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Public Conference: The Guru Challenge

The Institute of British Studies at Leipzig University invites to the interdisciplinary conference The Guru Challenge. Gurus in Literature, Culture and Politics from 4-6 Nov. 2016. The conference centres on the guru as a cultural figure that combines Indian spiritual learning with a global outlook. Although the term and concept of the guru originally derive from Indian religion and philosophy, it has been extended to many other fields in recent decades, which reveals the appeal of this denomination. Nowadays, supposed gurus can be found in management theory, computer companies, psychotherapy, scholarship, and elsewhere. The word guru carries many connotation, from salvation to fraud, and the expansion of its meaning makes an academic investigation a rewarding challenge.

This conference aims to explore both the historical development of the concept of the Indian guru and its representations and transformations in Western culture. Reflections on the guru offer a focal point for exploring historical and contemporary tendencies in cultural and religious syncretism. As catalysts for transformation on the individual, spiritual and social level, gurus can challenge established beliefs and act as symbols of change. In its role as a wise teacher and sacred figure, the guru today can also be considered as a principle of self-discovery and self-stylization in an age of free-market economy. As a guide in the quest for meaning in a secularizing world and a destination for spiritual tourism, the guru invites respect and critique in popular culture, politics, and the academic world.

‘The Guru Challenge’ offers insights into the psychological, social and spiritual role of gurus and their representations in a wide range of media and modes of narration, such as literary fiction, travel writing, biography, or film. The conference speakers come from the fields of Indology, English literature and cultural studies, psychology, religious studies, philosophy, Slavonic studies, economics, and media studies.

4-6 November 2016 , 11 a.m., Bibliotheca Albertina, Tagungssaal (Beethovenstraße 6)

All guests are welcome (free of charge). Please find the conference details in the flyer.