Health, Life and the Human Body: Philosophical and Anthropological Perspectives
During the last three decades, medical anthropology has flourished as a branch of research, making strikingly clear how culturally diverse conceptions of such central notions as health, sickness, life, death, personhood, soul, and body in fact are. The aim of the workshop is to reflect on the conceptual, ethical and existential significance of such results.
Confirmed invited speakers are Uffe Juul Jensen (Århus), Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown), Margaret Lock (McGill), Emily Martin (New York) and Fredrik Svenaeus (Södertörn).
Individualism and the future of the Human Being
Bergen, June 5th -8th 2013
A defining feature of globalization seems to be the close relationship between regimes of law, rights, liberal democracy and humanism on the one hand and modes of coercive power pertaining to global governance, neoliberal market rationality and imperialism on the other. Non-state modes of sovereignty are combined with non-state governance in ways that fundamentally challenge not only old citizenship rights of the nation state but also, more profoundly, prevalent notions of the human being, associated with the individual.
This conference will be a multidisciplinary exploration of the individual and individualism. Influential authors have argued that individualism is a cosmological orientation that both permeates Western philosophy and Western social science and thereby also substantially prefigures many of their conclusions. Many of the founding thinkers of Western modernity, such as Luther, Calvin, Descartes, Hobbes and Locke saw one form or another of individualism not merely as an interpretative ontological framework, but rather as a natural reflection of the human condition itself. One line of enquiry might be to examine the elements of such a cosmology and its corresponding perception of human nature as embedded in deeply individualist attitudes.
Dumont and others have shown that individualism has played an enormously significant role in the development of Western ethical, political, cultural, and scientific thought. It has laid the groundwork for an ideology of individualism which pertains to so many aspects of human existence but is especially clear in current economic arrangements and the politics of human rights. Also of crucial importance are questions concerning ways in which technological and scientific developments are steered by an individualist framework that in turn transforms the human being itself. It seems quite clear that a science-based outlook inevitably leads to an objectified, albeit increasingly virtualized, understanding of the individual and the world. What changes might this induce in the human being in the future?
Finally, if individualism is a cosmological orientation rather than “just” an ideology, it can be argued that it is relative and specific to the present place and condition of secularized societies. But can secularism survive without individualism? Is it possible to foster more collective interpretations of the human being based on alternative values? Or must a “re-enchantment” of the world capable of overcoming social atomism necessarily take on something akin to a religious dimension?
These are some issues that we would like to address through several sub-topics, such as:
- A new era of homo economicus?
- The question of value (moral claims of human rights, the market, religion and the state, etc.)
- The Future of the human being (discussions taking up the idea of the post-human, questions of bodies and sexualities, biotechnology, robotics, etc.)
Among the invited speakers are: Bruce Kapferer (University of Bergen), Lisette Josephides (Queens University Belfast), Vincent Descombes (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris), and Margit Shildrick (Linkoping University, Sweden).
Questioning the Human Being. Philosophical Anthropology in the 21st Century
Århus, August 25-27, 2011
What is the human being? How must a discourse be conceived that could fulfill the intention of the question? In what sense might this question allow a meaningful answer? Provided that philosophical thinking is able to contribute to such an answer, how is philosophical anthropology to be conceived today? The meeting endeavors to inquire into the role of philosophical anthropology as an interdisciplinary platform in the 21st century.
Otherness, Subjectivity and Representation
Åbo/Turku, October 21-22, 2011
Many perspectives in the humanities share a struggle with the ethnographic ambition to represent the subjectivity of 'the other' and the ethical dimension which representations of otherness always have. However, the practices of academic representation move beyond the idealized epistemological positions of on the one hand the well-known dichotomy between subjective and objective, and on the other, the emphases of critical reflection, mutuality and dialogue. Among the many and diverse ways in which 'the other' can be encountered, represented and made space for there is a grey zone embedded in the complexity of self-other relations where 'otherness' and 'alterity' prevails as a haunting and desirable shadow in our experiences of people, texts, noises, voices, bodies, images and spaces.
This conference has the ambition of exploring the complexity embedded in representations of subjectivity and otherness, the various positions and methods that are applied, and the possible directions future research can or should take.
Plenary speakers: Trin T. Minh-Ha (Berkeley), Marscha Meskimmon (Loughborough) and Kalle Pihlainen (Åbo).