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USC College Institutes Sponsor Tolerance Conference

International symposium to be held at USC April 3 and 4.

USC College Institutes Sponsor Tolerance Conference


The USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute (EMSI) and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education (SFI) are co-sponsoring a conference, “Religious Tolerance and Intolerance from the Inquisition to the Present,” on April 3–4, 2008. The conference is free to attend and open to the public.

“The idea of religious and racial toleration is one familiar to Americans, so much so that it is one of those seemingly eternal verities we uncritically invoke in our political and cultural lives as though it were an unchanging value,” said Douglas Greenberg, executive director of the SFI and professor of history in USC College.

“Yet the idea of tolerance, like the idea of intolerance, has a history both as an intellectual construct and as a political and cultural imperative,” he continued. “The April conference will bring together leading scholars of the subject addressing topics that range from the emergence of religious toleration in early modern Europe to European ideas about the treatment of indigenous peoples in the Americas.”

The conference’s keynote address will be delivered by Benjamin J. Kaplan, professor at University College London and the University of Amsterdam. Kaplan is the author of Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe (Belknap Press, 2007), which has been lauded for shifting the debate about the history of tolerance from the world of ideas to the that of people’s everyday attitudes and behavior.

Visiting scholars from France, the United Kingdom, Brazil and across the United States will speak on a wide range of subjects such as European religious indifference, atheism in the U.S., the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and anti-Semitism in modern Portugal.

Conference highlights will include “Unequal Brothers: Indigenous People in the Republic of Bolivia after the Independence of 1825,” a presentation by expert Holocaust historian and comparative genocide researcher Wolf Gruner, and “The Meaning of Toleration in Comparative Political Theory and the Implications for Public Policy,” presented by Alison Dundes Renteln of USC College’s political science department.

The SFI and EMSI intend to publish a book of essays based upon the papers presented at the conference.

“The Early Modern Studies Institute and the Shoah Foundation Institute hope the conference will be the first in a series of events in which the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, and other units of the university and the College will also participate,” said Peter Mancall, EMSI director and professor of history and anthropology. “These events will be intended to address issues of scholarly concern that relate to matters of importance in contemporary life.”

The conference will be held at the Davidson Conference Center on the USC’s University Park campus and will be open to the public. Admission is free but reservations are required. For reservations, contact Melissa McNear at (213) 740-6724.