Us and Them: Phenomenological Perspectives in Dialogue

October 5, 2023 - October 6, 2023
Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen


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Univeristy of Memphis
University of Copenhagen
University of Copenhagen
University of North Carolina, Charlotte


University of Copenhagen

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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. 

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?

We particularly encourage papers that bring classical, critical, and applied phenomenological approaches into dialogue with the following:

  • Political philosophy
  • Critical theory
  • Feminist philosophy
  • Social psychology
  • Social identity theory
  • Discourse analysis
  • Political science
  • Queer theory
  • Gender studies
  • Trans* studies and trans* philosophy
  • Postcolonial and decolonial studies
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Social ontology

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