A special journal issue of ‘Approaching Religion’ was published by the study circle on ‘Hospitality and Solidarity: Feminist Philosophy in Thought, History and Action’. All participants to the Winter Symposium 2020 organised by Nordic Summer University’s Study Circle 3 were invited to contribute an article, reflection on the symposium, or a book review. Edited by Laura Hellsten and Nicole des Bouvrie, the coordinators of the study circle, who are very happy with the result, which is published open access, so all articles – including the opening editorial – are free to read online.
In the words of Hellsten and des Bouvrie:
How to think hospitality in a secular age? The study circle on hospitality and solidarity, ‘Feminist Philosophy in Thought, History and Action’, which is part of the Nordic Summer University (NSU) organised a winter symposium in March 2020 in Turku/Åbo, Finland. The symposium was arranged in collaboration with the Donner Institute and cofunded by both the Polin Institute and Åbo Akademi University. The goal was to bring together students and scholars from diverse educational and geographical backgrounds to explore the question of hospitality in a contemporary setting. Taking into consideration religious and philosophical perspectives, while also being grounded in the complex reality of today, participants exchanged thoughts and ideas over four days. What resulted was, in the words of one of the participants, ‘hours of learning, mutual study and exploration’ (Izraeli, this issue). Essential to the evolution of these discussions was not only the space provided for them by the partnering institutions, but also the fact that we were able to eat and walk and breathe within and through the framework of hospitality (Barroso, this issue).
Between the joint dinners around Turku/Åbo and the accommodation facilities provided by the Bridgettine nuns of the convent, a new sphere of exploring how hospitality can be sensed and experienced was added to the layers provided by the thoughts and writings we shared.
This NSU study circle is in itself a practice of hospitality and solidarity. As coordinators we attempt to create a space in which content and form align. Thought does not happen in a void, but in the space between people. Allowing for the vulnerability that is part of that encounter, it is possible to open up a question for everyone to partake of and to give to. Giving, in the sense described by Marcel Mauss (‘Essai sur le don: forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques’, 1925), as that practice that gives away a part of one’s self in order to receive back something that becomes part of the new self. What one takes from the symposia organised by the study circle is a sense of community – of thinking together and furthering one’s own thought in solidarity with the thoughts of others. Even though it remains impossible to think for another, there is a new sense of belonging. Not because one agrees with what is said, but because things can be said, because things don’t need to be said.