“Religion as Revolution” at McGill

This weekend I’ve come to McGill with my friend Kate to attend McGill’s Religious Studies’ graduate conference entitled “Religion as Revolution”. It has been a fruitful two day conference, with many new faces and friends made – and definitely something to return to next year, and a place to properly contribute something. =

On friday there were two keynote talks, one by micro historian Johannes Wolfart, and another by Travis Kroeker, a philosopher from the religious studies department at McMaster university. Whereas Wolfart dismissed the categories of “religion” and “revolution” as un fruitful “second order abstractions”, Kroeker expressed a fidelity to both these notions – recognizing the importance of fidelity to universalisms in our possible appropriation of a world changing event to-come. During question period I pointed out that Wolfart’s claim that “there is no data for revolutions” is trivially true – there is no data for any empirical universalities – every abstraction gained from individual examples is subject to the contingency of the possible failure of the next example to be fruitfully explained by the construct. The talks were followed by much wine, and open discussion with the keynote presenters. Kroeker, it turns out, finds my dissertation project very appealing – he encourages me to go on “fighting the good fight” in making Heidegger comprehensible and meaningful to people outside nerdy Heidegger circles.

Today, Saturday, was comprised of 3 seminar blocks and one “salon” block. For a graduate conference, it was huge – there were 3 or 4 panels during each seminar block, and 4 “salons”. The seminar blocks were normal (several presenters, followed by questions). One was especially excellent – a block on “Heidegger, Camus and the critique of modernity”, where a student from Trent gave a particularly excellent paper on the Death of God in Heidegger and the wider situation. The “Salon” block was novel – a block devoted to free and open discussion around a few quotes. The salon I picked, entitled “religion as critique of global capital” had its tone set by short quotes from Zizek, Freud and Heidegger. The discussion was quite fruitful, with many voices contributing, real disagreements exposed, and many clarifications made present.

The conference was followed by an excellent vegan diner of indian food which, and I’m not kidding here, reminded me deeply of “Curry Point”, a UBC institution. And then the pub, which served pints of Maudite at normal pint-prices. Pints of Maudite ought be illegal – it’s like two pints in one!

Tomorrow it’s back on the train to Toronto – school, courses, papers, grading etc… But – the term is nearly over, and in only one more month I’m off to Ireland for a week long academic festival of methodological nerdyness.

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