Designing the three commemorative conferences for the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht this year has mobilized the best intellectual and human resources of the CfH team. This process has been both supported by and has helped construct the scheme of the Visiting Professorship, endowed by the Utrecht Province. Our distinguished visitors’ expertise, knowledge and wisdom in many ways provided the backbone of the commemoration programme, which is content-driven but combines academic excellence with a strong sense of social responsibility. The travelling companions in this intellectually challenging venture are of course our friends in the Treaty of Utrecht organization, which is responsible for the general cultural programme of the commemoration and the many Utrecht University staff members who are actively involved in the CfH, notably the Descartes Centre and the Focus Area ‘Identities and Cultures’.
The assumptions that support our 2013 programme are clear: we have a duty to remember, but our yearning is to transform the legacy of the past into something empowering and inspiring for the present.
On April 15 – 17, 2013 The Edward Said Memorial Conference will inaugurate the commemoration of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, which focused on the role of Culture in diplomacy and peace-making. Each day will feature renowned speakers and established academics on Edward Said’s work. Major attention will be paid to cultural activities that resound with Said’s vision in combining scholarship with the Arts so as to support the quest for justice, self-determination and equality. Local artists will host international artists, reiterating the hospitality that the city of Utrecht afforded the eighteen month long negotiations which led to the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht on April 11, 1713. Theme of these intercultural co-operations is what the Said-Barenboim Foundation has illustrated time and again: the critical power of music to inspire resistance and to challenge the political imagination.
On June 21-22 “The Colonial Legacy” Conference will link the commemoration of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 to the abolition of Slavery by the Dutch in 1863. Over the course of two days, distinguished academics such will delve into the legacy of the Treaty of Utrecht, the history of slavery, the state of slavery today and the connections between them. The conference will take you from history and philosophy, to anthropology and post-colonialism, transnational memories and transitional justice. In a great number of interdisciplinary lectures and panels, scholars will examine the lasting legacy of slavery and the persistent presence of human trafficking in the contemporary world.
To conclude the academic conference series, on September 19-20, the Centre for the Humanities will host “The Idea of the University”. In this closing conference to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht, the CfH has invited back some of the leading scholars who have been appointed to the Visiting Professorship which the Utrecht Province had endowed especially for the occasion. The conference on ‘The Idea of the University in the 21st Century ‘ aims to investigate the changing relations between the university as the location of academic and scientific excellence and its civic environment. To what an extent can the contemporary university cultivate a high level of social awareness in responding to the demands of civil society, the labour market, global culture and the corporate world, while remaining loyal to its century-old mission of pursuing scientific excellence for its own sake? What is the role of the Humanities in facing this challenge? The conference aims at assessing recent efforts to redefine the parameters for a new interaction between the university and its local and global civic context. It raises the question of what it means to be a learned and critical citizen of the world today and what the university’s role ought to be in forming the citizens of the future.