2018-2021: In Someone Else's Shoes - An Interdisciplinary Research Group for the Study of Empathy in History, Society, and Culture

Empathy is a reaction to others. It refers to the way we perceive and understand the other person, and to our taking part in his/her thoughts and emotions. Empathy allows us to adopt the other's point of view, to think as if from within his/her mind, and to anticipate his/her reactions. Historians and students of culture have recently acknowledged empathy as having a significant role in shaping human development and society, and as the catalyst or enabler of major past and present historical events and processes. Empathy generates complex historical narratives, which include diverse patterns of personal and social identities. Empathy is strongly related to culture, as well as to concepts such as knowledge and understanding, personal identity and group solidarity, responsibility, communication, problem-solving, cooperation, and contribution to others. The ‘In Someone Else's Shoes’ group aims to investigate how empathy develops, when and for whom it is considered an important value, its implications – for better and for worse -- and its boundaries. Thus, the group will investigate also the opposite: apathy and alienation. What cause a diversion of the gaze, or facing an emotional dead-end? Choosing empathy as a research topic requires collaboration between historians and psychologists.

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