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AIAS Conference

Moral Engines: Exploring the moral drives in human life

2013.09.26 | AIAS

Date Wed 04 Jun Fri 06 Jun
Time 12:00    19:00
Location The AIAS Auditorium, Building 1632, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, 8000 Aarhus C

Conference description

In the course of the last decade or so, there has been a virtual explosion of anthropological literature which deals with morality and argues that morality should be considered a central dimension of human practice. The question of what fundamentally drives human beings to ethical reflection, to strive for moral perfection or the cultivation of particular virtues, however, most often remains unexplored in this literature. This question will be taken up for explicit discussion, creating a space for dialogue between representatives from anthropology, philosophy and the history of ideas: Is it care for the self (as e.g. in the Foucauldian sense)? Is it a care for others (as the classical works by e.g. Løgstrup and Levinas would have it)? May it be fear (e.g. fear of God or fear of social sanctions)? Or something else?

In short, the main issue of the conference is to explore what may be termed the various moral engines in human life: At which levels are they to be localised - intersubjective, societal, individual? Do they differ from society to society, culture to culture, social setting to social setting, or are they universal? 

International confirmed speakers

  • Jonathan Lear, University of Chicago, Professor, Department of Philosophy, USA.
  • James Laidlaw, University of Cambridge, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Fellow at King's College, UK.
  • Dorothée Legrand, Husserl Archives, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.
  • Francois Raffoul, Louisiana State University, Professor of Philosophy and French studies, USA.
  • Joel Robbins, University of Cambridge, Professor of Anthropology, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Division of Social Anthropology, UK.
  • Jason Throop, University of California, Los Angeles, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, USA.
  • Jarrett Zigon, University of Amsterdam, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, the Nederlands.
  • Michael Lambek, University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada Research Chair, Department of Anthropology, Canada.
  • Michael D. Jackson, Harvard University, Distinguished Visiting Professor of World Religions, USA. 

Local confirmed speakers

  • Cheryl Mattingly, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University, Dale T. Mortensen fellow at AIAS, Denmark and Professor of anthropology at University of Southern California, USA.
  • Uffe Juul Jensen, Aarhus University, Professor of Philosophy, Department of Culture and Society, Denmark. 
  • Martijn van Beek, Aarhus University, Associate Professor, Department of Culture and Society.
  • Lotte Meinert, Aarhus University, Professor with Special Responsibilities, Department of Culture and Society.
  • Maria Louw, Aarhus University, Associate Professor, Department of Culture and Society, Denmark.
  • Thomas Schwarz Wentzer, Aarhus University, Associate Professor, Department of Culture and Society, Denmark.


Registration is now open

Registration of conference participation is needed, and is online before 15 May:

Register to the conference here.

Final date of registration is 15 May 2014.

Preliminary time schedule and programme

  • Wednesday 4 June
  • Thursday 5 June
  • Friday 6 June

The preliminary programme is expected on 7 April, and the final programme on 1 May, and will be posted on the website.

Post-conference workshop on 10 June

A post-conference workshop is held on 10 June 2014 from 9:00-14:00 at AIAS and is directed mainly at junior researchers: PhDs, postdocs or other interested scholars. At the workshop each presenter is granted a 40 min timeslot, and papers given at the workshop should not exceed 25 min, leaving time for discussion. The paper is expected to respond to the questions raised in the conference abstract and, since the workshop is also interdisciplinary, it should be written with an interdisciplinary audience in mind.

PhD students are given 3 ECTS points for participating in the workshop.

Read the call for papers and the description of the workshop.

Deadline for papers was 9 March 2014.


Cheryl Mattingly, Dale T. Mortensen fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, AIAS, and Professor at Department of Anthropology, University of Southern California, USA.

Maria Louw and the research group, "Moral engines", Contemporary Ethnography, CAS, Aarhus University.

Thomas Schwarz Wentzer and Rasmus Dyring and the research project "Existential Anthropology – Inquiring Human Responsiveness", CAS, Aarhus University.


For further information, please contact

Rasmus Dyring, PhD fellow, filrd@cas.au.dk.

Lena Bering, Communications officer, lber@aias.au.dk.


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