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Paul Ricœur on Collective Identities

Key facts

15.11.2021 - 17.11.2021
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Trier, Germany (If necessary, the conference will be staged digitally)
The Society for Ricoeur Studies


Over the last four decades, the concept of collective identity has attracted considerable attention and generated extensive discussions in the various branches of philosophy, as well as in the human and social sciences. The progressive erosion of stable social milieus and of community cohesion have resulted in the increasing politicization of group identities. On the one hand, this development raises the theoretical question of understanding the very nature of collective identity and the constitution of collective identities. On the other hand, though, the urgent concern for responsible practice in collective identities formation, emerges in all its practical and increasing problematicity.

Paul Ricœur’s concept of narrative identity provides a renewed approach to these issues from a hermeneutical point of view. He considers this notion as applicable not only to the individual being, but also to communities. Nevertheless, his treatment of collective identities remains fragmentary in his thought. Ricœur does not give to the concept of collective identity a center place in any of his writings; rather, he discusses the topic from many different angles. Thus, a systematic account of collective identity is missing in his work.

The conference will pursue a twofold aim. First, it seeks to map out Ricœur’s concept of collective identity by systematically questioning its presuppositions and the various contexts in which it is employed in his thought. Secondly, this comprehensive reconstruction will provide the possibility to integrate Ricœur’s hermeneutics more closely with the contemporary debate on collective identities across the human and social sciences, which has so far been dominated by non-hermeneutic approaches.

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