EMPATHY The Empathy Project

full name / name of organization: 

The Empathy Project

Friday 7th September – Sunday 9th September 2015
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Presentations:
Empathy, the will to understand or to attempt to understand others by imagining what it might feel like to be them; how it might feel to experience the world from inside their skin, underpins much of our lives. For instance, it is present in the ways in which people relate to and care for one another within families and in bigger groups, to the ways in which we communicate with one another through literature, art, film, advertising and digital media. Many professions – from nursing, counselling psychotherapy and medicine, to teaching, product design, architecture, advertising and stand-up comedy, depend at least partly, on empathic skill.

We can empathise with others whose lives are very different from our own, and because empathy involves the use of the imagination, we can even empathise with people in experiences that we are unlikely ever to have, and even in experiences that we will never be able to have. Though empathy is often viewed through 'rose-coloured spectacles', as if it is always a good thing, some people would argue that it can be put to bad uses, for example by bullies and torturers who use empathic skill to know how best to harm their victims.

Some people believe that everyone who is aware of others has the ability to empathise, at least to some extent; others disagree, believing, rather, that some individuals, who are often referred to as 'psychopathic', have no ability to empathise. Others again believe that empathy is both a gift and a skill that can be developed. They note that while some people seem to empathise naturally, others don't, and argue that given the right experiences, most people can develop empathic ability.

Empathy provides a space in which academics as well as practitioners and professionals for whom empathy is centrally important, can explore the part empathy plays in human life. It provides a place for reflection on its significance for practitioners in health and social care; education; architecture and town planning; politics; the police; advertising; media of all kinds; the news industry in all its forms; film and theatre, and the fine arts, including the work of artists and those who work in museums and art galleries.

The First Global Meeting on Empathy, which was held in Prague in 2014, included philosophical, ethical, neurological and psychological discussions of the meaning and origins of empathy, as well as presentations about, for example, empathy in literature, the visual arts, and cinema; about empathy in news and social media and online communication; about the ways in which considerations of empathy influence character and plot development in TV drama, and about the development of empathy in children and in professionals, including social workers and health care staff. Abstracts are invited for individual contributions and for symposia of three closely related papers that address the place that empathy has to play in any area of human life, including:

*Empathy in storytelling of all kinds, including novels and short stories, theatre; narrative and documentary film, and digital storytelling.
*Empathy in the creative and performance arts.
*The communications industry, including print and digital journalism; advertising; public relations, television and radio.
*The place of empathy in education; politics; business; health and social care; the law; policing and the armed forces.
*Explorations of empathy in academic research, by, for example, psychologists, philosophers, theologians, nurses, counsellors, teachers and literary theorists.

Proposals might, for example, address questions such as:

– Is empathy a natural ability, or a learned and practiced skill?
– What is the relationship between empathy and sympathy?
– Is empathy always a good thing? In other words, do those who have empathic skill necessarily display helpful, caring and considerate behaviour towards others?
– How does empathy arise in human beings?
– What, if anything, can neuroscience tell us about empathy; its development and its absence?
– What role does empathy play in education? Could an un-empathic person be a successful teacher?
– What part does empathy play in the narrative arts of literature, theatre and film?
– Does social networking increase or diminish empathy in those who use it?
– How does empathy make itself known in the work of architects, designers, advertisers, lawyers, theologians, journalists, town planners; business people; TV presenters; politicians; prison officers; doctors; nurses; therapists; school teachers; priests; artists; entertainers of all kinds?
– What part, if any, does empathy play in the creation of digital media and perhaps, especially, in the creation of computer games?
– Is empathy present, to any degree, in animals?
– Is bullying a result of an empathy deficit and do those who engage in torture necessarily lack empathy? Or does well developed empathic ability informs bullying behaviour and allow the best torturers to decide how best to hurt and terrorise their victims?
– How important for ethical living, is the ability to empathise?

In addition to the presentation of conference papers, the Steering Group welcomes the submission of shorts workshops and accounts of professional practice, as well as other contributions, including performances. It particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals.

What to Send:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 5th June 2015. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 7th August 2015. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: EMPATHY2 Abstract Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs:
Gavin Fairbairn & Susan Fairbairn: gsemp@inter-disciplinary.net
Rob Fisher: empathy2@inter-disciplinary.net

The conference is part of the 'Ethos' series of research projects. The aim of the conference is to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

For further details of the conference, please visit:

Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.