In May 2017 I have been appointed director of Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities at the Cini Foundation. The new Centre has evolved naturally from the previous Venice and the East Institute, which was founded in 1958 with the principal aim of promoting the study of the civilisations of India and the Far East.
The Centre focuses on the study of different cultures, religions and spiritualities from a comparative perspective. This comparison is intended as an instrument for promoting dialogue between civilizations, in order to discuss ideas, but also political, theoretical and aesthetic experiences.
Among the topics, I would like to develop:
– Mysticism, esotericism, spirituality and popular religion are elusive concepts, which, as Michel De Certeau states, “haunt” the epistemology of contemporary social sciences. We welcome interdisciplinary works on these concepts, connecting philosophical reflections, social sciences and theologies. Scholars are invited to work in the library of the Centre, which host a rich collection on Orientalism, colonial literature, exotericism, and comparative religions.
– The boundaries between science and religion are often blurred. Some historians, orientalists and psychoanalysts of the 20th century, such as Mircea Eliade, Henry Corbin, and Carl Gustav Jung, have been called “religionist”; they have, in fact, mixed conceptions and experiences of the sacred together with historical and scientific descriptions. A current within the new religious movements and the New Age culture, called “Quantum Mysticism”, has been adopting the narratives of the natural sciences. Completely different is the “ontological turn” described by contemporary anthropology, which opens up for the possibility of other realities and dimensions. We invite scholars to explore the boundaries between science, culture and religion.
– The relationship with the Other. Almost every religion faces otherness, and problematizes the border between “us” and “them”. The border could be cultural, ethnic, linguistic, or linked to sexual orientation and gender identity. We ask scholars to discuss religious boundaries. How is perceived the Other? Who is the infidel? How do these borders move according to the political and social context?
– Between New and Old Age. The social sciences tried to describe changes in religious practices in contemporary societies by employing new categories, such as “religious modernity”, “bricolage”, “post-secular”, and “new age”. The risk is to fall into presentism, ascribing all the characteristics of religious phenomena to the so-called modern turn. We therefore propose to investigate the relationships between old and new trends within religious phenomena.
– Phenomenology of the religious body: perceptions, emotions, sensations and construction of the body. We invite scholars to describe and understand the intertwining of body, perception, understanding and culture.
Finally, I aim to enlarge the discussion about religious phenomena beyond the pure intellectual frame, engaging with Photography, Literature, Calligraphy, Graphic Novels, etc.
The latest activities at the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities are:
- A workshop dedicated to the Arabic-Islamic calligraphy
A workshop dedicated to the Arabic-Islamic calligraphy
On March 9th I, together with Prof. Ida Zilio Grandi of Ca’ Foscari University, organised a workshop dedicated to the Arabic-Islamic calligraphy. The following invited speakers introduced the topic to the audience: prof. Andrea Brigaglia (Cape Town University, South Africa), Prof. Michele Petrone (Copenhagen University, Denmark), Prof. Aymon Kreil (Ghent University, Belgium) and Prof. Paolo Urizzi (Perennia Verba).
The workshop involving a numerous audience has been led by the Moroccan artist Sadik Haddari.
For the occasion, the Cini Foundation purchased a Quran from the Nigerian calligrapher Ka’ana Umar.
This book enriched the library of the for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities and at the same time preserves an endangered artistic and artisanal form of art. In fact, the Nigerian calligraphy as form of art has been targeted by the jihadist movement “Boko Haram”, which focused its violence not only against non-Muslim believers, but also against the so called traditional Islam, its religious authorises and Sufi orders.
Ka’ana Umar fled his city to save his own life, and keeps working as a refugee calligrapher.
The event was the issue of an article on the weekly publication “Il Venerdì di Repubblica” 23/03/2018