Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor Theologie en Religiewetenschap
Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion

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Conference ‘Traditional Values’ versus ‘Human Rights’

“Traditional Values” versus “Human Rights” – Exploring the debate

Main organizer: prof. dr. Alfons Brüning, Instituut voor Oosters Christendom, RU Nijmegen/Chair “Orthodoxy and Peace Building in Europe” at PThU Amsterdam
in cooperation with: prof. dr. Heleen Zorgdrager, PThU Amsterdam


“Traditional Values” seems to have become a concept more and more popular during recent years, and in various parts of the world. But what actually are “traditional values” – except for, as one Russian critic put it, “the usual list of virtues an average schoolboy would enumerate in order to get good grades in behavior”? Although often invoked, the concept apparently does not carry with it a clear handling of its constitutive elements. What kind of “tradition” – except for a vague reference to “old age” and “long time relevance” – is meant? And to what extent are there “invented traditions” also at play? Further on, what is meant by “values”, beyond a further undetermined allusion to moral patterns which otherwise are just considered to be a matter of self-understanding, while their actual applications in sets of alleged “traditional values” in fact can differ significantly? Furthermore, what is the role of religion and theology in the concept(s)? Finally, is there a relation, perhaps a polemical, of concomitant debates to actual discussions concerning “human rights”? How do “values” then relate to “rights”?

Not restricting its investigations to mere polemics, the workshop also aims at a better understanding of both the concept and its obvious popularity. It therefore, in anticipation of a broader geographical focus, starts with a particular perspective, gathering experts from both Russia and the United States, next to observers of the debate from Eastern and Western Europe. With good reason we start with a particular focus. Current day Russia, and within it the Russian Orthodox church appears as one of the protagonists in establishing a debate about “traditional values”, while its activities and statements have found a worldwide echo, not the least, for example, in conservative circles within Europe and the United States. Addressing the above-formulated questions, the workshop wants to shed more light on content and function of “traditional values”, but also on contexts of related debates inside Russia, and beyond.

Date and Venue
Monday, October 1st – Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018
PThU Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam

(Provisional) program

Monday, October 1st, 2018 (PThU, Zaal 1B14)

10.30-11.00 Coffee, tea
11.00-11.30 Welcome, introduction (Alfons Brüning, PThU Amsterdam/IvOC Nijmegen): Polemics and beyond: The phenomenon of “traditional values”
11.30-12.00 Kristina Stoeckl (University of Innsbruck, Austria): Russian traditional values transnational: Why Putin fascinates conservatives in the West
12.00-12.30 Responses (N.N. PhD candidates/ReMA students)
12.30-14.00 lunch break
14.00-14.30 Oleh Kindiy (Ukrainian Catholic University, L’viv) How to study Early Christianity and the Fathers as key to contemporary Christian Understandings of Tradition
14.30-15.00 Responses (Heleen Zorgdrager, PThU Amsterdam, PhD candidates/ReMA students)
15.00-15.15 Coffee break
15.15-15.45 Elena Stepanova (Ural Branch Academy of Sciences, Ekaterinburg Russia): Traditional Values in the context of multiple moralities (in Russia)
15.45-16.15 Responses (Marianna Napolitano, Bologna; PhD candidates/ReMA students)
16.30-18.00 Reception
18.30 Diner

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 (PThU, Zaal 1E24)

9.30-10.00 Dmitri Uzlaner (Moscow/Innsbruck): Deciphering traditional values: An analysis of the discourse of Russian social conservatives
10.00-10.30 Responses (Michael Kemper, University of Amsterdam, PhD candidates/ReMA students)
10.30-11.00 Coffee Break
11.00-11.30 Anthony G. Roeber (St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, New York, US): Orthodox Christianity and the Call for Traditional Values in the U.S.
11.30-12.00 Responses (N.N., PhD candidates/ReMA students)
12.30-14.00 Lunch (Zaal 1E68) Final Roundtable discussion – results and further research perspectives

Registration: Please send an email to