Theorizing Scriptures Conference     

27-28 February 2004
Claremont, California

From Director Wimbush's invitation to the conference

This international, multidisciplinary gathering aims to model and facilitate conversation and serious and creative and playful thinking about a complex phenomenon often poignantly referenced with the English abbreviation “scriptures.” Notwithstanding the problematics and limitations of this English rendering, there is evidence that the phenomenon to which the term points obtains with dramatic force throughout a great part of the history of human consciousness and across a great many different societies and cultures. Thus, “scriptures” can and should be the content of historical and comparative study. Although clearly related to the power dynamics involved in the invention of writing, “scriptures” have always been about more than scripts (or texts). “Scriptures” are and have always been about the dynamics of social scripting, social text-uring, psycho-social dynamics, social exchanges, dreams, hopes, power relations. Thus, “scriptures” are and should be about the formation, de-formation and re-formation of the social self. With “scriptures” as expansive wedge-issue, what we must together commit to working on is less the meaning of the texts than the meaning of meaning-seeking in relationship to (certain) texts.

This transgressive collaborative work must be done for the sake of excavating traditionally sublimated oftentimes painful and always power-ful aspects of the cycles of formation, de-formation and re-formation of the social self—not merely in support of, but in creative, honest and critical conversation with, persistently subaltern selves, most especially regarding things made to be or deemed “sacred.” What is urgently needed in the many different domains of interest and engagement—the academy; politics; the arts; religious and other types of communities across different societies and cultures--is a commitment to a turning toward the other with a different critical orientation. What we must together work on is the development of an anthropology, psychology, sociology, aesthetics, performative-expressive and material culture criticism and critical politics of “scriptures.” This conference aims to test what can happen with the turning toward the other in relationship to the different critical orientation. The new research vehicle that aims as part of its ongoing agenda to facilitate the advancement of this social turning and the different critical orientation we here name “Institute for Signifying Scriptures.”

All are invited to the conversation. Insofar as “scriptures” for good and ill have to do with the dynamics of the making and re-making of our world, with our rhetorical, social and political orientation, they are too important to be left within any one discursive-political domain.

Vincent L. Wimbush

Claremont CA
February 2004

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