Since 1976, the Association has been hosting an annual conference which brings together hundreds of individuals and groups from North America and beyond, across diverse professions and academic disciplines, to share insights, to study, and to plan for ongoing endeavors. Read about the upcoming conference, access proceedings, recordings, and photos from past conferences.
Beyond Critique to Constructive Engagement
24 July – 8 August 2020Conference App
STUDY AND CONNECT with others in your academic/professional field in small-group workshops on engaging in the discourses of society and working within an evolving conceptual framework. Special sessions have been planned for undergraduate students.
DEEPEN your understanding of pressing contemporary challenges through keynote presentations about Bahá’í perspectives on racial justice, the role of media in social transformation, and the spiritual and social implications of the pandemic.
ENGAGE with faculty, scholars, artists, practitioners in roundtable conversations on themes such as conceptions of knowledge in Africana studies, the role of media and film in contribution to social discourse, corporate moral excellence, art and social transformation.
EXPLORE the breadth of scholarship through presentations and discussions on themes addressing global health; capitalism and justice; epistemology; discourses of race; ethical treatment of animals; artificial intelligence; and others.
REFLECT AND COMMUNE with artistic presentations that combine song, image, spoken word and sacred text about the urgency of honoring our essential oneness.
DISCOVER how Bahá’í filmmakers engage the questions of our time and the assumptions underlying the traditional filmmaking process through a series of contemporary films exploring such themes as justice, service, and joy in the first film festival for ABS.
HEAR from specialized reading groups reporting insights from their summer of intensive study of topics including: jurisprudence, race, immigration, art in the time of covid, constructive agency, youth and media, criminal justice, and more.
ADVANCE your understanding of the implications of the Revelation for methodologies in academic research across fields including Africana studies, religious studies, social sciences, natural sciences, economics and more.
LEARN from authors of recently published books about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s vision of global peace, dimensions of Baháʼí law, normative foundations of social change, and Hand of the Cause Siyyid Mustafá Rúmí.
Conference Theme Statement
In an effort to continue learning about what it means to enhance the intellectual life of the Bahá’í community and to participate in academic and professional discourses, the Association for Bahá’í Studies, along with a wide range of participants and collaborators, continues to explore relevant questions through a variety of opportunities, such as discipline-specific working groups, specialized seminars, publication of books and the Journal, and the annual conference. (See 2013 letter from the Universal House of Justice.)
At the 2019 annual conference, participants explored ways in which Bahá’ís strive to move beyond a critique of our current social order and its shortcomings, into constructive concepts and practices that allow us to imagine, and contribute to, social transformation as envisioned by Bahá’u’lláh. Plenary presentations and breakout sessions, while recognizing the deficiencies of current approaches to education, racial justice, film production, health, or governance, to name but a few, highlighted new modes of thought and practice that are coming into being. We are more aware of the pitfalls of getting trapped in a discourse of critique alone.
We are learning to read more deeply the contours of existing academic and professional discourses on critical issues of the day, to seek out the contributions of like-minded scholars across different fields, and to discern promising tendencies. Our growing experience is bearing out that the necessary capacity to transform society can only be developed as “effort is made to draw on insights from Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, to tap into the accumulating knowledge of the human race, to apply His teachings intelligently to the life of humanity, and to consult on the questions that arise.” (Ridván 2010)
The overarching mission of ABS is to advance Bahá’í thought and scholarship across a wide diversity of fields and disciplines. The 2020 conference will focus on intellectual pursuits that endeavor to correlate the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh with lines of inquiry in various fields and disciplines in order to effect change at the level of thought, with further implications for change in attitudes, practices and social structures. This year, we will continue to explore a number of key questions:
- How can we explore fundamental defects in present knowledge systems, while at the same time, advancing our understanding and generating spiritually grounded alternatives?
- How can we engage in a critique of the underlying ideologies of knowledge systems without being limited by relativist, postmodern and materialistic modes of thinking?
- Through Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, how can we ensure that our contribution to discourse includes both a deep understanding of what is, but also informed insights of what could be?
- How can Bahá’í scholarship contribute to knowledge that seeks to lay the groundwork for new social structures built on principles of justice and oneness?
2013 Knowledge into Action: The Bahá’í Imperative to Serve Humanity
2018 Navigating the Discourse on Race within the Politicized Landscape of Journalism
2015 The Nature and Dynamics of Oppression, Empowerment, and the Battle against Oppression