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Introduction



This volume of Passions in Context contains a selection of articles that deal with the complex interrelation between the emotions provoked by atrocities and selfhood. The articles originate from the conference "Atrocities, Emotion, Self" that took place at the Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen, on August 27--28, 2009. The conference was organized by Claudia Welz, Thomas Brudholm, and Arne Grøn.

The aim of the conference was to explore the nature and significance of emotional responses to atrocities with special regard to their implications for our understanding of the self. Atrocities - like genocide, rape and other crimes against humanity - assault our sense of human dignity on a fundamental level. Being inhumane is still within the range of human possibilities. The enactment of extreme violence shocks the conscience of humankind, challenges our understanding of the normative character of responsible agency, and raises difficult questions as to the fragility, integrity and unity of the self. This is not only the case in relation to studies of the testimonies and memories of surviving victims, but also in relation to accounts of the ways in which perpetrators confront the self during or after participation in atrocities. Responses to atrocities include vehement passions like outrage, horror, and disgust, but also what might be called „aftermath" emotions or remainders like shame, resentment, guilt, grief, and melancholy. What is the significance of these emotional responses-and of the ways in which individuals deal with them-to our understanding of the self? This was the main question addressed during the conference.

This question was discussed in an interdisciplinary exchange of thought between scholars with an expertise in studies of trauma and mass violence, philosophers of emotion and scholars with a background in phenomenological studies of the self. The plurality of approaches to the theme in question is reflected by the articles assembled in this volume.


Annalise Acorn, University of Alberta
Thomas Brudholm, University of Copenhagen
Claudia Welz, University of Copenhagen