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Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief

View all events in this series

at Deakin Edge, Fed Square

The Voice of Faith in National Identity: Speaking From India: Dipesh Chakrabarty

Over four days, our 20 plus speakers – philosophers and theologians, historians and writers, believers and non-believers – will consider what it means to be religious, and what role the voice of faith may legitimately have in the conversations of citizens in a multicultural, democratic state and the community of nations.

On Sunday, two keynote lectures from distinguished international guests each consider challenges posed by – and to – faith in the building of modern communities. Their lectures will be followed by panel discussions with local and international guests.

First, ground-breaking social historian Dipesh Chakrabarty will explore the voice of faith in national identity, speaking from the perspective of India. Chakrabarty’s book Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference investigates how and in what sense European ideas labelled ‘universal’ are in fact drawn from very specific intellectual traditions. He is one of the founders of subaltern studies, a field that draws on the idea that peasants may play a positive role in effecting social change in ex-colonial countries.

In a panel discussion following Chakrabarty’s address, the conversation will open up to include Sundhya Pahuja, a professor from Melbourne Law School (concerned with the relationship between international law and institutions and the question of global inequality), writer and poet Barry Hill. Justice Susan Crennan, a former Commonwealth Commissioner for Human Rights, will be participating chair.

For the full text of this lecture plus transcripts and recordings of the series, visit our Faith and Culture archive.


Portrait of Sundhya Pahuja

Sundhya Pahuja

Sundhya Pahuja is a professor in the Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne and the director of the Law and Development Research Programme at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities.

Portrait of Barry Hill

Barry Hill

Barry Hill is a multi-award winning writer of poetry, history, biography, fiction and reportage.

Reason and Lovelessness is his latest collection of essays variously published in Australia, India and London. It includes ‘satellites’ of his major works – such as Sitting In (1992), a landmark memoir in labour history; Broken Song: TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (2002), a literary biography on Aboriginal and frontier poetics; and Peacemongers (2014), a pilgrimage book about Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi in the years leading up to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Portrait of Dipesh Chakrabarty

Dipesh Chakrabarty

Dipesh Chakrabarty is a social historian whose research has transformed understanding of nationalist and postcolonial historiographies, particularly in the context of modern South Asia.

Portrait of Susan Crennan

Susan Crennan

Justice Susan Crennan was appointed to the High Court of Australia in November 2005. She had then served for almost two years as a judge on the Federal Court. Justice Crennan has degrees in arts and law and a postgraduate diploma in history. She is an influential supporter of the humanities.

Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief

For full transcripts of all lectures plus audio and video of the events, visit our series archive.

A four-day lecture series from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 June at BMW Edge, Federation Square.

A day or so after September 11, graffiti appeared on a wall in New York: ‘Dear God, save us from those who believe in you’. Despite the many-layered irony, the message is clear: temptation to murderous fanaticism may be intrinsic to religious belief. Since at least September 11, 2001, hostility to religious voices in politics has been an important reason why so many people throughout the world have embraced ‘the new atheism’. The words of the graffitist could serve as a rallying cry for its militant wing.

People who belong to the faiths most often under attack – Christians, Muslims and Jews – often do not recognise themselves in in the portraits that inform the hostility and condescension towards them. With the support of the Sidney Myer Fund, the Wheeler Centre is proud to present Melbourne’s first Faith and Culture Lecture Series.

Over four days this June, our speakers – philosophers and theologians, historians and writers, believers and non-believers – will consider what it can mean to be religious, and what role the voice of faith may legitimately have in the conversations of citizens in a multicultural, democratic state and in the community of nations.

Curated by celebrated moral philosopher and author Raimond Gaita, the Faith and Culture lectures will aim to do justice to the depth and difficulty of the issues under discussion. Seldom are the sources of our deepest moral, political, and spiritual commitments clear to us. They are mediated by historically deep traditions in which science, art, philosophy and theology have played large, sometimes cooperative, sometimes contesting, roles. Simplifying or edifying polemic will have no place in these lectures and the panel discussions that follow them. We are set on understanding and are confident that our attempts to achieve it will interest atheists, agnostics, people of faith and the many people whose lives have been enriched by religious traditions and art, but who are not believers.

In his letter of invitation to speakers, Gaita wrote: ‘I have chosen people whose authority to speak on these matters strikes me as undeniable. Their authority lies not only in the fact that they “know their subject”, but also in the seriousness and authenticity of their engagement with it.’

Programme hashtag: #FaithAndCulture

Watch Raimond Gaita’s introduction to the series:

Raimond Gaita Introduces Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief

This series was presented with the support of the Sidney Myer Fund.