Welcome to Suffering in Contemporary Society (2021)

Description: During this four-day course, we will investigate the questions, dilemmas and aporias related to human suffering. Ranging from sociological analyses of social pathologies over psychological and medical issues and questions related to diagnostic cultures, existential and theological encounters with suffering to related issues following from climate change, we seek to promote interdisciplinarity at its best. Approaching suffering from these various angles, we also insist on the internal overlaps, and call for mutual exchanges. The complexity of the subject requires transcending specific disciplinary stances, and we believe there is much to gain from digging deeper into both the specificity and the interrelatedness of suffering. 

Even though suffering has the potential to unite us, it can only be known uniquely as our own, making it paradigmatic for existential dilemmas in a broader sense. Suffering in various forms pervades history, but its dramas are staged in culturally specific forms and experienced singularly. Although it can be seen as an irreversible condition of human life, there is something undoubtedly wrong with certain forms of excessive suffering. This course makes the argument that a university in the 21stcentury should play a central role regarding conceptualizing and understanding suffering, as well as to work actively regarding how to remedy in relevant ways.

This course will be relevant for PhD students from various scientific fields that address suffering in their PhD project or have an interest in including the topic in future work. The course should be seen as an opportunity to inspire and be inspired by colleagues working with related issues and by lectures from distinguished scholars in a broad range of scientific fields with an original take on the subject. As such, the course will contribute to theoretical, empirical and clinical advancement regarding apprehending and managing issues related suffering in a PhD project. 

Furthermore, it will provide a great forum for exchanges of ideas and networking both within and between scientific areas. Therefore, the course literature spans several different scientific approaches, which hopefully will inspire participants to further engage with suffering in their own projects as well as utilizing more interdisciplinary approaches. “Participants are required to read the course literature and submit a one-page abstract, concerning how suffering is – or might be – interesting for their own projects. The abstracts are to be read by all participants and will make the point of departure for the oral presentation and plenary discussion during the course days. Abstracts are sent by e-mail to alfred@hum.aau.dk and pclement@hum.aau.dk 

Together with our invited lecturers who are all internationally recognized authorities and stand at the frontiers of their respective fields, we look forward to four days of academic life at its best: high quality discussions within and between different fields of studies, meetings with national and international colleagues, establishment of future research cooperations as well as social activities. 

Organizer: Alfred Bordado Sköld Peter Clement Lund, 

Lecturers: Alfred Bordado Sköld, Peter Clement Lund, Carsten Pallesen, Rasmus Willig, Fredrik Svenaeus, Svend Brinkmann, Anders Petersen


Time: February 2021

Place: Aalborg University

Zip code: 


Number of seats: 25