The Human Condition Series is an ongoing series of international, multidisciplinary conferences that seek to address the current state of the human condition. It aims to bring together people from a variety of disciplines to assess a singular topic from artistic, cinematic, literary, ethical, social, political, philosophical, psychological and religious perspectives. We encourage you to share innovative ideas and new ways of thinking and acting. Submissions will be considered on any related theme and we especially welcome papers, reports, works-in-progress, workshops and sessions. This year's theme is Terror.
The Choice of Terror as the 2008 Theme:
This conference is part of a larger series of ongoing conferences, run under the general banner of The Human Condition Series. The series is an international, multidisciplinary conference that seeks to address the current state of the human condition. It aims to bring together people from a variety of disciplines to assess a singular topic from artistic, cinematic, literary, moral, social, political, philosophical, psychological and religious perspectives. We encourage you to share innovative ideas and new theorization. Submissions will be considered on any related theme and we especially welcome papers, reports, works-in-progress, workshops and sessions.
It seems right to say that since 9/11 all western societies have been forced to accept the significance of international and non-nation-state forms of terrorism. As these forms of terrorism have only spread and worsened globally, a conference on Terror would be very timely. But if 9/11 changed anything with respect to this timelines, it was not in forcing the sudden realization that there is a terrorist threat against which we must mobilize. It was in awakening us to the critical realization that the significance of the threat can reside in other spaces and forms. Today, in witnessing the intense tactics of social mobilization throughout the Western world, it becomes clear that the truly significant phenomena are those diverse forms of terror used in these very tactics of mobilization. One witnesses governed uses of fear, insecurity, states of emergency and pathologies. One experiences them in our communities, schools, public institutions, consumption patterns and societal relations. These tactics and forms have precise histories that have been extended beyond the Western world and long pre-date 9/11. Herein lay the timeliness of these significant forms of terror which are never reducible to the forms of terrorism. The former reveal an historical and social backdrop intimate with terrorized and terrorizing activities, for which the new international terrorism is only a recent and partial player (though clearly a pressing one). In our view it is highly appropriate to stage a conference on Terror if one multiplies the fields of critical research beyond the priority that is too often accorded, quite uncritically at times, the new forms of international terrorism (especially by the mainstream Western media).
The concept of Terror is often found safely hidden and un-thought in diverse cultural, philosophical, and religious traditions and ways of life. One can see these safe havens extending from the divine mythologies of religious experience to the seemingly opposed rationalized life of contemporary hi-tech societies. With respect to religious experience, it is clear that we have to seriously reconsider the dynamics of organized religion in the face of rising religious fundamentalisms and terrorist activity. But terror in the highly rationalized world of technological societies can also impose its existing logic as a way of maintaining the order of things. We give it various positive names that conceal its potency and negative effects – at precise moments in history terror’s potency has appeared in benign terms such as “child welfare”, “residential schools”, the “founding nation”, the “developed world”, the “hysterical woman”, the “mentally ill”, the “social and sexual deviant”, the “immigrant problem”, the “disposable income” and the “democratic liberation of other peoples”. It is essentially the absurd rationalizations of these terms in the face of concrete realities that covers over terror’s effects and keeps it intact.
Most importantly, the conference is interested in investigating what role Terror has in maintaining the contemporary condition of humanity and what hope there is of envisioning a condition in which Terror is natural and organic rather than strategic and imposed.