For the second consecutive year, the Association for Baha’i Studies – North America will hold its annual conference as a virtual gathering. From 23-31 July 2021, participants will be invited to engage with multi-faceted presentations that draw “hope, inspiration and guidance from the unparalleled example of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.”
Held in the year leading to the centenary of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in November 1921, this year’s conference will look the model of his contribution to social and intellectual discourses of his time. “In countless tablets and talks, and in expansive works such as Some Answered Questions and The Secret of Divine Civilization, 'Abdu'l-Bahá offered all humanity a model for participation in the discourses of society,” says the conference theme statement.
The program for the conference includes pre-recorded and live talks on a variety of themes. A live keynote address, “Reflections on the challenge of our time,” is given by Paul Lample, member of the Universal House of Justice.
Other presentations feature established scholars, graduate students, professionals, artists, and community-based practitioners reflecting on aspects of the discourses of their fields of work and study.
“The conference program reflects an effort to be responsive to growing interest in a number of discourses of pressing social concern throughout North America; this year a number of presentations focus on the reconciliation and justice for Indigenous peoples, as well as issues of race, racism, and racial justice,” said Julia Berger, Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Association for Baha’i Studies.
“We are also trying to broaden the understanding of the various modalities of discourse, including film,” added Dr. Berger. “Several sessions focus on the medium of film and enable the film-makers and producers to engage with the community about their experience with this medium.” Many other presentations include discussions about research findings from ongoing collaborative projects and reflections on experience gained from processes of social action.
“We are continuing to strive to connect to and share insights from ongoing processes on inquiry and learning in the community,” Dr. Berger emphasized.
As with last year’s conference, this year it is open to registration by all through a system of voluntary donation. Since last year, said Dr. Berger, “we focused on ways to continue to make all parts of the conference widely accessible. A great deal of thought went into the construction of the on-line interface to make this as user-friendly and intuitive as possible.”
“We are thinking about the evolving place of the conference in the greater constellation of activities fostered by the Association for Baha’i Studies, including collaborative initiatives, workshops, publications, and initiatives focused on youth. We are moving away from a conference-as-event way of thinking to one in which the conference punctuates a steady rhythm of intellectual activity,” concluded Dr. Berger.
Over the past year, many participants in the Association for Baha’i Studies have been participating in ongoing research projects and virtual reading groups. The Executive Committee of the Association hopes to see the continued development of smaller, sustained and focused collaborative efforts emerging from the annual conference.