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CALL. 30.11.2020: Adolf von Harnack. Bridging the gaps - Tartu (Estonia)




LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Tartu (Tartu, Estonia)




In 2021 it will be 170 years since the birth of Adolf von Harnack – a Baltic-German Lutheran theologian, a church historian, leading figure in German science management and a notable social figure of the 19th and the 20th century. Harnack was not only born in Dorpat (Tartu) and studied there, but he remained profoundly shaped by a certain type of Baltic-German Academia and Piety, even when he moved to Leipzig, Gießen, Marburg and Berlin in later years. After two large conferences in 1998 and 2001 devoted to Harnack and organized by the Max-Planck-Society and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (two institutions which predecessors, the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Society and the Prussian Academy of Sciences, were deeply influenced by Harnack), it is time to deal with certain overlooked aspects, to enrich the image of a man of many talents in the context of his different networks and to confront Harnack-Studies with new ideas about the History of Christianity and his very challenging lifetime, full of rapid social and religious change in Russia and Germany, since the appearance of new scholarly work at the turn of the millennium.

The conference is titled “Adolf von Harnack – bridging the gaps”, because Harnack was not only a scholar of ancient Christianity, esteemed by Theologians as well as Ancient Historians, but made significant contributions to contemporary discussions on the “essence of Christianity” and on the understanding of History. He was part of a discussion on the institutional framework of Theology and Religious Studies in Germany, but also involved in the Institution-Building of Institutes for Sciences, Libraries and Social Work. As a public intellectual of the German Empire before 1918 and the first German republic after 1918 he contributed significantly to a large number of public debates. He also bridged the gaps between scientific cultures in Europe, Britain and the United States. What made him able to bridge so many gaps between Science and Humanities, Theology and other Humanities, University and broader public understanding of science? And what was the reason, that he could not bridge certain gaps, e.g. between University and Church, between German Protestantism and Russian Orthodoxy? The conference will be organized by the School of Theology and Religious Studies of Tartu University, because the Baltic-German background is crucial to understand Harnack and to answer such questions.

Can one use Harnack’s views to bridge those and other gaps also in the 21st century? Christianity as a source for practical religious life and personal freedom has not lost its meaning in the 21st century too, but the situation of Theology and Religion in the Baltic States, Germany and in the rest of Europe is quite different from Harnack’s times. The conference will focus on these and related questions, and calls to reflect upon Harnack’s role and influence on the debates of his own time and his relevance for the presence.

We welcome scholarly presentations Harnack’s life and the Baltic background, his successful and/or failed attempts to bridge the gaps between History and Theology, Theology and Religious Studies, Sciences and Humanities, University and public understanding of science, Academia and Weimar Republic and on his participation in debates on social cohesion and national German politics, as well as on his influence on theological discussions outside Germany.

The conference is organised by the University of Tartu and Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Working language of the conference is English and the length of papers is 30 minutes. Please send abstracts of papers of 250–300 words to Priit Rohtmets

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 30.11.2020.

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