Paper proposals are invited for a small conference entitled “The Life and Work of G.I. Gurdjieff: Caucasian Influence in Contemporary Thought and Culture” funded in part by a grant the Civic Education Project, to be held May 21-23, 2004 in Yerevan and Gyumri, Armenia. Scholars are invited to examine the various dimensions of the life and thought of G.I. Gurdjieff and in particular the Caucasian and Armenian roots of his work.
Conference Topic: G.I. Gurdjieff (d. 1949) is an important figure in early 20th century philosophical and religious thought who continues to be influential throughout the world. Gurdjieff was born in Gyumri, Armenia and throughout the period of his early travels continued to return to his home there until at least 1920. During Gurdjieff’s lifetime many authors of note were either directly influenced or inspired by his work, including Jean Toomer, René Daumal, Henry Miller, and Katherine Mansfield. Since his death in 1949, a growing body of secondary literature connected to his work has been produced in psychology, philosophy, literature, health, ecology, and religion. British author Martin Seymour-Smith has recently included Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson in his work The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today.
Conference Theme: While many works have been written about his life and work, few have addressed the Caucasian and specifically Armenian character of his work. Further, even though Gurdjieff is known outside of the Caucasus, many Armenians remain unfamiliar with him. This conference will take a great step in redressing these imbalances. We will host a three day conference in which presentations and discussions will take place that investigate Gurdjieff, his life, his work, as well as his ideas. In particular, we hope to highlight and explore the roots of his identity and his role as an important philosopher and thinker of the Caucasus. We hope to introduce Gurdjieff to a wider, as well as local, audience and to present and discuss various aspects of his life and teaching. As a result of the conference we would like to form a bridge of exchange that will serve both the global community that holds an interest in Gurdjieff and the local communities of Armenia and the Caucasus in general. By holding the conference in the very heart of Gurdjieff’s homeland, we expect to make new global connections to the Caucasus, a project that has only become possible since Armenia’s break from the Soviet Union.
Planned Activities: The conference will last for a total of three days. We will have two full days of presentations, film screenings, and discussions. In particular, we hope to present a range of papers delivered on Gurdjieff and the major themes in his writings, including the subject of the language that his works were originally written in (Armenian and Russian), the Caucasian dimensions of his teaching (e.g. The meals and toasts that formed the basis for his meetings with people), his influence on contemporary art and culture, as well as papers that situate his work in contemporary philosophical and religious thought. On the third day, we plan an excursion to Gyumri for sightseeing and to visit Gurdjieff’s home where we can see the remains of one of the houses that Gurdjieff lived in as well as Gurdjieff’s father’s grave. On the final evening, we will conclude the conference with a banquet where participants and guests will have a chance to experience the culture of the Caucasian banquet and toasting.
Paper Proposals: Proposals addressing Gurdjieff’s thought and cultural identity and aspects of the cultures that influenced his ideas, teaching and writing are welcomed. However, papers are particularly encouraged that undertake original research speaking to one or more of the following areas of inquiry.
Gurdjieff’s Influence in Contemporary Culture and Thought
Gurdjieff’s Caucasian and/or Armenian Identity
Gurdjieff’s Writings: Language and Terminology
Gurdjieff’s “Toast of the Idiots”
Gurdjieff’s View of War.
Scholars, researchers and students interested in presenting papers at the conference should send a paper proposal by e-mail to: Michael Pittman (firstname.lastname@example.org). The working languages of the conference will be English and Armenian. The deadline for the submission of paper proposals is 8 March, 2004. Authors of the paper selected for the conference will be notified by 15 March, 2004. Some in country expenses may be paid for a few of the participants. Please indicate any particular needs with proposal submissions.
Participants will be required to submit the full text of their respective papers to the conference organizers by 7 May, 2004 (2 weeks before the conference).
It is anticipated that the conference papers will be published as a volume. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the conference organizers will have first option on all papers presented at the conference, and will let participants know by 15 November, 2004 whether they will exercise that option.
Informal preliminary inquiries regarding paper submissions are welcome and may be directed to the email address indicated above.
***If you are interested in attending but not presenting at the conference, please use the E-mail address above for questions or to receive more information about expenses, accommodations, etc.
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