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Toward an Asymmetrical Ethics: Power, Relations, and the Diversity of Subjectivities

International conference organised by the Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge at the School of Culture and Education, Södertörn University.

In Western societies and philosophical traditions, the egalitarian relation between rational subjects has since long been understood as an ethical ideal for intersubjective relations. This ethics presupposes a relation between two independent subjects of the same kind: autonomous, rational, and (self-)transparent subjects. And even when this understanding of subjectivity is not applicable, the ideal remains the same. When this egalitarian ethic is applied to, for example, relations between children and adults, humans and animals, care-giver and patients with dementia, teachers and pupils, there is a risk that the variety of subjectivities involved in these relations will not be acknowledged, and thus opens up for a hidden abuse of power. These problems are also relevant for empirical research where asymmetrical relations are at the center, for example research that aims at giving voice to other subjectivities, which also turns this into it a question of methodology and research ethics.

But are not all relations asymmetrical? Human life itself begins as an asymmetrical relation between a pregnant mother and her fetus. And perhaps, as is the case in this relation, asymmetrical relations need not be based in injustice. We can even ask ourselves if anyone in fact lives up to the ideal of rational subjectivity presupposed by egalitarian ethics. Instead, a description of asymmetries might reach an intrinsic dimension of intersubjective life and an understanding of such asymmetries that would make our understanding of different kinds of subjectivities and relations richer. But how are we to formulate an ethics of asymmetry that moves away from the long-standing influence of “symmetrical ethics,” which permeates contemporary life? Where, and how, is it needed? How would it be possible to develop an asymmetrical ethics that is not caught up in power abuse, static and rigid relations, or locked in fixed hierarchies? And how can we formulate
an ethics of asymmetry in which the meaning of equality, integrity, power, freedom, etc., can be thought anew?

We invite researchers from all human and social sciences, as well as artistic researchers and artistic practitioners, to investigate these questions further. Questions and topics may include philosophical issues of asymmetrical ethics, for example the asymmetrical nature of life, asymmetry and power, and asymmetrical relations within an egalitarian ideal. We also invite submissions from broader research areas that may include human-animal studies, disability studies, studies on elderly care, educational relations, childhood studies, theory and methodology of science, etc.

  • Talia Welsh, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, US,
  • Jonathan Metzger, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
  • Else Vogel, Linköping University / Annmarie Mol, University of Amsterdam (joint presentation).

13.00 - 13.15: Introduction

13.15 - 14.15: Room MB 503
The Family-School Dyad in Neoliberal Societies: Asymmetrical ethics in parenting and educating
Talia Welsh, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, US

14.30 - 16.00:

Session 1A

Joint panel: Asymmetries in Motion: Power, domination, and resistance,
Amelia Horgan, Constantin Mehmel, Maite Rodríguez, University of Essex, UK

Session 1B

Levinas and the Question of Infinity,
Alexander Altonji, New School NY, US

The Curvature of Intersubjective Space: Levinas and the professions,
Carl Cederberg, Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge, Södertörn University, Sweden

Giving the Food from My Mouth: Levinas, Oliver and ethical asymmetry,
Kaitlyn Jeanette Newman, Pennsylvania State University, USA

16.15 - 17.15:

Session 2A

Managing Power-Asymmetries in Everyday Argumentation: A proposal for a role-ethics of argumentation,
Katharina Stevens, The University of Lethbridge, Canada

Acting Together in Asymmetrical Ways - Towards a New Sociological Understanding of Asymmetrical Coaction,
Anna Engstam, Sociology, Lund University, Sweden

Session 2B

Sara Lidman and The Ethics of “Sam-vett”,
Ingeborg Löfgren, Uppsala University, Sweden

Functionalism as non-egalitarianism,
Sergei Talanker, Department of Education, Western Galilee College, Akko, Israel

17.15: Reception

10.00 - 11.00: Room MB 505
Goods and Bads in Health Care: On valuing beyond ‘ethics’
Else Vogel, Linköping University / Annmarie Mol, University of Amsterdam (Vogel presents)

11.15 - 12.15:

Session 3A

Asymmetry of the Power Relations of the Master-slave Dialectic in the Phenomenology of Spirit,
Natalia Zakrzewska, University of Warsaw, Poland

Moral Opacity and Prison Abolitionism in Édouard Glissant,
S.E. Sokolsky-Tifft, Cambridge University, UK

Session 3B

Forgiveness after Atrocity: A relational critique of symmetrical ethics,
Jill Hernandez, Central Washington University, USA, and
Professor Sue Whatley at Stephen F. Austin State University USA

The Matrix of Responsibility: Beyond reciprocity,
Ronit Kedar, College of Law and Business, Ramat Gan, Israel

13.15 - 14.45:

Session 4A

María Zambrano’s Expressive Subjectivity: On ethics in the process of be-coming subject,
Karolina Enquist Källgren, Lunds Universitet

The Power of God – an inspiration for dominance?,
Lina Åhlfeldt, Uppsala University, Sweden

Asymmetrical Lessons: Pregnancy, horses and BDSM,
Jonna Bornemark, Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge, Södertörn University, Sweden

Session 4B

On Being with Others: Asymmetric ethics and the idea of the community,
Eva Schwarz, Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge, Södertörn University, Sweden

Uneven Ground: Non-humanity as the subject of democracy,
Toni J Koivulahti, Teologoska fakulteten, Helsinki University, Finland

School Strike for Climate as Politics of Asymmetrical Ethics, Elisabeth Kring, Stockholm University, Sweden

15.00 - 17.00:

Session 5A

The Role of Digital Cameras in Children’s and a Researcher’s Asymmetric Becoming as Filmmaking Subjects in Preschool,
Maria Olsson, Stockholm University, Sweden

Building Partnership-based Research Relations under Difficult Conditions: Can participatory action research learn from ethics of care?,
Marilena von Köppen, University of Applied Sciences Fulda, Germany

Challenges when Studying Horse Related Sports and Leisure Activities among Persons with Intellectual Disabilities,
Marie Gustavsson and Charlotte Lundgren, Linköping University, Sweden

Navigating between Egalitarian Ideals and the Realities of Practice – Stories from facilitators of participatory planning processes,
Sofia Wiberg and Martin Westin, Royal Institute of Technology and Uppsala University, Sweden

Session 5B

Existential Anxiety and Patience in Intergenerational Communication,
Tatiana Shchyttsova, European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania

The Pedagogical Relation: (Self)Transparency, Embodiment and Pathos,
Norm Friesen, Boise University, US (via Zoom)

The Symmetry within Asymmetry: The specificity of caring relations in preschool,
Maria Pröckl, Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge, Södertörn University, Sweden

Reciprocity Without Symmetry: A phenomenological study on education,
Floriana Ferro, Udine University, Italy

19.00: Conference dinner

10.00 - 11.00: Room PA 239
The Deceit of “Flourishing of All”: Fumbling for an ecological planning sensibility (while steering clear of both microfascism and undifferentiated vitalism)
Jonathan Metzger, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

11.15 - 12.45:

Session 6A

Toward a Postcolonial Ethics of Medicine: Frantz Fanon and bioethics,
William Michael Paris, Northwestern university, USA

Caregiving and the Abuse of Power,
Joseph Walsh, London, UK

Being told what to do: Asymmetrical relations in the military setting,
Kalle Ström, Stockholm University, Sweden

Session 6B

Ecoethics and the Paradox of Anthropomorphism,
Emil Maansson, Iceland university, Iceland

Real diversity: what to do with anthropocentrism?,
Darya Tomiltseva, Ural Humanitarian Institute Ural Federal University, Russia

The Horse’s Questioning: Shifting educational and ethical imaginaries of becoming,
Erica Hagström, Luleå University of Technology

Tid och plats

13 november 12:00 - 15 november 13:00


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Arrangeras av

The Centre for Studies in Practical Knowledge at the School of Culture and Education, Södertörns University



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