The three-day conference will involve contributions from the field of Philosophy, European Classical Antiquity; studies on South and South East Asian classical texts and the social sciences on contemporary East and West. Geographically the focus is on Asian and Euro-American cultural traditions and practices. Contributions on ancient classical sources, middle age; recent history and contemporary are welcomed.
Specific sessions planned are:
* South and Southeast Asian sources and traditions
* Classical Western (Ancient Greek and Latin) traditions
* Studies on contemporary contexts in East and West as well as an additional session on specific case-studies in relation to war, migration, diasporas and persecutions.
Please visit our website www.iias.nl for a detailed description per theme.
One or more publications are planned.
Although a term like ‘friendship’ can be called universal, in the sense that it finds its local, varying expressions in time and place, in many respects it remains an elusive concept. In anthropology for example, it seems even more evasive than the much analyzed and debated concept of ’kinship’. The local moralities in which ‘friendship’ is embedded are contextual and shifting. To find appropriate concepts to express its fluidity and shades of permanence becomes a genuine challenge. Still, universally it tends to be seen as a valuable relationship of some kind.
The aim of this conference is to further our understanding of the various meanings and practices that can be attached to the term ‘friendship’ both in different social and cultural contexts and historical periods. Which are the semantic implications and the specific terminology attached to this concept in Asian and Euro-American languages?
Further shades of ‘friendship’ tend to be articulated within a wider set of relationships and moralities; also one language can articulate differing conceptual meanings but also provide more nuances in naming styles of friendship.
The term ‘friendship’ functions merely as an overall catchword – not more. The English term is by no means a culturally neutral concept. It tends to carry as prerequisites that bonds of friendship should be ‘voluntary’ and ‘intimate’ and be marked by an ‘absence of ulterior ends’. Only when these conditions are met, is a friendship experienced to be ‘sincere’ and valuable. Sincerity is seen as the most exclusive and highly valued form of expression ‘friendship’ can take. The morality that any form of ‘instrumentality’ in friendship somehow dilutes the quality of the relationship in some way follows naturally from this view. The English term also implicitly involves some base of ‘equality’ between friends, which need not be universal.
As will be discussed in the session on European Classical Studies the pre-Christian Western notions of friendship, especially the Greek ‘philia’ and Roman ‘amicitia’, are influential concepts shedding light on existing preconceptions about ‘modern’ Euro-American friendship. Nevertheless apart from the risk of inadvertently conflating apparently similar concepts, direct lines of continuity cannot be easily drawn. Distinguishing between historical lines of (dis)continuity and mere conceptual similarity is complex and requires analysis and debate.
In The Theft of History (Cambridge University Press, 2006) the anthropologist Jack Goody draws attention to the continuing Eurocentric or occidentalist biases in much of western historical writing on the West. In this work, Goody points to the prevailing tendency among many western authors/scholars to claim certain central concepts (and ‘virtues’) like ‘democracy’, ‘capitalism’, ‘individualism’ and also certain emotions such as ‘love’, as exclusively ‘western inventions’, created out of ‘western’ historical traditions. He attempts to discredit this teleological way of thinking, which he views as equally overrating the element of continuity in European history as well as underrating parallel developments and contributions in other cultures. Contributions from Islamic, Arab societies, from the East (China, India Japan and others) and also from oral cultures tend to remain unconsidered.
In reconsidering today the ideal of ‘friendship’, Goody’s analysis will provide a source of inspiration, when debating the variety of concepts and shifting practices and meanings of ‘friendship’ in both East and West.
- Prof. Carla Risseeuw, IIAS Fellow (anthropologist) (Overall convenor and session convenor on friendship in contemporary East and West).
For further information on content of the conference please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
- Dr. Silvia d’Intino, Indologist, Senior Researcher CNRS, Paris (Session convenor on Classical Asian sources and traditions).
- Tazuko A. van Berkel, researcher Ancient Greek and Latin Studies, Leiden University (Session convenor Classical Western (ancient Greek and Latin) traditions).
Please send an abstract (max. 400 words) including the session title and a short resume/CV (maximum two pages) to Ms. Martina van den Haak at firstname.lastname@example.org before 15 January 2010.
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