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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Forschungsbereich Religion und Politik

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Theologische Fakultät | Forschungsbereich Religion und Politik | SACRIFICE - Biological and theological investigations for economic and military/political praxis: Konferenz 16.-17.06.2016

SACRIFICE - Biological and theological investigations for economic and military/political praxis: Konferenz 16.-17.06.2016


Venue: HU Theologische Fakultaet, Burgstr. 26

Date: 16 - 17 June 2016

Conference organizer: Prof. Dr. Marcia Pally

Conference Program: (download as pdf file here)


16 JUNE, 2016


15:00-16:30:   Tour of the Langemarck Halle Memorial and opening remarks by 

          Christoph Markschies (Ancient Christianity, Humboldt)

17:30-19:15:   Panel 1, Burgstr. 26, room 330, Moderator: Marcia Pally

Peter Kappeler (Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Goettingen University)

"Proactive prosociality in non-human primates as a form of sacrifice“

In some species of non-human primates, individuals spontaneously assist others, without direct gains for themselves and without being solicited, and variation in this behavioral tendency is best explained by variation in allomaternal care.


John Milbank (Religion, Politics and Ethics. Nottingham)

“Gift or Sacrifice? History, Politics and Religion”

Girard, Gauchet and Tarot reinscribe Hobbes by putting sacrifice and politics at the human origin, but it is more plausible to see sacrifice a mode of gift. If gift-exchange is seen as originally religious, then religion and reciprocal peace were more fundamental than violence, scapegoating and politics.


Wolfgang Palaver (Catholic Social Thought, University of Innsbruck)

“Politics of Sacrifice: On the Roots of European Culture and its Future Challenges”

 The question of sacrifice raises one of the most difficult problems of every theory of religion because it can either turn into a regression to an archaic understanding of religion (Joseph de Maistre, Carl Schmitt) or it can help us to overcome the problem of human violence (Mahatma Gandhi, Simone Weil). With the help of Girard’s mimetic theory I will connect this question with an inquiry into the roots of law and look at connections between religion and politics.


19:30: Conference dinner for participating scholars at Malatesta restaurant


17 June, 2016


8:30-10:00:     Panel 2, Burgstr. 26, room, 013, Moderator: David Pan

Tsvi Blanchard (Jewish law, Fordham Law School, Humboldt University)

“The Immanent Beyond: Time, Place and Intention in Jewish Sacrifice”
I intend to review the general structure of the sacrificial system as presented in classic and medieval Rabbinic literature examining the ways in which time, place and intention are related to a transcendent God. Using a relational approach, I will also seek analogies in contemporary family, social, national and international contexts. 


Hassan Rachik (Anthropology, University Hassan II of Casablanca)

“Sacrifice, Islamic reformism and local traditions”

Interpretation of the reformist arguments and attitudes towards local sacrifices that are qualified as bid'a  (blameworthy innovation).


Francisco Canzani (Focolare, Rome)

"From the sacrifice of the Cross to the transformation of society"
Some reflections in the light of the teaching of the Catholic Church in Latin America.


Adrian Pabst (Politics, University of Kent)

“Sacrifice: anarchy, artifice and the alternative of association”

Much of modern political thought views sacrifice as inevitable and necessary. Hobbes and Locke, for example, claim that humankind needs to surrender a measure of their liberty and equality if one is to escape the anarchic violence in the 'state of nature' and secure the artificial order of the 'social contract'. The alternative which this presentation puts forward is the notion of association, which is a more relational idea that involves being wounded by the‎ other but also rejoicing in the relationality of creative fulfilment in work and social life. 


10:00-10:30:   Coffee break


10:30-12:00:   Panel 3, Burgstr. 26, room 013, Moderator: Marcia Pally


Rolf von Uslar (Colonel Dr RvU, Bundeswehr Command and Staff College, Head of Medical Service and Health Sciences)

“The Ambiguity of Sacrifice in a Post Heroic Nation - a Military Perspective”

Although technical developments as robotics allow the reduction of casualties in military operations, the forces still depend on the willingness of soldiers to make sacrifices. In post heroic nations like Germany, the willingness for sacrifice has been on a reverse trend. This has implications for the civil-military relations.


Ulrike Brunotte (Religion and Gender Studies, Maastricht University)

“Victim and/as Hero: The Elevation of Masculinity between Sacrifice and Murder”

The resilience of Christian models of self-sacrifice and redemption in modern societies is especially apparent in war narratives and death cults during the long 19th century, as well as in the so called “Langemarck-myth”. In my presentation I focus on three heroic pathosformulas (Warburg) that have become relevant as models of modern Western heroic masculinity in connection with violence, pain and its conquest; and in self-sacrifice and the cult of the dead.


Rolf Schieder (Practical Theology, Humboldt)

“From sacrifice to victimhood: Have we entered a post-heroic age?”

The German term “Opfer” does not differentiate between “victim” and “sacrifice”. The “Opfer, das man ist” and the “Opfer, das man bringt” are semantically closely connected. How must the relation between “sacrifice” and “victimhood” be conceptualized in order to understand present-day discourses on “sacrifice” in a supposedly post-heroic age?  


12:00-13:15:   Buffet lunch, Burgstr.26, room 330


13:15-14:45:   Panel 4, Burgstr. 26, room 206, Moderator: David Pan


Katja Triplett (East Asian Studies, University of Goettingen)

“The Motif of Human Sacrifice and Self-Sacrifice in Japanese Confucian-Buddhist Narratives”

The motif of human sacrifice and its function in well-known narratives is discussed with reference to the discourses on the historicity of a sacrificial cult in Japan.


Laurent Mignon (Professor of Turkish, Oxford University, Fellow of Saint Antony’s College.)

"Sacrifice, Religion and the Revolutionary Left in Turkey"

In this presentation I will discuss the use of religious language and imagery regarding sacrifice and martyrdom in the engaged poetry and music of far-left political organizations in Turkey.

Philip Roscoe (Business Management, St. Andrews)

“Sacrifice and the crypto-theologies of management”

Popular management discourse, with its hagiographies of great leaders and tales of sacrifice and reward, frequently echoes the theological; as Weber pointed out, capitalism itself embodies a secularized narrative of sacrifice and salvation. This talk will explore the importance of sacrifice in management talk and management practice: who sacrifices, why, and how much?


14:45-15:00:   Coffee break


15:00-17:00:   Concluding panel, Burgstr. 26, room 206, Moderator: Rolf Schieder


Marcia Pally (Multilingual Multicultural Studies, New York University; guest professor, Theology, Humboldt University)

“The contingent nature of sacrifice: Relational determinants in biology, physics, and theology”

My remarks will focus on the meaning and valence of sacrifice as it changes in relationships of reciprocal regard, for which we are “wired” as a matter of physics and biology—sciences that are now catching up with theology.


David Pan (German Studies, UC Irvine, Telos)

“Sacrifice and sovereignty: Europe’s Long War”

The European focus, since the early modern period, on self-interest as the basis of sovereignty has ignored the fundamental sacrificial nature of both individual consciousness and collective identity. The key consequence of this deficit has been a crisis of political identity that has rendered Europe incapable of offering to its inhabitants and the wider world an alternative vision of sacrifice that could replace the dangerous fundamentalist notions of sacrifice currently driving political conflict.


Concluding discussion


Participants Bios

Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard is the Meyer Struckmann Professor of Jewish Law at Humboldt University Faculty of Law in Berlin as well as scholar in residence at the Institute for Law, Religion and Lawyer’s Work at Fordham Law School where he teaches Jewish law. In addition to being an ordained orthodox rabbi, Blanchard holds Ph.D. degrees in Philosophy and in Clinical Psychology. He taught philosophy and Jewish studies at Washington, Northwestern, and Loyola Universities as well as at the Drisha Institute.  Tsvi was also a psychotherapist in private practice and has coauthored a book entitled Embracing Life, Facing Death: a Jewish Guide to Palliative Care. In addition to his articles on Jewish law, his publications include the 2002 Riesman award winning How to Think About Being Jewish in the Twenty-First Century: a New Model of Jewish Identity Construction. Outside his academic work on Jewish law, his popular writings include widely-anthologized parables, and numerous Clal and web short pieces on Jewish topics.




Prof. Dr. Ulrike Brunotte: after having been Associate Professor and adjunct Professor at the Institute for Cultural Studies, Humboldt-University BerlinUlrike Brunotte is now Associate Professor for Religion and Gender, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Center for Gender and Diversity of Maastricht University (Netherlands). She got her PhD in religious and literary studies at Free University Berlin and had guest professorships in the USA, and Austria and got several NOW and DFG-research projects awards. Her research interests include masculinity and religion, nationalism, colonial discourse, literature and religion, history of religious studies, ritual and performativity, Orientalism, anti-Semitism and gender, and postcolonial studies. Since 2013, she has been chair of the international research network Rengoo: “Gender in Orientalism, Occidentalism and Antisemitism.” Recent publications include Helden des Todes. Studien zur Religion, Ästhetik und Politik moderner Männlichkeit, Ergon-Verlag, Diskurs Religion (2015) and Orientalism, Gender, and the Jews. Literary and Artistic Transformations of European National Discourses, (ed. with Anne- D. Ludewig, Axel Stähler), de Gruyter, 2015).


www.researchnetworkaoo.wordpress.com http://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/web/Profile/U.BRUNOTTE.htm


Dr. Francisco Canzani (Montevideo, Uruguay, 11/11/1965) received his doctorate in Law and Social Sciences from the University of the Republic of Uruguay and completed theological studies at the Institute Mystici Corporis (Incisa Valdarno, Florence, Italy). From 2004 to 2014 he was the head of the Department of Ecumenism at the Theology Faculty of Uruguay, Monsignor Mariano Soler.  Since December of 2014, he has been a member of the general council of Focolare Movement in Rome, where he works for the Department of Culture and Studies of the institution.





Prof. Dr. Peter Kappeler holds a chair for Sociobiology / Anthropology at the University of Göttingen and is the head of the Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit at the German Primate Center. He studied Biology and Psychology at the University of Tübingen and at Duke University, where he also obtained his PhD in Zoology. As a postdoc, he worked at the German Primate Center and obtained his Habilitation in Tropical Ecology from the University of Würzburg. Before moving to his present position, he was the head of the Behavioral Ecology Department at Leipzig University. His research interests focus on the social systems of non-human primates. For the past 20 years, his empirical work has focused on the social and mating systems of Malagasy primates, carnivores and birds, which he and his students have been studying at Kirindy Forest. He has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and authored or edited about 15 books and special issues, including “The Lemurs of Madagascar” and a (German) textbook on animal behavior.



ProDr. Dres. h.c. Christoph Markschies, born in 1962 in Berlin, has been Chair for Ancient Christianity at Humboldt University-Berlin since 2004, after holding positions at the University of Heidelberg (2000-2004) and the University of Jena (1994-2000). He has been vice-president of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences since 2012, is Chairman of the advisory scientific council of the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, and member of advisory boards of German Protestant Institute of Archaeology and Walter de Gruyter Publishing House. He is the author and editor of numerous publications.




Prof. Dr. Laurent Mignon is Associate Professor of Turkish at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Saint Antony’s College. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Lichtenberg Kolleg at the University of Göttingen. He also collaborates to “New Religiosities in Turkey: Reenchantment in a Secularized Muslim Country?”, a collaborative research project of the Orient Institut in Istanbul and the Paris-based Centre d’études turques, ottomanes, balkaniques et centrasiatiques (CETOBAC). His research interests include modern Turkish literature and intellectual history, minority literature, socialist literature, new religious movements in Turkey, biblical themes in Turkish literature and modern Jewish intellectual history.

From 2002 to 2011 he taught at the Department of Turkish Literature at Bilkent University in Ankara.  His most recent book is Hüzünlü Özgürlük: Yahudi Edebiyatı ve Düşüncesi Üzerine Yazılar (A Sad State of Freedom: Writings on Jewish Literature and Thought, 2014). 




Prof. Dr. John Milbank is Research Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics and Director of The Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of many books of which the most recent are Beyond Secular Order and (with Adrian Pabst), The Politics of Virtue.




Dr. Adrian Pabst is Reader in Politics at the University of Kent, UK, where he also directs the Centre for Federal Studies. He is also a Visiting Professor at St Mary’s University Twickenham and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Lille (Science Po), France. His research is at the interface of political theory, political economy and political theology. He is author of Metaphysics: The Creation of Hierarchy (Eerdmans, 2012), co-editor of Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics (I.B. Tauris, 2015) and editor of The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical and the future of political economy (Wipf & Stock, 2011). Most recently he has published (together with John Milbank) The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2016).




Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Palaver is Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Dean of the School of Catholic Theology at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. From 2007 to 2011 he was president of the “Colloquium on Violence and Religion”. He has published books and articles on violence and religion, sacrifice, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt and René Girard. His most recent books are René Girard's Mimetic Theory (Michigan State University Press, 2013); Eskalation zum Äußersten? Girards Clausewitz interdisziplinär kommentiert (Nomos, 2015); The European Wars of Religion: An Interdisciplinary Reassessment of Sources, Interpretations, and Myths (Ashgate, 2016).



Prof. Dr. Marcia Pally teaches at New York University in Multilingual Multicultural Studies and is a regular guest professor at the Theology Faculty of Humboldt University, Berlin. Her research interests include religion, culture, and politics as well as the intersection of language and culture. She spoke at the World Economic Forum in 2010 and has been awarded both the prestigious Mercator Guest Professorship (German Research Foundation) and grants from the German Academic Exchange Service. She was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) in 2007 and 2010. Her most recent book is Commonwealth and Covenant: Economics, Politics, and Theologies of Relationality (2016). In addition to her academic work, Prof. Pally has been a columnist in the U.S. and Europe for the past 24 years, writing for Religion News Service, Religion Dispatches, The New York Times, die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , Süddeutsche Zeitung, among other periodicals.





Prof. Dr. David Pan is currently Professor of German and Chair of the Department of European Language and Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is also the book review editor of the journal, Telos, and the Executive Director of the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute. He has previously held positions at Washington University in St. Louis, Stanford University, Penn State University, and McKinsey and Company. He is the author of Primitive Renaissance: Rethinking German Expressionism and Sacrifice in the Modern World: On the Particularity and Generality of Nazi Myth. He has also published on Herder, Hamann, Goethe, Kleist, Nietzsche, Kafka, Benjamin, Juenger, Brecht, Schmitt, and Adorno.




Prof. Dr. Hassan Rachik is anthropologist and Professor at the University Hassan II of Casablanca, Director of Paul Pascon Chair for Social Sciences (Rabat). He was Visiting Professor at Princeton University (1993) and Brown University (1997), visiting also at  l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (1997, 2011), l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Aix-en-Provence (2011), Saint Joseph University, Beirut (2004-5, 2006) and The Institute For the Study of Islamic Civilizations, London (2007, 2008). He has carried out intensive fieldwork within rural and nomadic communities in Morocco and is currently working on “The ideologization of religion, and the routinization of ideologies within ordinary knowledge.”  He is the author of numerous articles and books including “How Religion Turns into Ideology” (The Journal of North African Studies, 2009, Vol. 14 ); Moroccan Islam? On Geertz’s Generalization (Archivio Anthropologico Mediterraneo, On line, Anno xii/xiii, 2009-2010); Sacré et sacrifice dans le Haut Atlas (1990); Le sultan des autres, rituel et politique dans le Haut  Atlas (1992); Symboliser la nation, Essai sur l’usage des identités collectives au Maroc (2003);  L’islam au quotidien (co-author, 2007, 2013); Le proche et le lointain Un siècle d’anthropologie au Maroc (2012); Anthropolgy in the Arab World (in Arabic, co-author, 2012).




Prof. Dr. Philip Roscoe is a Reader in management at the University of St Andrews. His research focuses on the role that markets play in contemporary organizing: how markets form, how they configure organizations, and how individuals shape – and are shaped – by market practice. He is particularly interested in the moral issues that surround markets and the discourses, valuations and justifications invoked in market settings. He has published in leading journals in the fields of sociology and management as well as for the GuardianTimes Higher Education and the Literary Review and was one of the winners of the inaugural AHRC BBC Radio 3 ‘New Generation Thinkers’ scheme. His book ‘I Spend Therefore I Am’ (Viking/Penguin 2014; paperback title: A Richer Life) was shortlisted for the 2014 Deutscher Wirtschaftsbuchpreis.  He has a Ph.D. in management, an MPhil in medieval Arabic thought and a BA in theology.






Prof. Dr. Rolf Schieder, born in 1953 in Coburg, holds the Chair for Practical Theology at Humboldt-University since 2004. He is one of the directors of the Institute of Sociology of Religion and the speaker of the Program on Religion, Politics, and Economics, member of the Professional School of Education and member of the “Berliner Studien zum Jüdischen Recht” [Berlin Studies on Jewish Law]. His research interests are the politics of religion, religious education, and interreligious dialogue. He has recently edited an issue of the Berliner Theologische Zeitschrift [Berlin Theological Journal] titled Opfer [Sacrifice].




Prof. Dr. Katja Triplett is Professor for the Study of Religions at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Göttingen. From 2007 to 2012 she was Associate Professor at the Department of the Study of Religions and curator of the Museum of Religions (Religionskundliche Sammlung) at Marburg University. Triplett graduated in the Study of Religions, Japanese linguistics and Anthropology, and obtained her doctorate in Marburg with a dissertation on the „human sacrifice“ motif in Japanese legends. She held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions, SOAS, University of London (2004-5). Her main field of interest are Japanese religions in the late medieval and early modern periods with a focus on visual representations and material culture. Triplett has also done research on ritual practices in modern Japan. She is currently working on Japanese Buddhist medicine.





Colonel Dr. Rolf von Uslar is Bundeswehr Command and Staff College, Head of Medical Service and Health Sciences. He was Commander Medical Training Regiment, Staff Officer ISAF Headquarters in Kabul/Afghanistan, and has worked in the Federal Ministry of Defense, Joint Medical Staff in Bonn in addition to eight other assignments since 1995. Col. von Uslar is the recipient of the Bundeswehr Honor Cross in Gold and Silver, the Bundeswehr Foreign Duty Medal, the NATO Non-Article 5 Medal for ISAF, and the Adolf-and-Inka-Lübeck-Award from the University of Würzburg.







Observer and conference concept developer:

Prof. Dr. Emeritus Hans Dieter Zimmermann was Professor for modern German Literature at the University of Frankfurt (1975 – 1987) and at the Technical University in Berlin (1987 – 2008). His publications include Kafka für Fortgeschrittene [Kafka for advanced readers] (München, 2004), Martin und Fritz Heidegger (München, 2005) and Verwandlungen. Von Menschenopfern und Gottesopfern [The transformation from human sacrifice to the divine self-sacrifice] (St. Ottilien, 2014).