Between 27 and 29 October 2015 three scholars from the University of Groningen organized a cross-tradition, interdisciplinary debate on religious textuality. Stefania Travagnin and Mladen Popović of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, and Sabrina Corbellini of the Faculty of Arts, all share an interest in the subject.
The Academy Colloquium was organized under the auspices and with the financial support of the KNAW, and was successfully held at the Trippenhuis, Amsterdam between 27 and 29 October 2015. The KNAW awards only six or seven of the prestigious Academy Colloquium grants every year, so it is a great honour for the three RUG scholars’ collaborative project on religious textuality. Twenty-seven international speakers presented their work at the Colloquium and initiated a cross-cultural discussion with the audience.
The study of religious cultures seems to be
strongly text-coded, and indeed the study of texts has always been crucial in academic research on and the teaching of religion. Thus far, however, academic seminars and scholarship have discussed ‘text’ predominantly within the context of one specific religious tradition, thus ‘text’ is debated within the boundaries of one religious identity and not from an interreligious and intercultural perspective. Furthermore, religious texts have only seldom been examined from an interdisciplinary perspective that relates the textual to the ‘extra-textual’ (i.e. rituals and material culture).
The purpose of the Academy Colloquium was to provoke new debates on research methodologies in the field. One of its main aims was to start a multi- and interdisciplinary dialogue and to bring together researchers working on different fields and materials, in different research traditions but with common fundamental questions. Five different topics – Modalities of texts, Authority of/over texts, Practice with texts (ritualization and visualization), Materiality of texts, and Transmission and translations of texts – were discussed during nine panel sessions.
Each panel included papers on Western (Jewish and Christian) and Asian religions and speakers from different disciplinary backgrounds, which facilitated a lively and constructive cross-cultural and interdisciplinary discussion with the audience. The participants greatly enjoyed this experimental and challenging approach, which resulted in the creation of new interreligious narratives on texts and textualities. The Colloquium was followed by the Textual Diversity in Context masterclass on 30 October, held at same location and also funded by the KNAW. The masterclass saw the participation of twelve Research Master’s and PhD students from the Netherlands and the USA who discussed their research topics with three ‘masters’.
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