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UNI to host international conference on violence and religion

July 8, 2013

Martha Reineke, professor, Department of Philosophy and World Religions, 319-984-6582,

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728,

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa will host this year's Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R). This international association of scholars was founded in 1990 and is dedicated to the exploration, criticism and development of René Girad's mimetic model of the relationship between violence and religion in the genesis and maintenance of culture. Scholars from diverse fields and theoretical orientations are invited to participate. Last year's conference was held at the International Christian University in Tokyo.

This year's conference, titled "A Land Between Two Rivers," will focus on ecological issues, using the impact large-scale industrial agriculture has had on the ecosystem in the state of Iowa as a case study. 

The mimetic theory is a model of human relationships that, among other things, focuses on the phenomena of the scapegoat mechanism, a method in which humankind has created, throughout the centuries, common enemies to foster unity and set the foundations of advanced cultural development. By temporally displacing the fear or threat acting on the person or society, social order can be restored, as the "threat" has been identified and eliminated. The mimetic theory says this mechanism can be linked to everything from bullying to war.

The conference begins on Wednesday, July 10, at 4 p.m., in Bengston Auditorium in Russell Hall with a welcome from University President Bill Ruud. The opening keynote lecture, given by Laura Jackson of the Department of Biology at UNI, will follow at 7:30 p.m. Jackson's studies focus on sustainable agriculture. She has worked alongside farmers in northeast Iowa, helping reintroduce native plant life to add diversity and sustainability.  

Another noted speaker, Whitney Bauman, professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Florida International University, will speak on Thursday, July 11, at 7 p.m. in Bengston Auditorium. Bauman's research focuses on how religious beliefs, insights, doctrines and practices have shaped the cultures in which people live, and how this impacts their relationship with the natural world.

Mark Wallace, professor in the Department of Religion at Swathmore College, will speak on Friday, July 12, at 10:15 a.m. in Bengston Auditorium. Wallace's research has focused on how world religions have defined humankind's placement in the natural order. He addresses some of the questions many religions have grappled with throughout history, questions regarding human beings' responsibility to the natural world and other life forms, and the idea of the cosmos having an inherent purpose or function. All questions, Wallace believes influence peoples' treatment of the natural world around them.

For more information about the COV&R and a full conference event list, visit