Decency: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Saturday 9th March 2019 - Sunday 10th March 2019
Prague, Czech Republic
Decency is still important for the way we live, both in public life and in the private sphere. Yet as we push into the 21st Century, ‘decency’ increasingly appears to be coming under pressure across numerous fronts and on many diverse levels.
In one sense, decent housing, decent food, decent healthcare, decent education and a decent job are all considered necessary for people to flourish. Yet the concept is sometimes abused when used by powerful groups—political, social or religious—to denounce others for indecency. ‘Decent, hardworking, law-abiding citizens’ are set in stark opposition to ‘the others’ – the feckless, the lawless, the merely different or the ‘morally corrupt.’ In these cases, decency is more like an ethical force, the lack of which is deemed dangerous. And the image of decency can be used as a cover, for example, when persons who are outwardly decent and respectable use their wholesome images to hide despicable conduct.
So what is decency? How do we know it when we see it? How do we learn it? And how should it be understood, used and applied?
Societies have been struggling to understand ‘decency’ for centuries. Philosophically, Aristotle suggested that decency (epieikês) points to a kind of human goodness which is even higher than ‘nobleness’ or ‘virtue’. Religion has traditionally been a reference point for defining decency with codes of conduct for behaviour being a touchstone in the three large monotheistic religions as well as others. In Islam, for example, the decent person is not flamboyant but self-effacing. Political milieus have their own versions of decent behaviour: The second American president John Adams concluded that ‘politeness, delicacy, or decency’ can be ‘but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice’. If Adams is right, this prompts the question: is there ever virtue in being indecent? Jesus of Nazareth, British Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, and Moscow protest group ‘Pussy Riot’ spring to mind as very different examples of progressive moral agents whose actions are regarded as indecent. And perhaps the core supporters of US President Donald Trump overlook his indecency in the hope that he might make their country ‘great’ again.
Ultimately, does ‘decency’ imply a minimum standard of behaviour? Is decency a universal aspiration or is it determined locally, culturally, socially? And how does decency relate to power and the powerful, to gender (a ‘decent man’ and a ‘decent woman’ having different implications, perhaps), to the homeless, to the weak and to the strangers in our midst? Ought decency to be encouraged, or is it an outdated concept? Or, if it is to be encouraged, what role do education, popular culture, laws, and professional codes have in promoting decency? And how do we move beyond dialogue on decency to actively facilitate the practices of decency? What can be done to improve the practice of decency across all segments of private and professional life?
Our inaugural meeting of this inclusive interdisciplinary conference will initially explore all levels and aspects of decency with a view to forming a publication to engender further collaboration and discussion.
We are thrilled to open up this difficult, confusing and exciting phenomenon to exploration, assessment and examination, with an equal view to establishing real world impact in the conclusions reached. We welcome presentations and participation from scholars, thinkers, researchers and practitioners and from a wide range of disciplines and areas of study. These might include: psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, counsellors, medical professionals, nurses, addiction workers, philosophers, theologians, sociologists, feminist scholars, anthropologists, lawyers, educationalists, students, parents, teachers, clergy, NGOs, social/welfare services, human rights theorists, charities, prison officers, politicians, political scientists, architects, administrators, civil servants, cultural theorists, literary scholars, performers, creative artists, writers, sportspersons, PR and advertising professionals, journalists, market researchers, business people, and anyone else who has a contribution to make in understanding decency.
Some of the themes we would like to see discussed (though this is not an exclusive list) are:
theorising decency and indecency
cultural influences on decency and indecency
the psychology of decency and indecency
the sociology of decency and indecency
the philosophy of decency
the theology of decency
anthropological analyses of decency and indecency
decency, ethics and etiquette
common decency: are there universal standards?
Representations of Decency
portrayal of decency and indecency in literature
decent characters in film, theatre and so on
decency and indecency shown in the mass media
famous historical examples of decency
depictions of decency in art
decency in film, tv, music, dance, and other types of creative expression
‘indecency’ in the arts (e.g. the Hayes code; censorship; parental advisory warnings)
Decency in Practice
decency and empathy
decency in relationships
decency and the family
decency and gender
decency and civil society; civility
decency in political life
decency and human development (Sen and Haq’s Human Development Index)
human rights; decent living conditions
decency in cyberspace (eg the Communications Decency Act, USA, 1996)
decency and communication
decency and wealth
decency and power
decency and repression
decency and religion
decency in sport
decency in dress
decency and nudity (gym worker knocking on changing-room door: “Are you decent?”)
decency in speech
decency and good taste
decency and duty
decency towards other species
Decency in Adversity
decency and compassion
decency towards the vulnerable and impoverished (elderly, unemployed, refugees)
decency and homelessness
decency and disability
decency in social care
decency and diversity
decency in therapeutic relationships
decency in nursing
decency and mental illness
decency and end of life
decency in the justice system
decency and law enforcement
decency and the victim
decency and the prisoner
‘ordinary decent criminals’ (vs terrorists)
decency and temptation
decency and deviance (‘decent’ vs ‘street’)
decency in warfare; treating ‘the enemy’ decently
Decency in the Workplace
decent management practices
decency in business
decency in customer relations
decency and the bottom line.
decency and administration.
decency in financial services.
decency and the professions.
decency and education
decency in teaching; role modelling; the ‘one good adult’.
decency and research
barriers to decency: poverty, illness, lack of education, conflict
who defines ‘indecent’?
indecency and sexuality
offending against public decency
# Me Too
indecency as a paradoxical virtue
indecency and protest
What to Send
The aim of this interdisciplinary conference and collaborative networking event is to bring people together and encourage creative conversations in the context of a variety of formats: papers, seminars, workshops, storytelling, performances, poster presentations, panels, q&a’s, roundtables etc.
300 word proposals, presentations, abstracts and other forms of contribution and participation should be submitted by Friday 12th October 2018. Other forms of participation should be discussed in advance with the Organising Chair.
All submissions will be minimally double reviewed, under anonymous (blind) conditions, by a global panel drawn from members of the Project Development Team and the Advisory Board. In practice our procedures usually entail that by the time a proposal is accepted, it will have been triple and quadruple reviewed.
You will be notified of the panel’s decision by Friday 26th October 2018
If your submission is accepted for the conference, a full draft of your contribution should be submitted by Friday 25th January 2019.
Abstracts and proposals may be in Word, PDF, RTF or Notepad formats with the following information and in this order:
a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in the programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: Decency Submission
Where to Send
Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to the Organising Chair and the Project Administrator:
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Sponsored by: Progressive Connexions