New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Can the political, philosophical, artistic, scientific, and cultural discourse passed down to us from the Greek cultural legacy, the history that makes us who we are today, be a source for solutions to today’s challenges?
A global dialogue between scholars and scientists from a broad range of disciplines will explore this question at The Athens Dialogues Conference to be held on November 24-27, 2010 at the new Onassis Cultural Center — Athens, whose marble and glass exterior refers to the minimalism demonstrated by Ancient Greek architecture.
At The Athens Dialogues Conference New York Meeting at New York’s Onassis Cultural Center on Saturday, April 17, the second phase of the conference project (the first was the project’s inauguration at Oxford university in January), Professor George Babiniotis, President of the Organizing Committee of The Athens Dialogues Conference referred to the conference as “an ongoing research project”, and that the focus of the conference is not on the Greek legacy for its own sake, but on “the problems that modern man faces, and how the legacy can be useful for solutions to these problems”.
Mr. Anthony Papadimitriou, President of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation expanded on this idea in his Introduction, saying, “The slogan of the conference should be to aim to establish a grand unified theory of knowledge. With that goal we will not be doing a conference of Greeks talking about Greece to Greeks.” An important focus for the future, he said, will be the participation of scholars of the hard sciences and other social sciences. He emphasized that the conference will have a generational sweep, saying that students, young scholars, scientists, and artists will be encouraged to enter into the dialogue. A goal for the future, he stressed, is to include individuals of “non-western” cultures. It is envisaged that there will be an Athens Dialogues Conference every 3 or 4 yrs.
Taking the podium at Mr. Papadimitriou’s insistence, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios praised the the Onassis Cultural Center, where there is “a constant feeling of innovation and creativity” and applauded the Onassis Foundation’s upcoming conference initiative, particularly in these times, he said, when Greece is ”in the center of a kind of international criticism…”
The 85 scholars and scientists from the broader New York metropolitan area came to The Athens Dialogues Conference New York Meeting to be familiarized with the conference proceedings and exchange views. They were invited to submit papers for the conference by July 4, 2010.
Introduced by Ambassador Loukas Tsilas, Executive Director of the Onassis Cultural Center, Mr. Papadimitriou and Professor Babiniotis were among the 6 presenters at the meeting, an extensive briefing on November’s The Athens Dialogues Conference which included a breakfast and working luncheon.
Mr. Papadimitriou’s PowerPoint presentation The main axis of the public benefit activities of the Onassis Foundation, illustrated the extensive programs and initiatives of the Foundation and described their success. Mentioning the cycle of exhibitions at the Onassis Cultural Center he said they:are “based on challenging a preconceived ideas”. One of the three examples he cited the Athens-Sparta exhibition, which showed that contrary to its image of simple military might, “Sparta had art”.
Professor George Babiniotis presented The Athens Dialogues International Conference and its thematic sessions. The six thematic sessions of the conference, to be discussed from both a diachronic and interdisciplinary perspective are :Identity and Difference, Stories and Histories, Word and Art, Democracy and Governance, Science and Ethics, Quality of Life. (Themes such as economy, religion, and technology will permeate all the sessions, so are not separate thematic sessions.)
The selection of themes for the 6 sessions of the upcoming Athens Dialogues Conference and their main speakers were the result of a two-year process which involved the Professor Babiniotis and the Organizing Committee, comprised of leading scholars — members of the Greek academic community among them — assisted by international scholars and intellectuals who submitted proposals .
In addition to Mr. Papadimitriou and Professor Babiniotis, presenters at the meeting were: Professor Robert Harriss and Professor Dimitri Nanopoulos, A paradigm: The thematic session of Quality of Life; Dr. Niki Tsironis, Academic Coordinator of the Athens Dialogues Conference, The Athens Dialogues website and its multiple functions; Professor Kenny Morrell from the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University, The e-journal of the Athens Dialogues.
Discussions of the Quality of Life session by Professor Robert Harriss and Professor Dimitri Nanopoulos, who are Co-Chairs of that session, included graphs and diagrams. that demonstrated the necessity of long-term thinking versus short-term thinking, said Harriss. “The goal of the Quality of Life panel is to seek new insights into the fundamental principles of sustainability that promote human well-being. The primary reforms that are needed include a transition from short-term to long-term thinking, and a transition from recklessness and excess to moderation, with increased attention to the precautionary principle,” he said. This session will address the perennial existential questions: “where are we from and where are we going”,
Dr. Tsironis’s presentation The Athens Dialogues website and its multiple function,s and Professor Morrell’s presentation The e-journal of the Athens Dialogues, described the website‘s high tech interactive layout. Contributors will be able to post their research and ideas before and after the conference; this can include Youtube videos. A vital function of the website, which will include translation platforms, is communication among the participants, and pre-publication, six months in advance, of the papers to be presented in the conference, freeing the respondents to participate in the conference proceedings as they unfold. Professor Morrell will publish the proceedings of the conference on the interactive e-journal.
The website will include all departments of Hellenic Studies and universities as well as research centers conducting important research on Hellenic culture and civilization. And it will encourage public participation, providing a point of contact for all those who are engaged or interested in the Greek cultural heritage.
Speaking of the success of The Athens Dialogues Conference New York Meeting Mr. Anthony Papadimitriou told the GN, ”This was the crowning day of our preparation for The Athens Dialogues Conference… in New York, which is the cultural capital of the world, the new capital of cultural civilization, the new Athens.” Everyone attending the meeting, he said, is “interested in one subject, the classical tradition of the humanities, the common ground of current civilization, today’s civilization, how it relates to the past, how it relates to Ancient Greece, and how the problems that were discussed 2500 years ago are still important material and should be kept continuously in our minds when we are dealing with today’s issues and tomorrow’s issues”.
In addition to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the Ambassador of Greece to the UN Anastasis Mitsialis, the Consul General of Greece in New York Ambassador Aghi Balta, Ambassador and Former Assistant Secretary General of the UN Dr. Sotiris Mousouris, Polyxeni Mastroperrou, Director of the Greek Press and Communication Office in New York, and several members of the Board of Directors of the Onassis Foundation were among the many distinguished guests.
LEADING THE CONFERENCE
The Chairs of the six thematic sessions of November’s The Athens Dialogues Conference are:
Professor Dame Averil Cameron, Identity and Difference
Professors Hans-Joachim Gehrke and Johannes Koder, Stories and Histories
Professors Gregory Nagy and Richard Martin, Word and Art
Sir Basil Markesinis and Professor Konstantinos Svolopoulos, Democracy and Governance
Professors Athanassios Fokas and Jacques Jouanna, Science and Ethics
Professors Dimitri Nanopoulos and Robert Harriss, Quality of Life
The Athens Dialogues Conference is co–organized by the Academy of Athens,
the Accademia dei Lincei, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the German Archaeological Institute, the Institut de France, the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and Stanford University.
The aim of the Onassis Foundation, to present, project, and encourage contemporary Greek culture and its dissemination is also the aim of the new Onassis Cultural Center — Athens. Located on Syngrou Boulevard the nine-floor multidisciplinary cultural space has an 860-seat amphitheater, 600 square meters of exhibition space, a performance hall, an open-air theater, an electronic library, a professional recording studio, a restaurant, and underground parking. The French architectural firm, The Design Studio, which won the design project over 66 candidates, designed the 89-foot building.