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The Athens Dialogues - An International Conference on Culture and Civilization


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Jan. 10 2010
About Oxford University Meeting

Oxford University hosts the Onassis Foundation meeting regarding the international conference entitled The Athens Dialogues. The aim of the conference, which is organized in collaboration with eight acclaimed research institutions in Europe and the United States, is to explore the role of Greek culture in modern society. The co-organizing institutions are: Academy of Athens, Oxford University, the Accademia dei Lincei, the Deutsche Archaeologisches Institut, , the Institut de France, the Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Centre for Hellenic Studies of the Harvard University and Stanford University. The conference will be held in Athens on November 24-27, 2010 and it is planned as the inaugurating event of the Onassis Cultural Center, the new multicultural space of the Onassis Foundation in Athens with the fundamental aim of presenting and encouraging contemporary Greek culture and its dissemination beyond Greece.

The scope of the meeting in Oxford is to provide information about The Athens Dialogues and is hosted by Professor Dame Averil Cameron and the University of Oxford. It is scheduled for Friday 15th January 2010 at 4 pm. and will take place at St. John’s College auditorium.

About The Athens Dialogues

The Athens Dialogues is a major project initiated by the Onassis Foundation aiming to bring together people working on Greek culture and wishing to explore the potential of the Greek cultural legacy as a source for solutions to challenges that the world faces today and will inevitably come to face in the future. The Athens Dialogues is envisaged as an ongoing research project with conferences organized at regular intervals of three or four years.

This first conference will focus on the following six thematic sessions which will be approached from a diachronic and interdisciplinary perspective.

  1. Identity and Difference
  2. Stories and Histories
  3. Word and Art
  4. Democracy and Governance
  5. Science and Ethics
  6. Quality of Life

The six sessions are chaired by members of the Onassis Foundation Board of Directors and by representatives of the co-organizing institutions. Respectively the sessions are chaired by: 1) Professor Dame Averil Cameron, Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History, Keble College, Oxford 2) Hans-Joachim Gehrke, President of the German Archeological Institute 3) Gregory Nagy,Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature, Harvard University and Richard Martin, Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor of Classics, Stanford University 4) Sir Basil Markesinis, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Methodology at the Universities of Cambridge, London and Oxford and Konstantinos Svolopoulos, Professor Emeritus of Modern Greek History, University of Athens 5) Athanasios S. Fokas, Chair in Nonlinear Mathematical Science at the University of Cambridge and 6) Robert Harris, President of the Houston Advanced Research Centre and Dimitri Nanopoulos,Mitchell/Heep Chair in High Energy Physics, Texas A&M University.

The two aspects which make this conference different is that in all its preparatory phases the purpose has been to maintain the dual perspective of interdisciplinary and diachronic approach to Greek culture. As far as Greek culture is concerned, this interdisciplinary approach is all important, as the aim was to overcome the boundaries of scholars dealing with Greek studies, wishing to avoid a ‘Greek’ conference focusing on Greek culture. Towards this end scientists, but also intellectuals, journalists and artists interested in Greek culture will be involved. The idea of a synthetic approach to Greek culture serves in the best possible way by this multiplicity of disciplines recruited to address the issues of the thematic sessions which represent the core of the first phase of the conference.

As far as the diachronic approach is concerned, the term is used denoting the result of a culture that through its millenniums existence has retained the common element of its language producing on the way not ONE consistent identity but various which nonetheless formed the basis of modern world. The conference was triggered in order to see whether Greek culture in all its polymorphy is still relevant to the modern world. And whether it can still provide answers to crucial issues preoccupying the modern man. Greek culture is referred as a multi-layered cultural form subsisted by its language and by the basic principle of respect to the humanistic values. Man was the centre of this culture and he remains at the centre today, albeit in a different form. The aim is to revisit this relationship between man and culture through the perspective of the thematic sessions set in the agenda of our first Athens Dialogues Conference.

The Onassis Foundation does not wish to organize yet another conference. The Foundation’s approach is synthetic and all main speakers are encouraged to adopt such a point of view combining their field of expertise with the main axes of the Athens Dialogues Conference. The conference aims to bring together people who study or who are interested in Greek culture and to create a network which will encompass people who can collaborate, share ideas and find solutions to problems modern man faces in the modern world where the study of ancient cultures becomes more and more irrelevant and in the context of which we need new ways to approach society.

Organization of The Athens Dialogues

Representatives of the co-organizing institutions along with eminent personalities of the scholarly world and members of the Greek academic community, participate in the organizing committee of the conference. During the preparations of the conference, the committee’s task has been to formulate carefully the questions to be discussed, to propose the most suitable persons to take part in the discussions and to assume responsibility for the broad dissemination of the problems addressed and the aspirations of the conference. The work of the organizing committee is greatly assisted by scholars and intellectuals from all over the world. The conference is presided by Professor George Babiniotis, acclaimed linguist and former Rector of the University of Athens. Dr Niki Tsironis ( has been appointed as the academic co-ordinator of the Conference.

The Athens Dialogues is organized as a working meeting, where not only the speakers and respondents but also the “public” will attend by invitation only. This procedure will ensure the high level of dialogue between the contributors themselves and the public. For best results the organizing committee has decided the pre-publication of the papers on the net, a procedure that will enable respondents to be prepared for the opening of the dialogue during the days of the conference.

The Onassis Foundation will be also launching a web portal, where all departments of Hellenic Studies will be included along with the universities and research centres conducting important research on Hellenic culture and civilization. The portal aims to become a point of contact and communication between all those who are engaged or interested in the Greek cultural heritage. It will also facilitate the work of the committee as well as the communication among the participants, since key-note papers and comments will be published there long before the actual conference. The portal will soon appear and will continue to be enriched in the future.

The official languages of the conference will be Greek, English and French.

This post is also available in: Greek