Reactivity and Categorization in the Human Sciences

May 10, 2021 - May 25, 2021
Copenhagen University, The University of Copenhagen

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Selected speakers:

Cambridge University
University of Iceland
Lancaster University
Cambridge University
University of Helsinki
Temple University


Cambridge University
University of Helsinki
University Of Bergen

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This workshop deals with reactivity in the scientific use of human categories – or as the phenomenon often is referred to in this context, looping effects. Ian Hacking has famously argued that human kinds, in contrast to natural kinds, are moving targets because human agents don’t react neutrally to being categorized, described, and studied by science; they feedback into the category in ways that affect the scope and applicability of the original category. Some philosophers of science have worried that the effects of reactivity would undermine the validity of classification in the human sciences. Others think of reactivity as a resource to be investigated and exploited. Any intervention and evaluation of the effects of reactivity also seems to demand some knowledge of its effect size and the mechanisms that underlie it.

This workshop is the second in a series of three workshops on Reactivity in the Human Sciences generously funded by The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS). The focus of this workshop is to evaluate the different, or potentially shared features, of reactivity, and to scrutinize its effects on classification in human sciences such as medicine, psychology, psychiatry and social science. 

Questions to be addressed include, but are not limited to:

- What are the social and psychological mechanisms of reactivity and looping effects?

- What are the effects of looping and reactivity and how large are these effects?

- What kind of reactivity is desirable and what kind is undesirable?

- How might we intervene on undesirable forms of reactivity?

- What is the role and responsibility of scientists when new and revised classifications undergo looping effects? (Should they, for example, aim to be conservative in introducing a category when they suspect that people will over-identify with it?)

- What is the relationship between reactivity and revisionary or emancipatory projects that deal with human categorization (often at the heart of gender studies, but also increasingly for various areas of psychiatry)?

Confirmed speakers:
Alexander Bird (King’s College London)

Eyja Brynjarsdóttir (University of Iceland) Rachel Cooper (Lancaster University)

Marion Godman (University of Copenhagen/Cambridge University)

Samuli Reijula  (University of Helsinki)

Miriam Solomon (Temple University)

Call for abstracts

Up to four contributed papers will be accepted for presentation at the workshop. We invite submission of abstracts of maximum 1000 words. Please send an abstract no later than February 14, 2020 to Marion Godman at Travel expenses within Europe and accommodation will be covered. In particular, we encourage submissions from early career scholars and/or from scholars in the Nordic countries. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Marion at 

Dates and Deadlines
Submission Deadline: February 14, 2020
Notifications: March 13, 2020
Workshop: June 15-16, 2020

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Cambridge University

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