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Cosmopolitan Humanism: Alterity, Difference and the Singular Plural Community

Special Guest Lecture by Cheryl Mattingly

22.08.2018 | Camilla Dimke

Dato ons 12 sep
Tid 14:15 15:30
Sted Aarhus University, building 1441/ 012.

This talk is based on a study of African American families raising children with significant illnesses and disabilities in Los Angeles.  It opens with a question posed by an African American grandmother who tells a story about a surprising experience at a glamour shop. She is startled when she sees the photos that have been taken after her makeover. She asks herself: Who is this? The lecture engages her question by introducing three phenomenological themes:

- the experience of the gaze, or the “look,”
- the experience of alterity and transcendent relationality
- the implications of the grandmother’s experience for rethinking a humanism beyond universals of sameness

Analytically, the talk contributes to a growing body of anthropological work in critical phenomenology.

After the lecture, the School of Culture and Society will host a reception.

All are welcome.

Poster can  be downloaded here.

Cheryl Mattingly is Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at University of Southern California.   She is a medical and psychological anthropologist deeply inspired by phenomenology, the philosophy of ethics and narrative theory.  Since 2008, she has been a regular visiting professor with joint appointments in the Departments of Philosophy and Anthropology at Aarhus University, Denmark. From 2013 – 2015 she was a Dale T. Mortensen Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University.  

She and her colleagues have carried out numerous federally funded research studies from National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Education. Her research has focused on disability, family care and health disparities for minority populations, in particular African Americans. Throughout her work, she has tried to document more than large-scale forces of social injustice. Some key questions have been: What kind of conceptual gaze and what kind of writing can illuminate lives that, from one point of view, seem virtually doomed from the start? Without succumbing to naïve optimism, how might we, as scholars, recognize the subtle and creative ways that people respond to oppressive conditions even when they are largely unable to improve their situations? How can the force of small acts be registered? How can we write history with a small “h”?  Does investigating lives marked by social and bodily precarity offer a special entrance into rethinking the human condition and humanism itself?

These questions continue to animate her current work.  In 2017 she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship that has provided funding for her newest book project, tentatively titled Category Trouble:  Stigma as Moral Experience.  Theoretically, it calls upon classic studies of stigma as well as traditions of critical phenomenology.  It also aims to speak beyond the academy by foregrounding a set of short stories with key protagonists from her past research. 

Mattingly has received numerous book and essay prizes for her publications. In 2000 she was awarded the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing for Healing Dramas and Clinical Plots (Cambridge University Press 1998) from the American Anthropology Association.  In 2011 she received the Stirling Prize for The Paradox of Hope:  Journeys Through a Clinical Borderland (University of California 2010) from the Society for Psychological Anthropology.  In 2015 she received the New Millennium Prize for Moral Laboratories:  Family Peril and the Struggle for a Good Life (University of California Press 2014), awarded by the Society for Medical Anthropology.  Her other co-edited books include Narrative and the Cultural Construction of Illness and Healing (University of California Press 2000) Narrative, Self and Social Practice (Philosophia Press 2009) and Moral Engines:  Exploring the Ethical Drives in Human Life (Berghahn Press 2018).



Forelæsning / foredrag, Antropologi, Filosofi og Idéhistorie