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FIGS Friday Forum: Empathy

Start: Nov 01, 2013 09:00 AM
End: Nov 01, 2013 07:00 PM

Location: Arts & Humanities Common Room Foster Court

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Empathy indicates an emotional rapport, or identification, with another person. It has been introduced as a central focus for ‘sensitivity trainings’ and feedback workshops in professional settings, and the relatively new Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) movement in schools. Empathy is promoted as a hallmark of social relationships that if featured in human interactions will presumably make us better at relating to one another. Empathy as advertised seems a worthy means of creating harmony within a community, or between communities, or even nations.

This FIGS Forum will evaluate more thoroughly the idea of empathy from an interdisciplinary perspective in order to address questions of human (and non-human) capabilities for empathy; the role of empathy in the construction of cultural identity; the employment of empathy in the arts; the connection between empathy and communication in cyber communities; and the potentially damaging effects of empathy, either in its lack or its overexploitation, in various contexts.

This Forum also aims to explore the relationship between empathy and action in philanthropic, medical, therapeutic, and even academic contexts.

Through our survey of empathy from literary, anthropological, philosophical, and visual culture approaches, we hope to engage in a multi-faceted, enriched understanding of the concept of empathy, and our relationship to it.

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9.30 - 10.00
10.00- 10.05
10.05 - 11.15

Session one

• Wai-Kit Ow-Yeong (MA Candidate, English): Our Failure of Empathy: Kevin Carter, Susan Sontag, and the Problems of Photography

• Susanne Küchler (Professor of Anthropology): The Grain of the Voice and the Texture of the Image: The Conjuring of Empathy and the Extension of Social Worlds

• Kay Tabernacle (PhD Candidate, Slade School of Fine Art): The Employment of Empathy within Hannah Höch’s Wider Strategy of Imagination

11.15 - 11.30 Coffee break
11:30 - 12:40

Session two

• Manuela Irarrazabal Elliot (Graduate Student, Greek and Latin): The Role of Empathy in Seneca’s Conceptions of Pity and Mercy

• Benjamin Hurley (MA Candidate, Philosophy): Empathy in Chimpanzees and its Moral Relevance

• Guy Smith (MA Candidate in Gender, Society, and Representation): Empathy Turned Strange: A Paranormal – Queer – Phenomenon

12.40 - 1.45
Sandwich lunch - provided by FIGS
1.45 - 2.45

Session three

• Claire Warwick (Professor of Digital Humanities, Graduate Tutor for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities): From Flamers to Trolls: Is Empathy Possible Online?

• Charles Richardson (MA Candidate, Slade School of Fine Art): Reciprocal Impossibilities

2.45 - 3.45

Session four

• Tim Beasley-Murray (Senior Lecturer, School of Slavonic and East European Studies): Empathy, Evil and Illness: Carrère and Camus

• Carl Gombrich (Programme Director, Arts and Sciences BASc): Academic Empathy: A Concept Worth Bearing in Mind

3.45 - 4.00
Coffee break
4.00 - 5.15

Session five

Roundtable Discussion: Empathy in Action: To what extent is empathy necessary for, or related to, what we know as philanthropic, altruistic, or healing work? Is empathy a motivator for action? If so, how is it used (or abused)?


  • Stephanie Bird (Senior Lecturer in German)
  • Timothy Mathews (Professor of French and Comparative Criticism, SELCS)
  • Akosua Bonsu (PhD Candidate, Philosophy)
  • Kevin Inston (Senior Lecturer, SELCS)
5.15 - 5.45 Closing discussion
5.45 - 7.00
Drinks reception

For further details contact:

Emily Lord-Kambitsch


PhD Candidate, Department of Greek and Latin

Page last modified on 21 oct 13 13:55