Politics of Dis-Enclosure. Religion - Community - Violence

Conference report


The conference "Politics of Dis-Enclosure. Religion - Community - Violence" was organized by RaT and supported by the Faculty of Philosophy and Education. We were especially honoured to have one of the currently most important thinkers in postcolonial discourse, historian and philosopher Achille Mbembe, give the opening lecture of the conference.

On the first day of the event we welcomed about 50 guests in the meeting room of the Dean's Office of the KTF at the main building and on the second day we were warmly welcomed by the magnificent Melk Abbey, where we enjoyed a guided tour through one of the most beautiful libraries in Austria at the end of the day.

Thematically, the conference was centred around the term "dis-enclosure", coined by the now deceased French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy in his 2005 book "La Déclosion, Déconstruction du christianisme I". The term stands, generally speaking, for the tense and never reducible to simple answers relationship of openness and inclusion, the always ambivalent relationship to the – external as well as internal – Other.

The detailed program with the abstracts of all presentations can be found here.


The opening lecture of the conference was given by one of the best known representatives of postcolonial thought, the historian and philosopher Achille Mbembe. In his presentation, he explored how, in the face of still-prevailing global injustices and the looming climate crisis, we are challenged to redefine our relationship to planet Earth and to both human and nonhuman forms of life.

The two subsequent lectures by South African professor Louise du Toit and Nabil Echchaibi from the University of Colorado focused more on the horrific history of slavery and colonialism and the reflection of this still all to present wound in the thinking of African-American, African and Afro-Caribbean thinkers. While Prof. du Toit raised critical questions about Mbembe's thought from a feminist perspective - namely, to what extent the figure of the "black man" excludes specifically female experiences and approaches - Nabil Echchaibi focused on thinkers such as the poet Edouard Glissant and reflections on the historical and ongoing dehumanization and enclosure of people of the Global South.

The second day of the conference was opened by the Swedish professor and pastor Petra Carlsson, who dedicated her talk to the Sámi people and the history of their "exploration" by European ethnologists, focusing on how the members of this ethnic group deal today with this subjugation to the objectifying gaze of the Other: the Sámi are increasingly tired of being subjected to the grip of the outside and are appearing more and more as subjects who represent their own interests and defend their lifestyle and culture.

Prof. Hans Schelkshorn of the University of Vienna then directed a self-critical look at Europe and asked whether Aimé Césaire's verdict that Europe is "indefensible" on an intellectual level must have the last word or whether - with the help of and dialogue with non-European and post-colonial traditions of thought - a saving "deconstruction" of certain intellectual moments of the so-called "Occident" is possible.  

At the end of the conference, Anke Graneß from the University of Hildesheim took up the theme of  "non-European thought" and showed to what extent the traditions of thought of other parts of the world were faded out in the classical European historiography of philosophy or marginalized as intellectual products of so-called "primitive" peoples that were not to be taken seriously. She thus took up a theme that was already present in the first lecture of the conference and that can be seen as the connecting thread of the two days: There can only be a chance for global justice if our thinking radically opens up and finally starts listening to the repressed voices that have been muted in the course of a centuries long history of violence.

Impressions from the event