Conference: "Atrocities, Emotion, Self"

August 27-28, 2009 in Copenhagen


Title: "Atrocities, Emotion, Self"

The aim of this conference is to explore the nature and significance of emotional responses to mass atrocities with special regard to their implications for our understanding of the self.

Atrocities – like genocide, rape and crimes against humanity – assault our sense of human dignity on a most fundamental level. Being inhumane is still within the range of human possibilities. The enactment of extreme violence shocks the conscience of humankind, challenges our understanding of the normative character of responsible agency, and raises difficult questions as to the fragility, integrity and unity of the self. This is not only the case in relation to studies of the testimonies and memories of surviving victims, but also in relation to accounts of the ways in which perpetrators deal with their selves during or after participation in atrocities ('doubling', 'numbing' etc.).

Responses to atrocities include vehement passions like outrage, horror, and disgust, but also what might be called ‘aftermath’ emotions or remainders like shame, resentment, guilt, grief, and melancholy. What is the significance of such emotional responses – and of the ways in which individuals deal with them – to our understanding of the self? This is the main question to be addressed during the conference. It will be discussed in an interdisciplinary exchange of thought between scholars with an expertise in studies of trauma and mass violence, philosophers of emotion and scholars with a background in phenomenological studies of the self.

Organized by Claudia Welz (CFS), Thomas Brudholm (ToRS) and Arne Grøn (CFS & Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen)

Thursday, August 27

10:00-10:15 Welcome
10:15-11:15 Susan Brison (Dept. of Philosophy, Dartmouth College): "Trauma, Embodied Selves, and Narrative Repair"
11:15-11:30 Coffee break
11:30-12:30 Rachel Rosenblum (Paris): "Postponing Trauma: The Danger of Looking Back"
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:00 Robin May Schott (Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen): "The Concepts of Pain and Abjection in a Narrative of War Rape"
15:00-15:15 Coffee break
15:15-16:15 Claudia Welz (Center for Subjectivity Research (CFS), University of Copenhagen): "Shame and the Hiding Self"
16:15-17:00 Plenary discussion

 Friday, August 28

10:00-11:00 Arne Johan Vetlesen (University of Oslo): "Atrocities - A Case of Suppressing Emotions or of Acting them Out?"
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:15 Thomas Brudholm (Dept. of Cross-Cultural & Regional Studies (ToRS), Minority Studies Section, University of Copenhagen): "On Hatred"
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:00 Phil Hutchinson (Dept. of Interdisciplinary Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University): "Shame, Autonomy, and Moral Appraisal"
15:00-15:15 Coffee break
15:15-16:15 Arne Grøn (Center for Subjectivity Research (CFS) & Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen): "A Life in Common? Selfhood, Emotion, Atrocity"

 Registration is free of charge. Please register here:
Abstracts can be downloaded here.