Jun, 2021 30

Jul, 2021 1

Politics of Attention

Robert Mikael Dürrmeier Time: 10:30 - 19:30 Other

Wednesday June 30th

10:30 Welcome word

11:00 – 12:30 – Christian Maurer (University of Lausanne) : « Attention in Tolerance »

14:30-16:00 – Zeynep Pamuk (University of California, San Diego) « The Politics of Scientific Attention »

16:30-18:00 – Isabel Kaeslin (University of Fribourg) « Which Kinds of Collectives can Pay Attention? »


Thursday July 1st

10:30-12:00 – Silvia Panizza (University College Dublin) « Attention: from Contemplation to Activism »

14:00-15:30 – Layla Raïd (University of Picardie Jules Verne) « Political Attention: a Dialogical Perspective »

16:00-17:30 – Bridget Clarke (University of Montana) « The Challenge of Political Attention »

18:00-19:30 – Maude Ouellette-Dubé (University of Fribourg) « Ethical Attention, Ordinary Blind Spots and Social Justice »

If you wish to participate in person or online, please send an email to robertmikael.duerrmeier@unifr.ch


Aesthetics and Ethics of Attention Research Project

Organisation : Isabel Kaeslin and Maude Ouellette-Dubé




This two-day workshop is about the ethical and political aspects of how we pay attention. ‘Attention’ as a philosophical concept is fairly new and most of the literature on ethical attention discusses how individuals pay attention. In focusing on political aspects of attention, we want to ask how institutions and other collectives pay attention. The concept of ethical attention is much indebted to the work of Simone Weil, who presents attention as an intrinsically valuable contemplative activity which fosters openness and receptivity to others. While this concept found its place within moral psychology and moral philosophy, Weil is adamant that attention is urgently political. That a notion of attention is central to public life is also emphasized by writers like Iris Marion Young who suggests that social justice requires explicitly attending to the differences among social groups that bestow privilege on some and keep others powerless. Similarly, writers like Joan Tronto extend ethical attention to the political realm as a practice of care through which the socio-political aspect of needs is recognized.

Possible questions are: How does ‘the media’ (understood as a social system) pay attention? What are the processes that determine, for instance, what the medical profession pays attention to? Does gaining clarity on the idea of political attention help us better understand and prevent social prejudices? How do failures of (political) attention shed light on patterns of discrimination?  What are the things that various social groups fail to pay attention to and why? Do structures of privilege present attentional demands on marginalized groups, forcing them to pay attention to aspects of life which others do not have to? How can a notion of political attention be embedded in larger frameworks, such as an ethics of care or a politics of inclusion? Does attention foster tolerance? How does (political) attention play a role in the various aspects of public life (decision making, implementing laws, public policy, reinforcing rights)? Are democratic forms of government more attentive than others? How should the hermeneutic professions (philosophers, journalists, lawyers, and so on) pay attention?

In this workshop, we want to open a space to discuss the emerging concept of political attention and the related idea of politics of attention. On the one hand, we want to understand how we can attribute mental processes (like attention) to collectives of various kinds, if at all. On the other, we want to ask what these processes of paying attention exactly are. Ultimately, we want to see which ethical and political questions arise, if we understand attention as a distinct (mental) resource or good which can be paid by institutions and collectives in different ways, and thus can be distributed fairly or unfairly. Or, if we understand attending as a distinct political practice, which can promote fair treatment and recognition.