Religion, Culture & Society
UCSIA provides a platform for the exchange of scientific findings in the field of religion, culture and society and their mutual relationships. UCSIA distinguishes the following themes.
By focusing on religion, UCSIA stays true to its roots: the Christian tradition in general and the Jesuit tradition in particular. This implies that we look at our own world with an open and positive attitude, that we are well aware of the fact that private matters must be examined in order to discern something about the ‘universal’. Solid knowledge of religions and life philosophies is essential, not only to participate in the public debate, but also to underpin our own spirituality. Another important topic for UCSIA is the interaction between life philosophies and natural science. Although man cannot be reduced to biochemistry, neurology, psychology or sociology, these disciplines help us to understand religious experiences. UCSIA strives to further explore these topics on the crossroads of natural science, morality and meaning.
For UCSIA religion is more than a private matter. Even more so, religion can make an essential contribution to the construction of society. In Ignatian spirituality this is expressed with the Latin word ‘magis’, meaning ‘more’. It refers to growing in service to God and neighbour. Even today, people keep searching for meaning. Different art forms – literature, poetry, music, visual arts, dance… – are often part of their philosophical lifestyle. At a social level, the ongoing search for connecting meta-stories and meaning in one’s own personal experience of freedom is exemplary. Institutional religions, commonly viewed as the embodiment of a community, as the connection with something superseding the individual, are also looking for ways to value the personal religious experience. By covering these themes, UCSIA hopes to contribute to the public debate on religion with rational arguments, to strengthen institutional religions in their public position, and to meet the social and intellectual need for in-depth conversation.
With the help of sustainable partnerships with different organizations from the (institutional) religious sector, UCSIA wants to draw attention to a series of recurring themes: Jewish-Christian relationships, islam, mental health care, student chaplaincy, religion and natural science, religious education, interreligious dialogue, Jesuit heritage and mysticism. One of the main projects of ‘Religion, Culture and Society’ is the annual summer school for young international scholars from the humanities. Finally, several events are organized to discuss current social issues, such as identity and cultural Christianity, spirituality, church community building…
Thematic focus for the coming years:
1. Subtle languages
In a secular age, man is looking for new ways to talk about transcendence or the deeper sense of life.This could be called ‘subtle’. New expressions of transcendence are found between heteronomy and autonomy, between tradition and self-design, between being called upon and being creative on your own, between power and vulnerability.
In the coming years, UCSIA will present activities concerning:
- New cultural expressions of our relation towards religious feelings and transcendence. In this regard, UCSIA is closely collaborating with chaplaincy services and the Cathedral of Antwerp.
- Subtle ethical and philosophical languages in politics, health care, education and the prison system.
2. MIT: Man in Technology
The contemporary individual is overwhelmed with technological devices. These devices increasingly direct our behaviour, via algorithms and big data. At the end of the day, how does technology influence our human and world view?
In future years, UCSIA will be concentrating on the normative debates evoked by new technologies. Subthemes are: internet of things, financial services on the basis of algorithms, genetic screening, neuroscientific approach of religion. Some activities will overlap with ‘Economy and Ethics’ and the Chair of Economy of Hope at the University of Antwerp.
3. Sustainable Mental Health
The list of 17 SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) articulated by the United Nations is well known.
UCSIA adds an 18th SDG to this list: sustainable mental health. Culture, religion, spirituality… are important sources for reflection and provide connecting stories.
UCSIA is collaborating for at least three consecutive years with KSGV, especially with the Flemish department.
UCSIA is also working together with the Centre for General Practice at the University of Antwerp and with Palliative Care Antwerp (Palliatieve Hulpverlening Antwerpen vzw).