Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Antje Linkenbach presents a working paper on 'Empathy and Dividuality – Connecting two Concepts and Fields of Research'

Background of the paper This paper is a first draft of a contribution to an edited volume titled Dividualizing the Self. The volume will also be an outcome of the work of the research group ‘Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective’, but intends to reverse and complement its focus on ‘individualization’. While most KFG-studies give evidence of individualization as a historically and geographically broad phenomenon, thus challenging standard theories of modernization, which regard (religious) individualization as a specific (early) modern and essentially Western or Christian phenomenon, the planned volume will contest the modernization narrative from a different angle. Taking up idea and concept of ‘dividuality’, extensively explored in anthropological literature, the volume aims to prove the relevance of the ‘dividual’ person also in western and non-western historical, early modern and modern contexts. ‘Dividuality’ will be used in the planned volume as an umbrella term, which allows to perceive the Self / the person as ‘open’ and ‘divisible’. Instead of constructing the Self /the person as a bounded, indivisible, possessive and autonomous entity, it highlights its relational qualities, thereby taking into account not only other persons, but also things / objects and ‘not unquestionably plausible’ agents/authorities (the transcendent, divine). Character of the paper This paper is highly explorative and moves between different disciplines, fully aware about possible risks of (mis)interpretation. Before publication this paper will undergo several rounds of discussion and revision, and will be presented at the final conference (Abschlusskonferenz of the KFG. Comments and suggestions are therefore greatly appreciated.

The paper makes an attempt to use the idea of dividuality, which brings the permeability, relationality and openness of an individual person into focus, to understand the human capacity to show empathy and compassion, and display vulnerability in the face of violence, suffering and death. My starting point is the anthropology of violence and pain, but to further pursue my argument I take up the concept of sympathy in selected philosophical texts from the 18th century, reflect on the differences between empathy and identification, explore empathy as resonance and finally, focus on the relation between autonomy, vulnerability and empathy.

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