front cover of Affective Ecologies
Affective Ecologies
Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative
Alexa Weik von Mossner
The Ohio State University Press, 2017
Affective Ecologies: EmpathyEmotion, and Environmental Narrative explores our emotional engagement with environmental narrative. Focusing on the American cultural context, Alexa Weik von Mossner develops an ecocritical approach that draws on the insights of affective science and cognitive narratology. This approach helps to clarify how we interact with environmental narratives in ways that are both biologically universal and culturally specific. In doing so, it pays particular attention to the thesis that our minds are both embodied (in a physical body) and embedded (in a physical environment), not only when we interact with the real world but also in our engagement with imaginary worlds.
 
How do we experience the virtual environments we encounter in literature and film on the sensory and emotional level? How do environmental narratives invite us to care for human and nonhuman others who are put at risk? And how do we feel about the speculative futures presented to us in ecotopian and ecodystopian texts? Weik von Mossner explores these central questions that are important to anyone with an interest in the emotional appeal and persuasive power of environmental narratives.
 
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The Ancient Greek Roots of Human Rights
By Rachel Hall Sternberg
University of Texas Press, 2021

2022 PROSE Award Finalist in Classics

Although the era of the Enlightenment witnessed the rise of philosophical debates around benevolent social practice, the origins of European humane discourse date further back, to Classical Athens. The Ancient Greek Roots of Human Rights analyzes the parallel confluences of cultural factors facing ancient Greeks and eighteenth-century Europeans that facilitated the creation and transmission of humane values across history. Rachel Hall Sternberg argues that precursors to the concept of human rights exist in the ancient articulation of emotion, though the ancient Greeks, much like eighteenth-century European societies, often failed to live up to those values.

Merging the history of ideas with cultural history, Sternberg examines literary themes upholding empathy and human dignity from Thucydides’s and Xenophon’s histories to Voltaire’s Candide, and from Greek tragic drama to the eighteenth-century novel. She describes shared impacts of the trauma of war, the appeal to reason, and the public acceptance of emotion that encouraged the birth and rebirth of humane values.

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Being Me Being You
Adam Smith and Empathy
Samuel Fleischacker
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Modern notions of empathy often celebrate its ability to bridge divides, to unite humankind. But how do we square this with the popular view that we can never truly comprehend the experience of being someone else? In this book, Samuel Fleischacker delves into the work of Adam Smith to draw out an understanding of empathy that respects both personal difference and shared humanity.

After laying out a range of meanings for the concept of empathy, Fleischacker proposes that what Smith called “sympathy” is very much what we today consider empathy. Smith’s version has remarkable value, as his empathy calls for entering into the perspective of another—a uniquely human feat that connects people while still allowing them to define their own distinctive standpoints. After discussing Smith’s views in relation to more recent empirical and philosophical studies, Fleischacker shows how turning back to Smith promises to enrich, clarify, and advance our current debates about the meaning and uses of empathy.
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Beyond the White Negro
Empathy and Anti-Racist Reading
Kimberly Chabot Davis
University of Illinois Press, 2014
Critics often characterize white consumption of African American culture as a form of theft that echoes the fantasies of 1950s-era bohemians, or "White Negroes," who romanticized black culture as anarchic and sexually potent. In Beyond the White Negro, Kimberly Chabot Davis claims such a view fails to describe the varied politics of racial crossover in the past fifteen years.
 
Davis analyzes how white engagement with African American novels, film narratives, and hip-hop can help form anti-racist attitudes that may catalyze social change and racial justice. Though acknowledging past failures to establish cross-racial empathy, she focuses on examples that show avenues for future progress and change. Her study of ethnographic data from book clubs and college classrooms shows how engagement with African American culture and pedagogical support can lead to the kinds of white self-examination that make empathy possible. The result is a groundbreaking text that challenges the trend of focusing on society's failures in achieving cross-racial empathy and instead explores possible avenues for change.
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Causation in Psychology
John Campbell
Harvard University Press, 2020

A renowned philosopher argues that singular causation in the mind is not grounded in general patterns of causation, a claim on behalf of human distinctiveness, which has implications for the future of social robots.

A blab droid is a robot with a body shaped like a pizza box, a pair of treads, and a smiley face. Guided by an onboard video camera, it roams hotel lobbies and conference centers, asking questions in the voice of a seven-year-old. “Can you help me?” “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?” “Who in the world do you love most?” People pour their hearts out in response.

This droid prompts the question of what we can hope from social robots. Might they provide humanlike friendship? Philosopher John Campbell doesn’t think so. He argues that, while a social robot can remember the details of a person’s history better than some spouses can, it cannot empathize with the human mind, because it lacks the faculty for thinking in terms of singular causation.

Causation in Psychology makes the case that singular causation is essential and unique to the human species. From the point of view of practical action, knowledge of what generally causes what is often all one needs. But humans are capable of more. We have a capacity to imagine singular causation. Unlike robots and nonhuman animals, we don’t have to rely on axioms about pain to know how ongoing suffering is affecting someone’s ability to make decisions, for example, and this knowledge is not a derivative of general rules. The capacity to imagine singular causation, Campbell contends, is a core element of human freedom and of the ability to empathize with human thoughts and feelings.

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Changing the Subject
A Theory of Rhetorical Empathy
Lisa Blankenship
Utah State University Press, 2019
Changing the Subject explores ways of engaging across difference. In this first book-length study of the concept of empathy from a rhetorical perspective, Lisa Blankenship frames the classical concept of pathos in new ways and makes a case for rhetorical empathy as a means of ethical rhetorical engagement. The book considers how empathy can be a deliberate, conscious choice to try to understand others through deep listening and how language and other symbol systems play a role in this process that is both cognitive and affective.
 
Departing from agonistic win-or-lose rhetoric in the classical Greek tradition that has so strongly influenced Western thinking, Blankenship proposes that we ourselves are changed (“changing the subject” or the self) when we focus on trying to understand rather than simply changing an Other. This work is informed by her experiences growing up in the conservative South and now working as a professor in New York City, as well as the stories and examples of three people working across profound social, political, class, and gender differences: Jane Addams’s activist work on behalf of immigrants and domestic workers in Gilded Age Chicago; the social media advocacy of Brazilian rap star and former maid Joyce Fernandes for domestic worker labor reform; and the online activist work of Justin Lee, a queer Christian who advocates for greater understanding and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in conservative Christian churches.
 
A much-needed book in the current political climate, Changing the Subject charts new theoretical ground and proposes ways of integrating principles of rhetorical empathy in our everyday lives to help fight the temptations of despair and disengagement. The book will appeal to students, scholars, and teachers of rhetoric and composition as well as people outside the academy in search of new ways of engaging across differences.
 
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Coexistence in the Aftermath of Mass Violence
Imagination, Empathy, and Resilience
Edited by Eve Monique Zucker and Laura McGrew
University of Michigan Press, 2020

Coexistence in the Aftermath of Mass Violence demonstrates how imagination, empathy, and resilience contribute to the processes of social repair after ethnic and political violence. Adding to the literature on transitional justice, peacebuilding, and the anthropology of violence and social repair, the authors show how these conceptual pathways--imagination, empathy and resilience--enhance recovery, coexistence and sustainable peace.  Coexistence (or reconciliation) is the underlying goal or condition desired after mass violence, enabling survivors to move forward with their lives. Imagination allows these survivors--victims, perpetrators, bystanders--to draw guidance and inspiration from their social and cultural imaginaries, to develop empathy, and to envision a future of peace and coexistence. Resilience emerges through periods of violence and its aftermaths through acts of survival, compassion, modes of rebuilding social worlds, and the establishment of a peaceful society.

Focusing on society at the grass roots level, the authors discuss the myriad and little understood processes of social repair that allow ruptured societies and communities to move toward a peaceful and stable future. The volume also illustrates some of the ways in which imagination, empathy, and resilience may contribute to the prevention of future violence and the authors conclude with a number of practical and policy recommendations. The cases include Cambodia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Columbia, the Southern Cone, Iraq, and Bosnia.

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Color and Empathy
Essays on Two Aspects of Film
Christine N. Brinckmann
Amsterdam University Press, 2014
The collection of essays brings together texts from two decades, documenting two of the author's ongoing areas of interest: the poetics of colour in film as well as affective viewer responses. Employing a bottom-up approach as a basis for theoretical exploration, each of the essays concentrates on a particular film or a number of related films to come to terms with a set of issues. These include the differences between black-and-white and color works, the emergence of bold chromatic schemes in the 1950s, experimental aesthetics of color negative stock, idiosyncratic uses of colour, idiosyncratic uses of motor mimicry, genre-specific reactions to the documentary, and empathetic reactions to animals and to architecture in film.
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The Empathic Practitioner
Empathy, Gender, and Medicine
Edited by Ellen Singer More
Rutgers University Press, 1994
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Ethics in the Gutter
Empathy and Historical Fiction in Comics
Kate Polak
The Ohio State University Press, 2017
Ethics in the Gutter: Empathy and Historical Fiction in Comics explores an often-overlooked genre of graphic narratives: those that fictionalize historical realities. While autographics, particularly those that place the memoirist in the context of larger cultural conversations, have been the objects of sustained study, fictional graphic narratives that—as Linda Hutcheon has put it—both “enshrine and question” history are also an important area of study. By bringing narratology and psychological theory to bear on a range of graphic narratives, Kate Polak seeks to question how the form utilizes point of view and the gutter as ethical tools that shape the reader’s empathetic reactions to the content. 

This book’s most important questions surround how we receive and interpret representations of history, considering the ways in which what we think we know about historical atrocities can be at odds with the convoluted circumstances surrounding violence. Beginning with a new look at Watchmen, and including examinations of such popular series as Scalped and Hellblazer as well as Bayou and Deogratias, the book questions how graphic narratives create an alternative route by which to understand large-scale violence. Ethics in the Gutter explores how graphic narrative representations of violence can teach readers about the possibilities and limitations of empathy and ethics.
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front cover of The Gift of Active Empathy
The Gift of Active Empathy
Scheler, Bakhtin, and Dostoevsky
Alina Wyman
Northwestern University Press, 2016
This innovative study brings the early writings of Mikhail Bakhtin into conversation with Max Scheler and Fyodor Dostoevsky to explore the question of what makes emotional co-experiencing ethically and spiritually productive. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, Bakhtin's well-known concept of the dialogical partner expresses what he sees as the potential of human relationships in Dostoevsky's work. But his earlier reflections on the ethical and aesthetic uses of empathy, in part inspired by Scheler's philosophy, suggest a still more fundamental form of communication that operates as a basis for human togetherness in Dostoevsky. Applying this rich and previously neglected theoretical apparatus in a literary analysis, Wyman examines the obstacles to active empathy in Dostoevsky's fictional world, considers the limitations and excesses of empathy, addresses the problem of frustrated love in The Idiot and Notes from Underground, and provides a fresh interpretation of two of Dostoevsky's most iconic characters, Prince Myshkin and Alyosha Karamazov.
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Humane Insight
Looking at Images of African American Suffering and Death
Courtney Baker
University of Illinois Press, 2017
In the history of black America, the image of the mortal, wounded, and dead black body has long been looked at by others from a safe distance. Courtney Baker questions the relationship between the spectator and victim and urges viewers to move beyond the safety of the "gaze" to cultivate a capacity for humane insight toward representations of human suffering. Utilizing the visual studies concept termed the "look," Baker interrogates how the notion of humanity was articulated and recognized in oft-referenced moments within the African American experience: the graphic brutality of the 1834 Lalaurie affair; the photographic exhibition of lynching, Without Sanctuary ; Emmett Till's murder and funeral; and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Contemplating these and other episodes, Baker traces how proponents of black freedom and dignity used the visual display of violence against the black body to galvanize action against racial injustice. An innovative cultural study that connects visual theory to African American history, Humane Insight asserts the importance of ethics in our analysis of race and visual culture, and reveals how representations of pain can become the currency of black liberation from injustice.
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Humanity's Last Stand
Confronting Global Catastrophe
Mark Schuller
Rutgers University Press, 2021
Are we as a species headed towards extinction? As our economic system renders our planet increasingly inhospitable to human life, powerful individuals fight over limited resources, and racist reaction to migration strains the social fabric of many countries. How can we retain our humanity in the midst of these life-and-death struggles?
 
Humanity’s Last Stand dares to ask these big questions, exploring the interconnections between climate change, global capitalism, xenophobia, and white supremacy. As it unearths how capitalism was born from plantation slavery and the slaughter of Indigenous people, it also invites us to imagine life after capitalism. The book teaches its readers how to cultivate an anthropological imagination, a mindset that remains attentive to local differences even as it identifies global patterns of inequality and racism.
 
Surveying the struggles of disenfranchised peoples around the globe from frontline communities affected by climate change, to #BlackLivesMatter activists, to Indigenous water protectors, to migrant communities facing increasing hostility, anthropologist Mark Schuller argues that we must develop radical empathy in order to move beyond simply identifying as “allies” and start acting as “accomplices.” Bringing together the insights of anthropologists and activists from many cultures, this timely study shows us how to stand together and work toward a more inclusive vision of humanity before it’s too late.

More information and instructor resources (https://humanityslaststand.org)
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Intellectual Empathy
Critical Thinking for Social Justice
Maureen Linker
University of Michigan Press, 2014
Intellectual Empathy provides a step-by-step method for facilitating discussions of socially divisive issues. Maureen Linker, a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, developed Intellectual Empathy after more than a decade of teaching critical thinking in metropolitan Detroit, one of the most racially and economically divided urban areas, at the crossroads of one of the Midwest’s largest Muslim communities. The skills acquired through Intellectual Empathy have proven to be significant for students who pursue careers in education, social work, law, business, and medicine.

Now, Linker shows educators, activists, business managers, community leaders—anyone working toward fruitful dialogues about social differences—how potentially transformative conversations break down and how they can be repaired. Starting from Socrates’s injunction know thyself, Linker explains why interrogating our own beliefs is essential. In contrast to traditional approaches in logic that devalue emotion, Linker acknowledges the affective aspects of reasoning and how emotion is embedded in our understanding of self and other. Using examples from classroom dialogues, online comment forums, news media, and diversity training workshops, readers learn to recognize logical fallacies and critically, yet empathically, assess their own social biases, as well as the structural inequalities that perpetuate social injustice and divide us from each other.
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Meaning in Suffering
Caring Practices in the Health Professions
Edited by Nancy Johnston and Alwilda Scholler-Jaquish
University of Wisconsin Press, 2007
     Compelling, timely, and essential reading for healthcare providers, Meaning in Suffering addresses the multiplicity of meanings suffering brings to all it touches: patients, families, health workers, and human science professionals. Examining suffering in writing that is both methodologically rigorous and accessible, the contributors preserve first-hand experiences using narrative ethnography, existential hermeneutics, hermeneutic phenomenology, and traditional ethnography. They offer nuanced insights into suffering as a human condition experienced by persons deserving of dignity, empathy, and understanding. Collectively, these essays demonstrate that understanding the suffering of the "other" reveals something vital about the moral courage required to heal—and stay humane—in the face of suffering.
 
 
Winner, Nursing Research Category, American Journal of Nursing
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Other People's Stories
Entitlement Claims and the Critique of Empathy
Amy Shuman
University of Illinois Press, 2010
In Other People's Stories, Amy Shuman examines the social relations embedded in stories and the complex ethical and social tensions that surround their telling. Drawing on innovative research and contemporary theory, she describes what happens when one person's story becomes another person's source of inspiration, or when entitlement and empathy collide.
 
The resulting analyses are wonderfully diverse, integrating narrative studies, sociolinguistics, communications, folklore, and ethnographic studies to examine the everyday, conversational stories told by cultural groups including Latinas, Jews, African Americans, Italians, and Puerto Ricans. Shuman offers a nuanced and clear theoretical perspective derived from the Frankfurt school, life history research, disability research, feminist studies, trauma studies, and cultural studies. Without compromising complexity, she makes narrative inquiry accessible to a broad population.
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The Other Side of Empathy
Jade E. Davis
Duke University Press, 2023
In The Other Side of Empathy, Jade E. Davis contests the value of empathy as an affective or critical tool. Whether focusing on technology, colonialism, or racism, she shows how empathy can obscure relationships of dominance, control, submission, and victimization, arguing that these histories taint the whole concept of empathy. Drawing on digital archives of photographs, memoirs, newspapers, interviews, and advertisements regarding nineteenth-century ethnographic museums and human zoos, Davis shows how empathetic responses erase culpabilities from those institutions that commodify difference. She also contends that empathy’s mediation through digital technology cannot lead to more ethical actions, as technology only connects representations of people rather than the people themselves. In empathy’s place, Davis proposes mutual recognition as a way to see and experience others beyond colonial modes of empathy. Davis illustrates that moving beyond empathy allows for a more nuanced understanding of the colonial past and its ongoing impact while providing for a more meaningful affective engagement with the world.
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Pathways to Empathy
New Studies on Commodification, Emotional Labor, and Time Binds
Edited by Gertraud Koch and Stefanie Everke Buchanan
Campus Verlag, 2013
Three decades after the publication of Arlie Russell Hochschild’s The Managed Heart, the processes of commodification of emotion she wrote about now reach into all areas of labor processes, extending even to private life and intimate relationships. The contributors to this volume take up her concepts to study the diversity of this economic intrusion into family, education, and nursing in the service sector as well as into corporate management. Aside from the powers and interests that force these developments, these essays argue, there are also productive uses and active resistances to them.   
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The Renewal of Generosity
Illness, Medicine, and How to Live
Arthur W. Frank
University of Chicago Press, 2004
Contemporary health care often lacks generosity of spirit, even when treatment is most efficient. Too many patients are left unhappy with how they are treated, and too many medical professionals feel estranged from the calling that drew them to medicine. Arthur W. Frank tells the stories of ill people, doctors, and nurses who are restoring generosity to medicine—generosity toward others and to themselves.

The Renewal of Generosity evokes medicine as the face-to-face encounter that comes before and after diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and surgeries. Frank calls upon the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin to reflect on stories of ill people, doctors, and nurses who transform demoralized medicine into caring relationships. He presents their stories as a source of consolation for both ill and professional alike and as an impetus to changing medical systems. Frank shows how generosity is being renewed through dialogue that is more than the exchange of information. Dialogue is an ethic and an ideal for people on both sides of the medical encounter who want to offer more to those they meet and who want their own lives enriched in the process.

The Renewal of Generosity views illness and medical work with grace and compassion, making an invaluable contribution to expanding our vision of suffering and healing.
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Strange Natures
Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination
Nicole Seymour
University of Illinois Press, 2013
In Strange Natures, Nicole Seymour investigates the ways in which contemporary queer fictions offer insight on environmental issues through their performance of a specifically queer understanding of nature, the nonhuman, and environmental degradation. By drawing upon queer theory and ecocriticism, Seymour examines how contemporary queer fictions extend their critique of "natural" categories of gender and sexuality to the nonhuman natural world, thus constructing a queer environmentalism. Seymour's thoughtful analyses of works such as Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues, Todd Haynes's Safe, and Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain illustrate how homophobia, classism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia inform dominant views of the environment and help to justify its exploitation. Calling for a queer environmental ethics, she delineates the discourses that have worked to prevent such an ethics and argues for a concept of queerness that is attuned to environmentalism's urgent futurity, and an environmentalism that is attuned to queer sensibilities.
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Theatrical Reality
Space, Embodiment and Empathy in Performance
Campbell Edinborough
Intellect Books, 2016
Performance, dramaturgy, and scenography are often explored in isolation, but in Theatrical Reality, Campbell Edinborough describes their connectedness in order to investigate how the experience of reality is constructed and understood during performance. Drawing on sociological theory, cognitive psychology, and embodiment studies, Edinborough analyzes our seemingly paradoxical understanding of theatrical reality, guided by the contexts shaping relationships between performer, spectator, and performance space. Through a range of examples from theatre, dance, circus, and film, Theatrical Reality examines how the liminal spaces of performance foster specific ways of conceptualizing time, place, and reality.
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Unexpected Grace
Stories of Faith, Science, and Altruism
Bill Kramer
Templeton Press, 2007

In Unexpected Grace Bill Kramer offers a rare look into the human side of the world of scientific research. He goes behind the scenes of four scientific investigations on diverse aspects of the study of unlimited love and offers uplifting portraits of human beings struggling to understand and improve the complex issues facing them. He explores the dynamics between the researchers, the subjects they study, and the participants in the studies, and eloquently tells their personal stories. The stories touch on vastly different social and human issues, but all are connected by love.

The first is the story of Courtney Cowart, who was part of a group of theologians who met at Trinity Place in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, not knowing her experience would become the subject of a study. The story of how the group struggled to survive and the formation of a practical, effective altruistic community is heartrending and inspiring. This is followed by a description of a University of California Santa Cruz psychology department study on the dynamics of friendship and prejudice that completely changed the perceptions of those involved.

The third study, from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, focused on the benefits of religion on mental and physical health, which led its researcher to a greater understanding of forgiveness, humility, and grace. The final powerful story is about a physiology of love study conducted in Iowa City. Here, a functional MRI is the vehicle for measuring empathy and brings the researcher to wonder, "Is there a point at which empathy shuts down and we turn away?" Ultimately she comes to recognize that past experiences influences our ability to respond emphatically.
 
Each story candidly unveils the transformations the researchers and their subjects experienced in the course of their work. This illuminating book, with its unique insights, will appeal to educators, researchers, students, study participants, and everyone who wonders what goes on behind the scenes of investigative studies.

 

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Victorian Lessons in Empathy and Difference
Rebecca N. Mitchell
The Ohio State University Press, 2011

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What Saves Us
Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump
Edited by Martín Espada
Northwestern University Press, 2019

This is an anthology of poems in the Age of Trump—and much more than Trump. These are poems that either embody or express a sense of empathy or outrage, both prior to and following his election, since it is empathy the president lacks and outrage he provokes.

There is an extraordinary diversity of voices here. The ninety-three poets featured include Elizabeth Alexander, Julia Alvarez, Richard Blanco, Carolyn Forché, Aracelis Girmay, Donald Hall, Juan Felipe Herrera, Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Shihab Nye, Marge Piercy, Robert Pinsky, Danez Smith, Patricia Smith, Brian Turner, Ocean Vuong, Bruce Weigl, and Eleanor Wilner. They speak of persecuted and scapegoated immigrants. They bear witness to violence: police brutality against African Americans, mass shootings in a school or synagogue, the rage inflicted on women everywhere. They testify to poverty: the waitress surviving on leftovers at the restaurant, the battles of a teacher in a shelter for homeless mothers, the emergency-room doctor listening to the heartbeats of his patients. There are voices of labor, in the factory and the fields. There are prophetic voices, imploring us to imagine the world we will leave behind in ruins lest we speak and act.

However, this is not merely a collection of grievances. The poets build bridges. One poet steps up to translate in Arabic at the airport; another walks through the city and sees her immigrant past in the immigrant present; another declaims a musical manifesto after the hurricane that devastated his island; another evokes a demonstration in the street, shouting in an ecstasy of defiance. The poets take back the language, resisting the demagogic corruption of words themselves. They assert our common humanity in the face of dehumanization.

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