Friday, February 02, 2007

Why Only an Atheist Can Believe: Politics on the Edge of Fear and Trembling

From the International Journal of Žižek Studies,
hosted by the Institute of Communications' Studies
at the University of Leeds, UK

Follow the Webcast link to a recording of a lecture Slavoj Žižek gave at Calvin College in Great Rapids, Michigan on November 10, 2006. (realplayer only)

**Please note - the actual talk and its introduction does not begin until approx 10 minutes into the Webcast **

Explanatory notes
"This talk provides a good example of not only Žižek's major themes and his unique presentational style, but also the breadth of his appeal and relevance to an extremely diverse range of audiences."

Background to the Talk
Introduction by Jennifer H. Williams, Department of English, Calvin College, Great Rapids, Michigan, USA.
"Calvin College is a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of Christianity. To some, the idea of Žižek lecturing on atheism and belief at a Calvinist school might seem quite the gamble, a scandal to professors and students alike. Indeed, many at Calvin itself felt that inviting such a “loose cannon” was risky at best. The mission of Calvin College, however, is not to separate our students from society with theological fences, but rather to enable our students to be insightful and creative participants in society. It is necessary for our students to hear the most influential speakers in the areas of ethics, politics, and religion, whether or not these speakers are Christians."

"Žižek’s work on the Christian tradition—precisely because they are rooted in his Marxist atheism—are exactly the kinds of thoughts with which we want our students to converse: his ideas are creative, current, and completely different from those most commonly exchanged on our campus. In the end, Žižek’s visit to Calvin was supported widely across campus, with nine departments and offices sponsoring the event."

"Because Calvin College is an undergraduate institution, our primary goal for Žižek’s visit was to benefit our students. Here, the greatest challenge was quite simply to introduce Žižek’s work to a student body who was unfamiliar with him for the most part. In the English Department, we started by focusing on a small group of 20 students. At the beginning of October, we took 20 students on what became known as “Theory Camp” or “The Žižek Retreat.” 20 students and three faculty members stayed overnight at a retreat center outside of the city and all we did was read Žižek and talk about what we had read. Students read a selection from Looking Awry, followed by a viewing of Vertigo. Then, to get students really engaged in the real, we all took a midnight hike in the woods. The next day we read a chapter from The Fragile Absolute. Both discussion sessions were marvellously successful and by the end of the weekend we had created for ourselves a group of students willing to help with the planning and promotion of Žižek visit to Calvin."

"All in all, the event was wonderfully successful. We planned on 10-15 people attending a screening of the Žižek documentary by Zeitgeist and had over 80. We hoped to have maybe 150 people came to campus on a Friday night in the rain to hear Žižek and had an crowd of over 300 with standing room only and an overflow room."

In his lecture “Why Only an Atheist Can Believe: Politics on the Edge of Fear and Trembling,” Žižek addresses the complicated relationship between belief, or what we take to be belief, and our desire to see all. The lecture is followed by a brief period of questions and answers."

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