Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Oxford Patristics Conference

Last week I attended the biggest conference of my academic career, the fifteenth International Patristics Conference in Oxford. For those of you outside the field, this is a conference that is held every four years and had about a thousand scholars from around the globe attending.

It was fun to see the faces of all the people whose books I have been reading, and also the possibility to talk to some of them. Over all the social aspect of the event was what inspired me. To be perfectly honest, I did not find the actual papers and lectures that exciting, except four a couple that have direct relevance for my work. I guess I had hoped for more discussion on methods and the relation between Early Christian Studies and our present situation, which is what I am interested in. Now we had mostly very historical papers from the lesser scholars, while the giants presented overviews and synthesis of ancient thought. Impressive, but not exciting.

However, to meet these scholars was still interesting. Discussions of meals in St Edmund's Hall cover very interesting areas, and here I felt I was not alone in trying to seek contemporary relevance in the early Church. Somehow this interest, clearly present in the people I met, just did not seem to translate into the official proceedings. It was also interesting to see that - generalizing here - to most radical papers came from mostly female scholars of some maturity. There has been for some time a group of great women scholars in patristics, and the same group still is very good. But among the younger presenters, regardless of sex, it seemed people were dealing mostly with quite safe subjects.

This experience of mine could be caused by me not actually attending the right kind of conference, but I do not think this is the case, especially since I so much enjoyed spending time with these people. Rather, I have a feeling many shared my experience, which tells me that the problem seems to be in the general academic atmosphere at the moment, which seems to shy away from the radical and new.

Still, it was a great conference, well organized, and I especially appreciated again to meet my friends and colleagues in the now quite sizable group from the Nordic Countries.


::aaron g:: said...

Did you give a paper?

And, welcome back to the blogosphere!

Patrik said...

I did, presenting my now almost finished thesis. It went well, although I was placed in a closet of a lecture room... But they had placed Kallistos Ware in the same room, so I do not take it personally.

::aaron g:: said...

Sounds good!

Macrina said...

I had rather hoped that your recent silence meant that you were completing your thesis! And I am also rather hoping that you might post something more on the interaction between early asceticism and contemporary issues - or at least let us know if you publish anything about it elsewhere!

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