August 22-23, Uppsala University

A conference hosted by Engaging Vulnerability and organized in collaboration with the Nordic Wittgenstein Society.

Conference theme

Using a theoretical framework as a starting-point and defending a position within that framework often function as unspoken requirements for those who wish to be conceived of as serious and highly engaged researchers in the humanities and the social sciences today. Moreover, since the ability to predict consequences and possible results of research projects may be decisive for the possibility of attaining funding, researchers strive to gain control of the direction of their work as early as possible.

Sometimes a conflict arises, however, between the ambitions rising from such requirements and expectations and an ambition to let sincerity and engagement be principal guidelines when conducting research. Defending a certain position may even become incompatible with remaining truthful and engaged in one’s projects. An example of such a conflict is found in Wittgenstein, who likened his philosophical investigations with traveling criss-cross in every direction over a wide field of thought, and described the form of a philosophical problem with the words “I don’t know my way about” (PI Preface). His thoughts were crippled, he wrote, if he tried to force them in one single direction. His struggle to find a form of presentation, a way of writing, was connected with an ambition to keep philosophy honest and with his thought that work in philosophy is “a work on oneself. On one’s own conception.” (CV 24). So in Wittgenstein’s case, the question of philosophical method cannot be divorced from the question of finding the apt form of presentation for philosophical thought.

To deviate from accepted guidelines for how to write in research is to place oneself in a vulnerable position. It is to risk being made invisible or to stand out as insincere while struggling to retain an honest approach to the work one is engaged in. There is also a more personal aspect to writing vulnerably: it takes courage to break with norms, and it often means breaking with a way of seeing and conceptualizing that has become second nature, partly through academic training. How do I stay true to that which I write about? How do I stay open to the unexpected, allowing myself to be taken by surprise in my research? How can I avoid that the ever-present ambition of getting things under control, finding a sense of direction or finality, takes centre stage? Another aspect of vulnerability and honesty comes in when one’s academic writing is a representation of the lives of others. How can we describe the lives of others in ways that do justice to them? And how can I best reveal and communicate their situation to the reader? Can it be a merit of an academic text that it engages the reader morally, emotionally, aesthetically, as well as intellectually to feel the truth of the stories, in the way that, for example, an auto-ethnographic text aims to do? And can my personal, embodied experiences be a resource in my academic writing that strengthens, deepens and enriches my analysis of, and reflections on, that which I study?

The conference aims to elucidate the notion of vulnerable writing and the question of honesty from different perspectives, both as it is found and discussed in philosophy, and as thematized in a wide range of other disciplinary areas, for instance, ethnology, anthropology, social studies, gender studies, literary studies, rhetoric, etc.

Confirmed keynote speakers

Lars Hertzberg, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Åbo Academy University: http://web.abo.fi/fak/hf/filosofi/Staff/lhertzbe/

Shahram Khosravi, Professor of Anthropology, Stockholm University: https://www.socant.su.se/english/research/our-researchers/shahram-khosravi

Abstract submission

Abstracts of maximum 300 words should be submitted by May 10 to: EVkonferensNWS@gmail.com

Please indicate academic field or discipline of author. The length of presentations will be 45 minutes, including discussion.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to: Wittgenstein’s philosophical method; the question of honesty in research; auto-ethnographic studies; the rhetoric of vulnerability; the relation between form and content in Wittgenstein’s work; the ethical implications of different ways of writing in research; representing the lives of others in academic texts; vulnerable writing and gender; the relation between writing fiction and academic writing.

Organizing committee

For further information contact:

Elinor Hållén: elinor.hallen@filosofi.uu.se
Gisela Bengtsson: gisela.bengtsson@filosofi.uu.se