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Social Suffering in an Era of Resilience

October 19th & 20th 2017

Goethe-University Frankfurt, in co-operation with the Institute for Social Research
The seventh international conference on The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization once again explores the nature of contemporary malaises, diseases, illnesses and syndromes in their relation to cultural pathologies of the social body. Usually these conditions are interpreted clinically in terms of individualized symptoms and framed in demographic and epidemiological profiles. They are represented and responded to discretely, as though for the most part unrelated to each other; each having their own professional discourses of etiology, diagnostics, therapeutics, as well as their task forces developing health strategy and policy recommendations and interventions. However, these diseases also have a social and cultural profile, one that transcends the particularity of their symptomology and their discrete etiologies. These pathologies are diseases related to cultural pathologies of the social body and disorders of the collective esprit de corps of contemporary society.
Multi-disciplinary in approach the conference addresses questions of how these conditions are manifest at the level of individual bodies and minds, as well as how the ‘bodies politic’ are related to the hegemony of reductive biomedical and psychologistic perspectives. Rejecting such a reductive diagnosis of contemporary problems of health and well-being, the central research hypothesis guiding the conference is that contemporary epidemics are to be analysed in the light of radical changes in our civilization and of the social hegemonization of the biomedical and psychiatric perspective. They arise from individual and collective experiences of profound and drastic social changes and cultural shifts.
More specifically – but not exclusively – this conference will focus on the social dynamics of suffering. In times where an increasing neglect of society is only asking for one’s resilience, we want to focus on the understanding how social and cultural conditions moderate the experience of suffering. Social Suffering as a concept comprises two things: first, collective suffering, for instance as a result of war or natural catastrophes; and second, individual suffering, insofar as it has primarily societal causes.

• The so called refugee crisis brings in also questions of morality: is the focus on resilience in light of collective suffering of any help? Could resonance as a concept on the other side help to a better understanding of the suffering?
• Psychic suffering and social inequality
• Due to the transformation of work and the psychosocial costs associated with these changes, as well as the increasing tendencies towards social exclusion, the issue of social suffering has entered the agenda of industrialized nations as well. The notion of social suffering highlights the fact, then, that the suffering in question is caused by structural conditions and remains embedded in them. It is suffering in society and because of it.
• Psychologization of Suffering. Is the notion of “social Pathologies” as well as the ongoing question for a diagnostic potential of the social sciences already part of an neglect of society itself and playing into the hands of psychology? What role plays therapy culture in this development?
• Common to all contributions to this field is both the interpretation of social suffering as an increasing effect of neoliberal capitalist socialization and its determination as a theoretical reference point for social critique. Whilst attending to the particular ways in which individuals struggle to make ‘the problem of suffering’ productive for thought and action, it also works to understand how, through to the level of collective experience, this contributes to wider dynamics of social change. Is the concept of resonance a starting point maybe?

The conference invites papers offering analyses, discussions and perspectives of the overall theme (and related themes) from faculty, students and researchers in fields such as psychiatry, philosophy, sociology, social theory, psychology, anthropology etc.

Abstracts (300 words) please, by Friday, December 23rd 2016, to:




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