption in the world and publish new reports every year on the most corrupt countries in the world. The first index to make headlines worldwide, which is also the best-known case to date, is the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) that was first published by TI in 1995 and measures the perception of corruption. In addition, the Bribe Payers Index (BPI), which is a ranking of the countries whose companies are willing to pay bribes in developing countries also appeared in 1999. The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB), which TI has published since 2006, is intended to provide a more comprehensive picture of corruption in a large region. Since 1996, the World Bank has presented the Worldwide Governance Indicators that are measured in six dimensions. The sixth dimension named Control of Corruption also measures the degree of corruption on a global scale. Therefore, there is no shortage of measurement of corruption and attention to the issue.
However, the underlying corruption concepts are often relatively out of focus in public debates, as well as in the respective indices and, hence, remain rather intuitive and conceptually unclear due to the absence of an underlying theory.
In this paper, the corruption concepts used in broadly collected empirically measured corruption indices are examined from the perspective of a pragmatist economic ethics, in order to determine how corrupt action is conceived and what contribution these concepts can make to the fight against corruption.  At the same time this analysis will also allow us to draw conclusions for corruption research on the one hand and economic ethics on the other.
To this end, (section 2), criteria of a pragmatist economic ethics will be identified and concepts of corruption are to be investigated with their aid. In the third section four central international corruption indices will be considered in light of the previously developed criteria. In the last section (4), a number of conclusions are drawn for a pragmatist economic ethics of corruption.

Kathi Beier presents a working paper on "Human virtue—the measure of all virtue?"

In his ethical writings, Aristotle establishes a strong link between a substance's peculiar work or "function" (ergon) and its virtue (arete). But what does ergon mean exactly? And how are we to understand, in turn, the concept of virtue? The aim of the paper is to offer some evidence to suggest that Aristotle, unlike Plato, does not maintain a functionlist conception of virtue. Rather, he defines virtue psychologically and he argues in anthropocentric terms. This means that there is reason to believe Aristotle defines virtue with respect to human virtue, and that he takes other kinds of virtue, for example, the virtues of the horse, to be virtues by analogy. Therefore, the paper (i) rejects the functionalist reading of Aristotelian virtue and, thereby, (ii) naturalistic and culturalistic approaches to modern virtue ethics that read Aristotle in functional terms, and (iii) reflects on the question whether, for Aristotle, human virtue is the measure of all virtue.