Gathering in relation to allow new beginnings in our world

On the 15th, 16th and 17th of September 2016 the Anthropos ‘Con-ference‘ took place. We gathered and were gathered by a shared topic, a meshwork of threads of theological anthropology in which ‘relation, vulnerability and love’ were further explored as key notions, not only to talk about ‘what it means to be human’, but also to talk about ‘what it is to talk theologically about what it means to be human’.

In the words of Jan Masschelein and Maarten Simons, philosophers of education at the KULeuven, we can characterize this academic conference as a moment in “the invention of school as a particular space-time-matter arrangement that actually operates in a very specific way as a kind of gathering that makes things/the world public or common”, “a ‘form of gathering’ that makes ‘free time’, a time of study and exercise where things are ‘on the table’”.(1)

Understanding education, and thus also our academic gathering, as public space, as a gathering in relation, in vulnerability, attentively exposing oneself to the present, seeing more clearly with the eyes of love (rather than understanding it as an event and instrument in the workings of the university as institution that is to connect people individually to talents, to performances and to positions), might be necessary to be able to think ‘a new beginning in our world’, as Masschelein and Simons state it with the help of Hannah Arendt.(2)

In a world that is to welcome refugees, that is to see the humanity of the stranger, we must take up responsibility for the world, accept the world as it is, accepting both child and stranger as becoming part of the common world. This is to put the world at their disposal to expose the world, to deliver it. That is, we must love the world as well as young people, people joining us from elsewhere, people looking for a way out, allowing them to be newcomers and strangers. That is, we must assume responsibility for them, for them to have a chance for a new beginning, a participation in the renewing of the common world. In the words of anthropologist João Biehl, it is to grant them their right to a non-projected future, a future of which we become a part in unexpected ways.

… people’s own struggles and visions of themselves and others – their life stories – create holes in dominant theories and interventions and unleash a vital plurality: being in motion, ambiguous and contradictory, not reducible to a single narrative, projected into the future, transformed by recognition, and thus the very fabric of alternative world-making (Biehl 2013:4).(3)

With thanks and appreciation to Remy Gakwaya,  student at Regis University through Jesuit Common Higher Education at the Margin in Dzaleka, who provided us with his story of new beginnings:

See you in Leuven!

(1) Author Interview: Jan Masschelein and Maarten Simons

(2) Masschelein, J.; Simons, M. (2010), “Schools as Architecture for Newcomers and Strangers: The Perfect School as Public School?”, Teachers College Record 12(3), 533-555.

(3) Biehl, J. (2013), “Roundtable on Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics: The Right to a Nonprojected Future“, Practical Matters, 6, 1-9.

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