The Ernest Becker Foundation
Upcoming EBF events
The EBF has active members in North America, Europe, East Asia, South Asia, and Oceania. Every year, giving this widespread membership the chance to get to know each other face-to-face, we organize an October Seattle fall conference (from 1995 to 2004 called the LOV — for Love of Violence, and since 2007, UVTEC — for Understanding Violence: Tools for Educators and Communities).
We also sponsor smaller events, symposia, workshops, salons, and lectures to expand the discussion and advance the application of Becker’s synthesis. Write-ups of past events and promotions for upcoming events, when available, can be accessed through the links provided.
Unless otherwise noted, all prior events took place in Seattle.
Fall conference coming in Vancouver B.C.
October 2–4, 2015
Death, ideologies, and cultures: The legacy of Becker at SFU
As part of Simon Fraser University’s 50th anniversary celebrations, this conference (Oct 2–4) commemorates the time, 1969-1974, that Ernest Becker lectured here. He is of course best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death. Being the only SFU faculty member so honored, a conference that acknowledges and extends his contribution will highlight SFU’s intellectual legacy over the past half century.
The conference is organized to address the following questions: What role can Becker’s ideas play in an era of massive social upheaval, perpetual war and climate change to help transcend the ever-deepening conflicts generated by differing world views? Does his thought provide resources to illuminate what sociologist Anthony Giddens (1991), referred to as the increasing “ontological insecurity” that characterizes postmodernity? Ontological security, by way of contrast, is required for effective responses to a challenging world—it implies a trust in the continuity of one’s self-identity and in the constancy of the surrounding social environments. Becker claimed that individuals mitigate their death anxiety by adopting their culture’s worldview, allowing them to experience themselves as valuable members of a meaningful social world—that is, ontologically secure individuals. Anything that threatens to undermine their culture’s fundamental meanings will be strenuously resisted because of the existential or ontological vulnerability that results—hence the bitterness of ideological standoffs, culture wars and clashes of civilizations. The cold war slogan, “better dead than Red”, is exemplary in its terrifying simplicity. Does Becker identify alternatives to in-group identification as a source of existential/ontological security? Finally, in an age when “scientism” is in ascendency, is there any empirical research that supports Becker’s theoretical claims?
Speaking at the conference will be Sheldon Solomon, David Loy, Jack Martin, Samir Gandesha, Larry Green, Patricia Kwok, Anakana Schofield, and Hilda Fernandez.
Becker on Otto Rank
"Rank goes so far as to say that the 'need for a truly religious ideology is inherent in human nature and its fulfillment is basic to any kind of social life.' Only in this way, says Rank, only by surrendering to the bigness of nature on the highest, least-fetishized level, can man conquer death. In other words, the true heroic validation or one's life, lies beyond sex, beyond the other, beyond the private religion-all these are makeshifts that pull man down or that hem him in, leaving him torn with ambiguity."
-From Denial of Death, Chapter 8