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Past 2016 Activities

Dignity Workshop


Thursday 1 September 2016
10am-12pm and 12:30-3:30pm
Seminar Room
Level 2
Fisher Library
The University of Sydney

Co-sponsored by the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC), the Nation Globe Empire Research Cluster and Sydney Intellectual History Network (SIHN)

This workshop forms part of a general project concerning the 'recovery' of dignity. The centrality of the term dignity can be located in the work of Hannah Arendt. She argues in The Origins of Totalitarianism that as a result of the 'totalitarian' what has been 'demonstrated' is that 'human dignity needs a new guarantee'. The overall project is premised on the position that the conceptions of dignity that we have are inadequate for the task demanded of them. The contention is that within the philosophical and religious traditions there are the resources for such an undertaking. As such, once distinct elements are reworked and re-examined – in sum the project of recovery – fundamental elements comprising that guarantee can be found. Its presence as 'new' involves recovery. In sum, dignity is neither an invented term nor an invented concept. It is already at work. Hence it is there to be recovered and transformed. Both aspects are fundamental. Each of the papers is a contribution to this general project.

Respondent: Danielle Celermajer, University of Sydney

Francesco Borghesi, University of Sydney
Human Dignity and the Image of God

Starting from Gen 1:26-28 ("et ait faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem"; Vulgate translation), this paper will look at the ways in which some Patristic, Hermetic, and Humanistic sources have interpreted human nature as mirroring God's divinity in its ability to actualise the unique qualities with which mankind has been endowed.

Nathan Wolski, Monash University
From the Divine Image to Human Dignity: Intimations of Piconian Dignity in Zoharic Literature

The centrality of kabbalistic thought in Pico's oeuvre is well established. Less clear is the role that kabbalistic anthropology may have played in his novel conception of human dignity. Examining the earliest composition of the zoharic corpus, this paper highlights intimations of Piconian dignity, both with a view to shedding light on a potential source of his thought, and as a way of continuing his project of concord.

Andrew Benjamin, Monash University
Redressing the Metaphysics of Nudity: Notes on Seneca, Arendt and Dignity

Arendt famously wrote that the ‘world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of human being’. In Seneca's De beneficiis it is this very nudity that is evoked in order to ground the universality of virtue. If there is a link between virtue and dignity then it has to re-engage the question of universality that is both opened and closed by the evocation of 'abstract nakedness'.

New Histories of International Law


Thursday August 18, 2016
Western Tower Room
University of Sydney

Brought to you by the Laureate Research Program in International History, Nation-Empire-Globe Research Cluster, and the Department of History, University of Sydney

Marco Duranti (Sydney): A Romantic Approach to the History of International Law

Lisa Ford (UNSW): Mixed commissions, human rights and municipal law

Natasha Wheatley (Sydney): Spectral Legal Personality in
Interwar International Law: On New Ways of Not Being a State

David Armitage (Harvard): "A Specimen of Marco Polo" or "The Modern Grotius"?: C. H. Alexandrowicz (1902-75) on Sovereignty and Statehood

Andrew Fitzmaurice (Sydney): Travers Twiss on the equality of
non-European nations in international law

Medieval Legacies of Human Rights in Australasia, Europe and Muslim Societies


Monday 20 June 2016
Kevin Lee Room
The University of Sydney

In 2015, the entire world commemorated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. But how can a medieval English charter embody fundamental rights in a globalized world? This workshop reconsiders the medieval origins of human rights and the legacy of foundational medieval texts today.

  • Chris JONES – University of Canterbury (New Zealand)
    Mana & Magna Carta: The New Zealand Experience of a Medieval Legacy
  • Clare MONAGLE – Macquarie University
    The Christian Problem: Scholastic Theology and the New Histories of Human Rights
  • Lisa WORTHINGTON – University of Western Sydney
    Human Rights in Islam: Examining Progressive Muslim Thought and Practice

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