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Colloquium on Religion and Globalization Held in Melbourne, September 13-14, 2002Thomas Carr Centre, Melbourne

Colloquium on Religion and Globalization Held in Melbourne, September 13-14, 2002

Joint project of UCLA and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology explores religion and globalization after September 11.

By Scott Bartchy

A two-day conference was held in Melbourne, Australia, September 13-14, 2002, jointly sponsored by UCLA and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), under the title "After September 11th: Religion, Diversity and Cohesion in the Global Neighbourhood." The conference had been initiated by professors Samuel Aroni of UCLA and Dr. Desmond Cahill, Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT. At the initiative of Prof. Cahill, the colloquium was held in association with the World Conference of Religions for Peace, for which he serves as the Australian Chair, and the Australian Multicultural Foundation. The colloquium was held in the comfortable spaces provided by the Thomas Carr Centre, located on Victoria Parade, East Melbourne. UCLA was represented in the organization and conduct of the conference by Dr. S. Scott Bartchy, Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at UCLA.

Bartchy conferred with a number of his UCLA colleagues regarding who among the scholars at UCLA and more widely in the University of California could make the strongest contributions to this colloquium. In addition to Bartchy himself, two scholars were most frequently mentioned: Dr. Vinay Lal, Associate Professor of History at UCLA and a specialist in Hindu diaspora studies, and Dr. Ivan Strenski, Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at University of California, Riverside, as well as North American editor of the journal Religion, and a frequent lecturer at UCLA. All three were enthusiastically confirmed by Cahill, and all three were able to adjust their schedules to spend at least a full week in Australia at a time favorable to Melbourne’s academic year.

Fourteen papers were presented at the conference. The UCLA presentations were particularly well received. Bartchy was honored by the invitation to give the opening, keynote address. He chose the topic: Religion, Personal Identities and the Ironies of Globalization," and he concluded his paper with the proposal that universities develop a curriculum aimed specifically at religious believers, the core of which should be a de-mystifying of globalization as a process that is neither inevitable nor uncontrollable.

Strenski anchored the discussion with a truly insightful historical analysis of religion and the theologically informed justifications of economic globalization and international law. His paper was titled "Religion, Globalization and the Law of Nations." On the second day of the event Lal presented two excellent papers dealing with various aspects of Hinduism's recent responses to the developing global economy. The first was titled "Hinduism in the Era of Globalization," and the second was titled "Hinduism and the New Technologies," focusing on Lal's own extensive research into the extraordinary use of the Internet by various proponents of Hindu interests, and supporting his claim that the net assists Hinduism in becoming what it craves to be recognized as, a "world religion."

Bartchy, Strenski and Lal also spoke in the panel discussion held at the end of the second day of the colloquium with the theme "Religion and Globalization: Future Perspectives and Directions."

This colloquium presented to the UCLA/UCR participants extraordinary opportunities for hearing first-hand about a wide variety of Australian and world issues as seen through Australian eyes. The papers presented by Professors Saeed, Bouma, and Cahill were especially cogent and illuminating. The UCLA/UCR participants are also grateful for their new personal relations with the Australian scholars they met. These new connections laid the foundation for future dialogue and scholarly collaboration. Bartchy and Cahill are in ongoing correspondence about potential forms of further academic cooperation. Already an invitation has been received by Bartchy and Strenski from the Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Sciences, University of Melbourne, to return to Melbourne this September 19-21, 2003, for an invitation-only colloquium with the theme "Managing Muslim-Christian Relations: Policy Options for Education, Law and Community."

Bartchy's keynote lecture will soon be available as a link on the website of the Center for the Study of Religion at UCLA and as a document on the new "California Digital Library" being created at the initiative of the Office of the President of the University of California. As such, this lecture will be made known to a wide readership both within the UC system and beyond.

Abstracts of most of the lectures and brief biographies of the speakers are available in hard copy from the Center for the Study of Religion, Dodd Hall 74B, Box 145102, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1451.

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