Celebrating Five Years of Counterpoint: Navigating Knowledge

By Whitney A. Bauman and Kocku von Stuckrad

If we want to address the major challenges of the 21st century—first and foremost climate disasters, human and other-than-human interdependencies on a global scale, as well as issues of social justice—concerted action is needed to bring the sciences, the arts, and society into conversation with each other. This should be done in a way that not only critically analyzes ongoing developments, but also identifies opportunities for radical change that will be necessary for a healthy future of the planet. New ideas should be “contrapuntal,” that is, they form a response to hegemony that productively transforms outdated structures into something new. Given that the disciplines that modern, Euro-American education has been working with for about 150 years, were developed in a colonial way that imaged an “ideal human” (European, white, Christian, male, heterosexual, cis, educated, wealthy) and imagined that humans were separate from the rest of the natural world, perhaps it is time to rethink these modern knowledge systems. In other words, we need to “undiscipline our thinking” and re-attune it toward the planetary needs of the 21st century. 

To provide a platform for such a conversation, in August 2018 we founded Counterpoint: Navigating Knowledge in Berlin.

Supported by an international advisory board of experts, Counterpoint is a not-for-profit initiative that promotes an integrative approach, combining contributions from science, art, culture, and politics to explore solutions to global challenges. At 5 years, the term of the initial advisory board has ended, and a new 5-year term has begun. We want to thank the outgoing board members: David Abram, Samuel Awuah-Nyamekye, Zainal Bagir, Lois Lee, Klemens Ludwig, James Miller, Kyle Powys White, and Zairong Xiang. We also want to thank the continuing board members, Gregory Johnson and Jay Johnston, and welcome our new board members, Amanda Nichols, Lisa Sideris, Lisa Stenmark, Renny Thomas, and Carol Wayne White. The vision of the organization is much enriched by all of you, for which we are deeply grateful!

The “Counterpoint Blog” now features around 250 blog posts, which are read not only by our roughly 300 subscribers, but also by many other people via social media. Together with its other forms of publication and organized events, Counterpoint has created a resource that is received far beyond the academic community. We want to thank our colleague Marcia Pally for helping us to solicit and edit this semi-weekly blog. The success of the blog wouldn’t be possible without her work!

When we look at the past five years of Counterpoint activities, it turns out that the topics of climate change, decolonialization, gender justice, and the global economic order in particular have a great resonance, and many regard them as the central—and intersectional—challenges of our time. In all these contexts, Counterpoint’s work pays special attention to the role of religion and spirituality, a perspective that is often underestimated. Many of our contributors come from theological or religious studies contexts, or they address the factor of religion and spirituality from their own perspective, be it art, literature, politics, or social activism.

All events we organize serve the goal of conversation between science and other systems of knowledge and experience. The “Counterpoint Conversations” are about an open exchange of perspectives: transfer of knowledge should not only take place from science into society but also from less privileged groups and knowledge systems into science, in order to develop new ideas through such a counterpoint. This exchange also includes non-academic forms of knowledge production, for instance in art and ritual. This past year, we hosted or co-sponsored two such events: “The Climate Crisis through the Eye of the Needle: Ecology, Economics, and Religion”; and with the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, we hosted a panel at Arizona State University on “Decolonizing for the Planetary Community.”

These have been amazing five years! We’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of you who have supported Counterpoint with their ideas, blogs, participation in events, donations, or by taking Counterpoint discussions into your own lives and contexts.

If you like the work and values Counterpoint stands for, please consider contributing in one way or another. You could write a blog post as a guest author, publish your artwork, write a political or cultural report, involve us as a partner in a funding application, organize a Counterpoint event at your place, or donate to Counterpoint. We’d love to hear your ideas!

We’re taking a short holiday break from the Counterpoint Blog; the next blog post will be published in mid-August 2023.

Thank you for your support and consideration. We wish you an excellent summer or winter, wherever you live on this planet we all care for!

Whitney A. Bauman & Kocku von Stuckrad

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