The first International Steiner Symposium, The Actuality of Rudolf Steiner: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Steiner in the 21st Century was the Institute for Education and Social Innovation’s first public research event related to our main research project. It is the institute’s German-language name, Institut für Bildung und gesellschaftliche Innovation which gives the institute its more commonly used abbreviated title, ibugi. Over two-and-a-half days each session of the online event welcomed an average of 30 contributors and attendees from across the globe, including Germany, Denmark, Spain, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA. There were over 90 total registrations for the conference with many attending as much as the time differences would allow.
Opening with a panel discussion with Prof. Dr. Marcelo da Veiga (Germany) and Dr. Christian Clement (USA) about the position of Steiner in the academy, Marcelo, Christian and other contributors and attendees offered their thoughts about some of the barriers on both the academic side and the anthroposophical side. Of particular note was Dr. Johannes Wagemann’s (Germany) suggestion to start from current academic questions and then introduce relevant ideas from Steiner into those debates. We also discussed the presence and role of Steiner-focused events and publications like the International Steiner Symposium as a staging ground for building academic connections for future projects. The panel discussion not only opened the symposium, it set the stage for the interactive and constructive dialogues to come following each paper presentation.
The paper presentations themselves fell into three broad themes: methodological considerations, education and personal development, and social questions.
Through the Friday evening, Saturday morning, and a pre-recorded contribution, Dr Wagemann (Germany), Shaunaq Puri (Denmark), and Dr. Boland (New Zealand) all offered insights into the various ways Steiner’s work or anthroposophical ideas and methods can provide illuminating approaches to established academic disciplines, or can provide a counter-point to dominant academic discourses.
Moving through Saturday the presentations by Dr. Campbell (Australia), Andreia de Souza, Talitha Bianchini, Maíra Scarpellini, Kátia Sequiera, and Dr. Stoltz (collectively, Brazil) all presented work which explored the deeply personal relationship between creativity, personal growth and education. Drawing on in-depth interviews, contemplative practice, and experiences of engaging in the creation of art, the various presentations explored the personal impacts of these experiences.
Finally, Sunday saw a shift to consider questions connecting Steiner’s work to larger society giving us a wide variety of topics, from the reception and growth of Waldorf education in Spain with Dr. Uceda (Spain), to the consideration of the connections between Indian dance and eurythmy with Dr Puri (Denmark). Nathaniel Williams (USA) offered us an insight into the role of aesthetic education, and Dr Rawson (Taiwan) argued for the role of globalectics in disrupting the European focus of anthroposophy. Closing out the weekend ibugi’s Eva Fürst (Germany) explored the work of Rudolf Steiner and Rosa Mayreder in offering a different approach to issues of gender and sexuality.
The presentations themselves were only one part of the symposium, it was the conversations that took place before and in-between the presentations which were instrumental in the creation of new networks and research possibilities. Not only did the online format enable connections across geographic boundaries, the interdisciplinary nature of the symposium sparked conversations across academic boundaries too.
The success of the first International Steiner Symposium lay in this combination of academic paper presentations and the creation of academic networks, and it is something that us here at the Institute for Education and Social Innovation (ibugi) are keen to repeat in 2022. More information about ibugi, the International Steiner Symposium presentations, and our current research can all be found on our website: www.ibugi.de, or www.ibugi.de/en. The paper presentations are released every Friday at the following address: www.ibugi.de/outputs