“A Perfect World?" (Third Salzburg Institute Symposium, University of Salzburg, Austria, July 31, 2014)

full name / name of organization: 
Gregor Thuswaldner, The Salzburg Institute of Religion, Culture and the Arts
contact email: 
symposium@salzburg-institute.org

The conditions for perfect worlds, of utopias and dystopias, and the possible dangers of such concepts have preoccupied not only religious and philosophical thinkers, but also writers, composers, visual artists, stage and film directors, and other artists. Such visions have often stood at the center of political ideologies, including communism and fascism. Their adherents are promised a perfect world, the attainment of which sanctions censorship, terrorism, the confinement of internal enemies, genocide, and war. But visions of perfect worlds are not restricted to the political, religious, and philosophical realms. The peddlers of today’s Western pop-culture still advertise a perfect future to the disillusioned. Religious cults, televangelists, pop-psychologists, designers of virtual worlds, quality managers, and advertisers seem to offer a perfect world just out of reach.

What does this desire for a perfect world indicate about our understanding of ourselves and others, our present and our future? Is disgust with the present and the yearning for a better future, as religious thinkers have often suggested, proof of our inherent religiosity or even the existence of God? Or is this longing for a perfect world, as secularists at least since Nietzsche have maintained, a mythological remnant of our infancy as a species, a weakness that renders us vulnerable to exploitation and keeps us from attending to the pressing issues of this present world?

The Third Salzburg Institute Symposium aims to critically analyze past and present visions of a perfect world.

The interdisciplinary and international symposium appeals to scholars of various disciplines (the humanities, sociology, philosophy, literature, history, political science, religious studies, Jewish studies, and theology among others).

Possible topics include:
• Religions as advocates for, or critics of promises for a perfect world
• Philosophical pessimism or optimism concerning a perfect world. The world as best possible world or a world that requires aesthetic relief?
• The perfect world problem in literature
• Musical or pictorial portrayals of the perfect or imperfect world
• The role and function of utopias and dystopias
• Political ideologies and those who want to (mis)guide into a perfect future
• Yearning for a perfect world in movies
• Current prophets of a perfect world
• Communication and computer technologies promising perfect virtual worlds
• Transhumanism and the promise of a perfect humanity

Please send abstracts for papers in German or English and a brief bio by May 1, 2014 to symposium@salzburg-institute.org Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes in length. The organizers cannot offer contributors compensation for conference- or travel expenses.

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african-american
american
childrens_literature
classical_studies
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
ecocriticism_and_environmental_studies
eighteenth_century
ethnicity_and_national_identity
film_and_television
interdisciplinary
international_conferences
modernist studies
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