Introduction

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The Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713 and is considered to be the commencement of modern diplomacy. This treaty marked the end of almost two centuries of (religious) wars and conflicts. Commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht the Centre for the Humanities convened several major projects: the visiting professorship scheme of the Treaty of Utrecht Chair, three commemorative conferences in 2013 and a Redrafting Perpetual Peace project.  With the support of the Treaty of Utrecht organization, the Utrecht Province, and the many Utrecht University staff members, notably the Descartes Centre and the Focus Area ‘Identities and Cultures’, as well as many cultural organizations, CfH has mobilized the best intellectual and human resources of its team. The assumptions that supported our 2013 programme were clear: we have a duty to remember, but our yearning is to transform the legacy of the past into something empowering and inspiring for the present.

CfH Treaty of Utrecht Commemoration Projects

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The Treaty of Utrecht Chair  offered a visiting professorship to various distinguished professors from a variety of academic and cultural fields of study. Until 2013, two times a year an international visiting professor was invited to hold the Chair for a period of three months. Through lectures, master classes and public events visiting professors reflected on the problems of cosmopolitanism, cultural diversity, and the influence of the media on society today. Read more about it and see videos here.

The Edward Said Memorial Conferencewhich took place on 15-17 April 2013, inaugurated the commemoration of the  1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Each day featured renowned speakers and established academics on Edward Said’s work. Major attention was paid to cultural activities that resound with Said’s vision in combining scholarship with the Arts so as to support the quest for justice, self-determination and equality. Local artists hosted international artists, reiterating the hospitality that the city of Utrecht afforded the eighteen month long negotiations which led to the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht on April 11, 1713. Theme of these intercultural co-operations was what the Said-Barenboim Foundation has illustrated time and again: the critical power of music to inspire resistance and to challenge the political imagination. 

Check conference video archive here.

On June 21-22 “The Colonial Legacy” Conference linked the commemoration of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 to the abolition of Slavery by the Dutch in 1863. Over the course of two days, distinguished academics delved into the legacy of the Treaty of Utrecht, the history of slavery, the state of slavery today and the connections between them. The conference took its participants from history and philosophy, to anthropology and post-colonialism, transnational memories and transitional justice. In a great number of interdisciplinary lectures and panels, scholars will examined the lasting legacy of slavery and the persistent presence of human trafficking in the contemporary world.

Check conference video archive here.

To conclude the academic conference series, on September 19-20the Centre for the Humanities hosted “The Idea of University and the Future of Knowledge”In this closing conference to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht, the CfH has invited back some of the leading scholars who have been appointed to the Visiting Professorship which the Utrecht Province had endowed especially for the occasion. The conference aimed to investigate the changing relations between the university as the location of academic and scientific excellence and its civic environment. To what an extent can the contemporary university cultivate a high level of social awareness in responding to the demands of civil society, the labour market, global culture and the corporate world, while remaining loyal to its century-old mission of pursuing scientific excellence for its own sake? What is the role of the Humanities in facing this challenge? The conference assessed recent efforts to redefine the parameters for a new interaction between the university and its local and global civic context. It raised the question of what it means to be a learned and critical citizen of the world today and what the university’s role ought to be in forming the citizens of the future.

Check conference video archive here.

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Redrafting Perpetual Peace initiative was the final commemorative project convened by the Centre for the Humanities. In 1795 Immanuel Kant outlined six preliminary articles for perpetual peace between states. More than 200 years later, Redrafting Perpetual Peace project encouraged to re-think Kant’s six basic conditions for peace. Through a collection of short films and critical essays the project asks: how can we re-frame the idea of perpetual peace for the contemporary world? The initiative is convened by the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University as a part of Perpetual Peace Project in association with the Syracuse University Humanities Center. A collection of essays and films is published online at http://redraftingperpetualpeace.org.

Read more about Perpetual Peace Project here.