Fire, if uncontrolled, can rapidly cause massive destruction and devastation. On the other hand, even disastrous wildfires can leave behind better conditions for new life and, when carefully harnessed, fire provides warmth, power, and a useful instrument for numerous purposes. The control of fire radically changed the course of human evolution hundreds of thousands of years ago, but to this day we have not been able to master it completely. Fire has a dual nature in a figurative sense as well. In terms of personality traits and emotions, it can be equated with inspiration, zeal, and fervor, but also rage and fanaticism.

ABOAGORA 2021 will bring together viewpoints from social sciences, cultural studies, natural sciences, literature, music, and visual and performance arts to explore fire as both a literal and a metaphorical element.

AGORA (Keynote) Speakers and Performances

Author and artist Rosa Liksom: ”Homo Sapiens on the Earth”

Jules Rochielle Sievert (Creative Director at Nulawlab and Stable Ground Boston, Northeastern University School of Law, NY, USA): “Finding Fire: A Radical Pedagogy that Combines Legal Education, Design and Law”

David Bowman (Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, Director of the Fire Centre Research Hub, The University of Tasmania, Australia): “Fire Thinking, Fire Beings, and the End of the World as We Know It”

Singer and author Astrid Swan: “D/other” – performance followed by a discussion with Hanna Meretoja (Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Turku)

The four AGORA sessions are free of charge and open for all (attending other performances and sessions requires a small fee). The performance and discussion by Astrid Swan and Hanna Meretoja are organised in collaboration with SELMA, the Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory.

The full programme and registration details will be posted on this page in late spring/early summer.

The symposium will be organised as a hybrid event, taking place both on-site and online. We are monitoring the Covid-19 situation closely and will adjust our plans as needed.

ABOAGORA 2021 continues the five-year thematic plan (2019–2023) The Five Rings. The title refers to the book The Book of Five Rings, written in 1645, by Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵, c. 1584–June 13, 1645). He was a Japanese swordsman, philosopher, writer and rōnin – a samurai without a master. Musashi became renowned through stories of his masterful double-bladed swordsmanship and undefeated record in his 61 duels. Many consider him the greatest swordsman that ever lived. Near the end of his life, Musashi retreated to live as a hermit in a cave, to meditate and write a manual of kenjutsu, Japanese swordmanship, and martial arts. This practical book extends towards a philosophy of life, aiming at simplicity and no-nonsense. Throughout the years, it has also been read by people rethinking ways to lead or do business. The Book of Five Rings (五輪書, Go Rin no Sho) is divided into five books, each examining a different element of battle, just as there are different physical elements in life in Eastern religions. The five Aboagora symposia of 2019–2023 delve into these elements: Earth (2019), Water (2020), Fire (2021), Wind (2022), and Void (2023).

ABOAGORA is supported by the Kone Foundation and The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland.

In 2021, Turku celebrates the tenth anniversary of the city’s year as the European Capital of Culture. ABOAGORA: “Fire” is part of the anniversary program.

Cover photo: Pekko Vasantola, graphic design by Frida Backman