On February 25 the Orfalea Center celebrated its 10th year anniversary with an invitational banquet commemorating the vision of Paul and Natalie Orfalea to create the Masters in Global and International Studies program as well as the Orfalea Center itself under founding director Mark Juergensmeyer, whose leadership was also recognized at the event. The keynote speaker was Reza Aslan, UCSB alumnus, religion scholar, and media figure.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, the center hosted a series of Parallel Workshops, each built around the thematic area and research work of a group of Center-sponsored Interdisciplinary Research Hubs in the areas of Political Economy and Development; Global Governance and Human Rights; Global Environment / Climate Justice; Global Security; and Religion, Culture, Identity, and the State.
To learn more about the research hubs and projects currently being sponsored by the Orfalea Center, visit our Orfalea Center Research page.
About the Keynote Speaker – Dr. Reza Aslan
Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which has been translated into twenty-eight languages.
He is the founder of AslanMedia, a social media network for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world, and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Greater Middle East.
Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek) , a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.
About the Plenary Speaker: Dr. Prasenjit Duara
Prasenjit Duara is the Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies at Duke University. He was born and educated in India and received his PhD in Chinese history from Harvard University. He was previously Professor and Chair of the Dept of History and Chair of the Committee on Chinese Studies at the University of Chicago (1991-2008). Subsequently, he became Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director, Asia Research Institute at National University of Singapore (2008-2015).
In 1988, he published Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942 (Stanford Univ Press) which won the Fairbank Prize of the AHA and the Levenson Prize of the AAS, USA. Among his other books are Rescuing History from the Nation (U Chicago 1995), Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (Rowman 2003) and most recently, The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future (Cambridge 2014). He has edited Decolonization: Now and Then (Routledge, 2004) and co-edited A Companion to Global Historical Thought with Viren Murthy and Andrew Sartori (John Wiley, 2014). His work has been widely translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean and the European languages.
Plenary Address – Sustainability and the Crisis of Transcendence: The Long View from Asia
The rise of Asia and China in particular has been accompanied by the need to project a new, more just vision of the world that is not simply a new hegemony. Many Chinese intellectuals have sought to find inspiration in their historical and transcendent universalisms such as ‘all-under-heaven’ (tianxia). The paper is an effort to think through the conceptual and political framework for understanding transcendence in post-Western modernity.
Historically, universalisms have been the source of ideals, principles and ethics. Modern universalisms—developed from Kant to Marx– are apparently in retreat, yielding to nationalism and consumerism. Yet the physical salvation of the world is of greatest urgency and becoming, in some quarters, the transcendent goal of our times. It will, however, need to transcend exclusive national sovereignty for its realization. The role of transnational civil society and NGOs as much as quasi-governmental and transnational agencies, are crucial for this realization. Older approaches of dialogical transcendence may furnish us with useful methodologies of linking the personal, the community, the environment and the world.