Us and Them: Phenomenological Perspectives in Dialogue

In classical phenomenology we find reflections on collective intentionality, community, Mitsein, fellow-feeling, interaction, and empathy, which have in turn motivated recent dialogue between phenomenology and the social and cognitive sciences. What has often remained in the background, however, is the question of how to conceive of the relationship between 'Us' and 'Them'.

This draws attention to issues of exclusion, marginalisation, national identity, social identities, (non-)belonging, and conflict. In this conference we thus want to explore the various ways in which 'Us' and 'Them' are related, interdependent, and stand in opposition to one another.

Our aim is to not only reflect on and better understand the Us/Them dichotomy, but also to put pressure on its assumed dichotomous nature. More importantly, we aim to bring classical, critical, and applied phenomenological approaches into dialogue with political philosophy, critical theory, and social scientific research which engages in social identity theory, social psychology, national identity, and discourse analysis.

Central questions that will be addressed include: 

  • What is the relation of the "Us" to the "Them"? Is it for example one of conjunction, antagonism, or negation?
  • What material, normative, affective, or epistemic common ground is taken-for-granted in the assertion of an "Us"?
  • What are the limitations of distinguishing between inter- and intra-group distinctions? How might phenomenology expand on or show the limits of social scientific research and vice versa?
  • What role does communication play in mitigating or overcoming the Us/Them dichotomy?
  • In what ways are different institutions oriented around an implicitly demarcated sense of "Us"? How are similarities and differences rhetorically and discursively exaggerated for political and economic purposes?

Confirmed keynote speakers:

The deadline for the call for abstracts is April 30, 2023.

Read more about the conference here.