Patrick McAlary (University of Cambridge): rex Caisil or rí Herend Truthfulness and Chronicles: The Case of Cathal mac Finguine.
In many ways Chronicles represent a unique genre of historical document. At first sight they promise the historian a straight cut and truthful narrative penned by a seemingly impartial and trustworthy redactor. They may even seem devoid of the inherent biases that feed into other literary genres, such as hagiographies or encomiums, that, to the eyes of the critical historian, ‘obscure’ the truth. However, the biases of the Irish Annals are masked beneath the inherently laconic nature of the entries. As with any source, decisions must be made on what material to include, what material to omit, and what material to interpolate, and these creative decisions ultimately lie with a redactor whose decision is filtered through the lens of institutional, ideological, and personal biases. At every level, these choices move the account further away from a truthful telling of events to a carefully constructed narrative, moulded by the masked intentions of the redactor.
The purpose of this paper is to test how far the Annals of Inisfallenexhibit these biases, and thus, how far their version of events can be trusted. Therefore, this paper will focus on the career of the prominent Munster king, Cathal mac Finguine (†742) as conveyed in the Annals. The testimony of the Annals of Inisfallenwill be contextualised alongside other accounts, specifically the Annals of Ulsterand the Annals of Tigernach. Not only will this comparison add further evidence for the clear Munster bias that permeates the account of the Annals of Inisfallen, but it will highlight the wholescale revisionism that defines these Annals treatment of Cathal’s reign. This paper challenges the perception that Chronicles are passive and outright trustworthy sources merely imparting impartial information and point to the underlying concerns that fed into the redactor’s presentation of events. Ultimately, Chronicles becomes a useful means of testing and challenging our conception of truth and trust when it comes to documentary evidence.
Claudia Isabel Navas Aparicio (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): The case of ‘trust and truth’ in General Francisco de Miranda’s case.
General Francisco de Miranda (1750-1816) was tried three times in his life wherein we can analyze the way “truth and honor” have been used to advocate for one position or the other, that of the accuser or defendant.
– In 1783 Miranda was wrongly accused by the Spanish Crown of conspiracy and betrayal of the King’s interest. He was declared non guilty in 1793. During this time, Miranda hid from Spanish Agents and made his way though Europe and Russia acquiring new philosophical knowledge. In Scandinavia read the Right of People by Emmerich de Vattel as well as all the Classics.
-On March 25th, 1793 he was again wrongly accused this time by the Chief General of the French Army, Dumouriez, of betraying the newly created French Republic. On May 25th, 1793, he was declared non guilty after a brilliant self defense based on the Honor and Engagement to the Republic and Freedom. His discourse was based on the values of truth and respect to his commitment to the French First Republic. Still, on July 3rd, he was incarcerated by order of Robespierre’s agents without any reason given and kept there until August 1795. Newspaper articles of the time followed his case with great detail and interest.
-Then on July 30th, 1812, he was, yet again, incarcerated as a regular delinquent by the Spanish Crown in Caracas, Venezuela for a transgression against the capitulation of War signed with the Royal Army’s Domingo de Monteverde whereby Miranda was allowed to return to England with his possessions. Even though in 1814 all the political prisoners had been redeemed by the Order of King Ferdinand VII, Miranda was in kept in prison until his death on July 14th, 1816. When he wrote to the Cortes requesting a trial, the response he received was that his file had been lost.
This presentation will examine how, in Miranda’s life, the concept of truth changed depending on who was using the terminology and the accusations. 200 years after his death, his case remains an example of how « truth » can be used depending on the accuser/ defendants point of view. I use, as the basis of the presentation, Archives and articles of the period (1783-1816).
Charles Beirouti (University of Oxford): Edward Terry, John Covel and the Depiction of Religious Practice and Belief in the Mughal and Ottoman Empires, 1616-1722.
Medieval European travellers to Asia frequently returned with fanciful tales of what they had encountered there, ranging from unimaginable riches and supernatural flora and fauna, to sorcery and grotesque parodies of men and women. By the sixteenth century, these stories, though believed by some, were also commonly satirised in contemporary literature, and travellers began to acquire a reputation for deceit. Successive generations of travel writers, increasingly aware of the mendacious reputation of their forebears, began to eliminate or even correct some of the more fabulous Western tales of the Orient. Influenced by the rise of empiricism, they claimed to base their observations on eye-witness testimony (either from themselves or others), which therefore began to compete with the authority of Biblical and Classical lore.
One such travel writer was the English chaplain Edward Terry (c. 1590-1660), who travelled around parts of India between 1616 and 1619. In 1655, Terry published an account of his observations and experiences there, entitled A Voyage to East-India. Terry claims that his work can be trusted, because he drew on eye-witness testimony for what is described therein. Like many other European travel writers, however, it is clear that Terry frequently misunderstood, or wilfully misinterpreted the unfamiliar, primarily due to his Western frame of reference. Using Terry, this paper addresses one of the salient themes of the conference: the ways in which historians can exploit sources that clearly lie. It also investigates the nature of misinterpretation in early modern European travel literature about Asia. Why, for instance, in spite of the growing influence of empiricism, and the increased contact between East and West, did it remain so difficult for seventeenth-century Europeans to write objectively about Asia? And to what extent was this lack of objectivity accidental, or deliberate, to advance a particular religious or political agenda?
Lukas Jansen (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): The Principate – a culture of distrust?
Roman historians like Tacitus paint a dark picture of the societal conditions in imperial Rome. The descriptions of these authors give the impression, that the lives of the political elite were dominated by all kinds of cruelty and terror during the Principate. Almost everything in imperial historiography indicates that the relationship between the emperor and the power elite was predominantly determined by fear and distrust. But does this impression correspond with the actual political culture? The aim of my contribution to the 2019 Cambridge AHRC DTP Conference is to clarify if the political culture of Principate was indeed ruled by distrust. For this purpose, I will employ the concept of trust culture by the Polish sociologist Piotr Sztompka. He proposed that five macro-societal circumstances are crucial in order that a trust culture could emerge in a society. These conditions are normative coherence, stability of the social order, transparency of the social organization, familiarity of the societal environment and accountability of other people and institutions. If all these circumstances are sufficiently developed, the members of this society feel more secure and therefore are more willing to place trust in others. My contribution to the conference will analyze to what extent these five macro-societal conditions were developed in the Principate and in doing so I will demonstrate if the general conditions of this political system actually promoted the emergence of pandemic distrust among the political elite.
Lisa Nicholson (University of Cambridge): Une nouvelle Babilône: negotiating trust and truth at the Mazarin salon.
The Mazarin salon was established by Hortense Mancini Duchess of Mazarin in 1676 at her apartments in St James’ Park, and quickly became one of the most cosmopolitan salons in Europe. Made up of men and women who adhere to different Christian denominations with varying degrees of fervency, the salon offers a space for interreligious sociability. French Catholics mix with Huguenots and Anglicans alike as well as with English Catholics, and Dutch and Italian Protestants. Notably the salon became a refuge for Huguenot exiles particularly after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Despite the turbulent religious atmosphere in early modern London in which multifaith mixing was viewed as suspect, and anti-Catholic and Francophobic hysteria repeatedly surfaced, the salon survives even during the Popish Plot where Mancini herself was denounced as a conspirator.
The salon’s cosmopolitanism is evidenced by the attacks to which it was subject. Claude Erard, the lawyer of Mancini’s estranged husband, declared the salon ‘une nouvelle Babilône où les gens de toutes nations, de toutes sectes, parlans toutes langues’ gathered together. In light of these hostile reactions to the salon’s multilingual and multifaith membership, this paper poses two questions: firstly, how do the members negotiate their differences and build trust to forge a productive literary network? Secondly, how does the literary output of the salon respond to wider questions about truth and religion in the seventeenth century?
Alisa Hajdarpasic (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): A shift in the concept of truth in late medieval historia.
Late medieval prose genre historia refers to both history and story, bearing inherently both meanings and thus, also their ambivalence. Melusine and Der Knabenspiegel, even though both understood as historia, are nevertheless testimonies of two different concepts of truth in literature. Referring to the two texts as examples, as well as to the Dialog – a reflection on writing, following the Knabenspiegel – I would like to speak about the moment in which the turn in the concept of truth becomes visible.
A story of Melusine, a shapeshifting woman transforming in a sea creature every Saturday, was written to prove her to be an ancestress of the French royal family Lusignan, that ruled the Cyprus island in the 12th century. In order to claim the legend to be reality, the authors could turn to historiographical strategies to support it, much alike to those used in chronicles: Claiming that it relies on reports of eyewitness, on the diary-like notes of one of the protagonists himself, and referring to the monuments, like Lusignan castle, still visible in the time the story’s being told.
Such understanding of fiction as a factual truth is opposed in the Dialog, where Jörg Wickram reflects on the possibilities of fiction and proposes another concept: Its truth is not to be found somewhere outside, as it is something that narration bears inherently. What makes the story trustworthy are not verifiable facts anymore (Wahrheit), but the likelihood of the course of narrated events (Wahrscheinlichkeit), that is claimed to be possible and likely to occur in reality, provided the same circumstances, as it complies with the laws of human behavior, of the nature and the world.
Robert Scott (University of Cambridge): Irony and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.
For Hegel, the vain subjectivity and cynical indifference to reality represented by Romantic irony stands in total opposition to truth: it ‘consists in destroying and dissolving everything that proposes to make itself objective.’ This critique is quite exceptional for a philosopher otherwise dedicated to finding redeeming qualities in almost any philosophical position. Unsurprisingly, then, readers of Hegel have often taken for granted that he is opposed to irony per se.
My paper argues that this prevailing conception has damaged our understanding of his entire philosophy. Far from representing philosophy’s anti- ironist par excellence, Hegel represents philosophy’s most ironic thinker, for whom the truth is always ironic, and can only be communicated as such. I will do this by reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, focusing specifically on its literary style and form. Common sense (and the philosophical tradition prior to Hegel) tells us that the ‘truth’ of a philosophical text should be communicated as straightforwardly as possible; that arguments should proceed clearly and methodically, culminating in a direct statement of conclusion. The Phenomenology, on the other hand, radically subverts this expectation. Repeatedly, its reader is led into accepting certain ‘truths,’ then rudely forced to confront these ‘truths’’ inadequacies. Far from every stage of the text neatly transitioning into the next, overcoming the conceptual tensions of the previous one, each presents itself as a new, interminable hurdle; every rational achievement which is approached appears, upon arrival, as yet further contradiction. The reader learns not by instruction, but by being repeatedly misled. In short, Hegel is not to be trusted.
However, as I will argue, Hegel develops this method for a precise philosophical purpose: this very process of being confronted with and working through the contradictions of what we previously held to be true is, for Hegel, all that the True amounts to.
Jonathan Lyonhart (University of Cambridge): Heidegger and Aquinas on the location of Truth.
In this paper I argue that Heidegger’s critique of Aquinas on truth must be seen in light of Vallicella’s critique of Heidegger. Heidegger criticized Aquinas for allegedly placing truth in the ‘subjectivity’ of the human mind via correspondence (adequatio). Heidegger critiques Aquinas for subscribing to the allegedly “privileged paradigm” of locating truth in propositions. Propositions express the correspondence between mind and world; e.g., truth is attained when my mental image of turkey and stuffing accurately corresponds to the food on my plate. However, falsehood occurs when one’s mental picture/proposition does not correspond to reality; e.g., when one fails to notice all the Christmas weight they’ve gained. Truth—according to Heidegger’s reading of Aquinas—is not located in things in and of themselves, but in the theoretical propositions of the corresponding mind. Heidegger diagnoses this as a “transferring” of the “being of truth” into the “subject,” and thus the subjectivization of all truth, for all is reduced to one’s personal perspective, and indeed, to ones ‘alternative facts’. While the accuracy of this reading of Aquinas is highly contested, the criticism itself has sometimes been turned back upon Heidegger. In three forgotten articles in the 1980s, William Vallicella contended that Heidegger reduces Being to truth, and truth to the alleged ‘subjectivity’ of Dasein. Though Vallicella garnered some minimal attention at the time, his argument was soon forgotten, along with its potential implications for Heidegger’s criticism of Aquinas. This paper will argue that Vallicella can be used to both undermine Heidegger’s critique and undergird the value of Aquinas’ position on truth; a position sorely needed in a world confused about the precise definition, location and even existence of this thing called ‘truth’.
Aleksei Lokhmatov (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): ‘Historical Truth’ in Constructing New Social Realities: The Perspective of Intellectual History.
The idea that “historical truth” has been used as an instrument of propaganda is not in itself pioneering. A noticeable number of publications exist discussing “historical stereotypes” in the political discourse of various political parties, movements, and regimes. The recent wave of interest in “imagined geographies” has caused considerable debate regarding the influence of “images of the past” on reshaping political borders, an influence which was known to the scholars and scientists who actively participated in these events. It is remarkable that the power of “historical truth” as an argument did not lose its strength after the cataclysms of the world wars and the creation of International Law for resolving controversial issues. The “fairness” of decisions conducted with reference to “historical truth” still remain an important factor in public politics. In an interesting way, this question has already been broached, in the interwar publications of Sigmund Freud. Despite the work of Freud containing some historically irrelevant arguments, in my point of view, his writings suggest some reasonable ideas concerning the phenomenon of “historical truth.” Meanwhile, Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought have not been so deeply involved in the discussion of the nature of the “historical argument” in itself. At the same time, “Historical Truth” has mainly been considered to be an instrument of the manipulation of public consciousness. Thus, in this paper, I am going to reflect on how we can examine “historical truth” as an important factor in creating a new social reality. My presentation will be focused on the debate between Polish intellectuals on the concept of “Recovered Territories” that defined the East German regions included in the Polish state following World War II. Based on these sources, this paper will discuss the varied perspectives of the research on “historical truth” in intellectual history.
Kim Jarle Wroldsen (Stockholm University): Hand in hand in the Peach Flower Land.
Schoenhals (1992) has shown how formalization of language is utilized in China to control what is said and what is written. This study explores how “appropriate” formulations are understood and used by cadres in China to achieve goals in the country’s minority policy. The study will also investigate how “appropriate” formulations affect the cadres’ reflections on relations between ethnic groups in China. This is not only important in order to understand how minority policy is implemented in China. It is also important to give scholars a generally better understanding of how “appropriate” formulations are utilized in the implementation of political goals in China. In order to do a detailed exploration of how “appropriate” formulations are utilized, I will focus on how “appropriate” formulations are understood by, utilized by, and affect cadres in the county of Yānqí / Qarasheher in the minority region of Xīnjiāng (also known as Chinese Turkistan). In particular, I want to look at the formulation “solidarity between the nationalities” (mínzú tuánjié 民族团结). The Chinese word mínzú is translated both as “ethnic group” or “nationality”, depending on context and translator. The formulation that I focus on may therefore also be translated as “solidarity between the ethnic groups”.
June Manjun Zhang (University of Cambridge): On How to Live a Good Life: A Dialogue Between “Qing” and “Emotion”.
As an object of academic inquiry, emotion is at the centre of social and personal concern due to its close association with one’s personal health and the collective well-being of a society. While some argue for the universality of human psychology, others stress the necessity of cross-cultural study by pointing out the cultural and social components, as well as the temporality and the historicity of “emotion(s).”
In the Chinese tradition, the close equivalent of the Western concept emotion is qing 情. Since each language is arguably an embodiment of an specific epistemological system, the words emotion and qing can be seen as knowledge systems that are defined respectively in terms of culture and historicity. Considering the fundamental problem of the incommensurability in comparative studies, this paper proposes an alternative approach, studying the two knowledge systems and affective phenomena from a new perspective which can be called “transcultural” and “dialogical.” By drawing a dialogue between emotion defined primarily in contemporary affective science, and qing defined in an ancient Chinese text, the Xing zi ming chu 性自命出 translated as Human Nature is Brought Forth by Decree, this paper demonstrates that, besides their theoretical and cultural differences, the two knowledge systems can be rendered compatible by drawing on the notion of practicality. Indeed, knowledge is an abstraction of reality; nevertheless, knowledge is not only abstraction but also a sort of technology that can be used to solve problems and ultimately alters and creates new reality. Viewing both knowledge systems equally as technology which can be drawn on in solving specific problems in contemporary world, such as those of trust and falsity, I hope that this study can provide some insights into that simple and yet profound question: how to live a good life.
Fabia Morger (Stockholm University): Claiming Trust and Truth: The Role of Internet Memes in Political Discourse.
Internet memes have become an increasingly popular phenomenon in the online world. As human communication gradually moves online, memes adopt numerous functions in the digital sphere, including political functions. They can and often do contain political meaning. However, the trustworthiness of memes has been called into question: for instance, recent election scandals in the US have heightened public awareness of the power of memes as tools to potentially influence public opinion, while they do not necessarily disseminate truth. Memes are more prone to cause an emotional reaction than that to convey factual knowledge.
The overall aim of this paper is to show how linguistic analysis can contribute to a wider understanding of emerging new media phenomena and their influence on the political discourse.
The specific purpose of my paper is to investigate how political memes are used by political action committees as a means to claim the monopoly of truth and gain the trust of potential voters online. I focus on the Swiss political action committee Operation Libero and their performance on social media. With the help of a corpus of political memes collected from the committee’s social media sites, I conduct a linguistic case study focusing on the following questions: How do the memes use emotions in order to build trust and truth with the targeted voting population? How is the multimodal nature of memes, expressed in a combination of image and written language, applied in this usage? All of the memes included in my corpus refer to specific national referenda that have been held in Switzerland during the past four years. By investigating the usage of the memes during recent years potential changes in the quality and quantity of them can also be detected, giving a deeper insight into their evolving influence on the political discourse.
Susie Hill (University of Cambridge): Pointing to the Moon: Zen and Truth in John Cage’s Silence.
In October 1961, already well known as a composer, writer, performer, and artist, John Cage published his first book. Titled Silence: Lectures and Writings, it made available for the first time in a single volume Cage’s most important texts to date: articles, reviews, formally self-reflexive performance lectures, and technical essays on music, dance, and composing. Early readers of Silencereceived the book as an authoritative source of truthful information about Cage’s often perplexing multimedia aesthetic. Subsequent critics have challenged this view, suggesting that the book’s charm is evasive and that its rhetorical borrowings and humorous anecdotes obscure historical truths about Cage’s work. The priority here, as David Nicholls put it in 2007, is ‘to “clean up” the portrait [Cage] left us by searching anew for the person behind the personality and the man behind the myth’. Both approaches beg many questions: to what extent, for instance, is it possible to address and evaluate a constantly shifting performative practice, like that of Cage in Silence, by recourse to criteria of truth and falsity? How far can one determine whether Cage, in reviewing and re-presenting his work of the preceding two decades, is aiming to portray it truthfully—or do such attempts to identify ‘the man behind the myth’ radically miss the point? In addressing these questions, I propose to take seriously Cage’s claim that the book is a ‘reflection of my engagement in Zen’. Suitably recast for midcentury American audiences, Zen Buddhism enjoyed a great vogue of popularity in the United States in the 1950s and 60s. Leaving an indelible mark on the work of Cage and other avant-garde artists, Zen opened up new ways of thinking about truth and writing, not least in its emphasis on the processual character of pedagogy and its skeptical attitude towards verbal truth claims.
Jack Hart (University of Oxford): Wallace Stevens and Poetic Truth.
Wallace Stevens tackles the problem of poetic truth at its source. Near the start of ‘The Auroras of Autumn’, the poet is frustrated in his search for poetic transfiguration by yet ‘Another image at the end of the cave’. He concludes, finally, that his endeavour is ‘form gulping after formlessness’. Accordingly, Stevens brings together the analogy of the cave that Plato employs in the Republic – which casts what we perceive as misleading appearances and not the true essence of things – with the modernist’s own anxiety over the embodiment of insights in poetry: does verse form ever license insights that are not recondite abstractions or, as Plato insists, does the rupture between appearance and reality, between word and world, leave poetic truth an ever elusive pursuit? In both his poetry and prose, Stevens engages directly with the Republic’s philosophical system in order to reclaim the intrinsic value of poetry. Plato, indeed, provides the foundational critique of poetry based upon his theory of forms, deferring the true essence of things to an intelligible realm. We are left, therefore, bereft of the cognitive access to these essences; in Plato’s view, all our artistic representations of what we perceive through sense impressions become reduced to inaccurate and, therefore, undesirable representations of the world.
In response, Stevens develops a theory of poetry that is as philosophically serious as his poems are technically achieved. It is my contention that Stevens engages directly with Plato’s philosophy from the Republic in order to establish how poetry embodies meaningful insights. He brings into the service of his poetics a refashioning of Plato’s explanation of appearances and reality, and also Plato’s condemnation of poetry as a medium of representation. In particular, I will consider how Stevens’ response to the ancient philosopher informs his notion of the ‘mundo’, recalibrating Plato’s analogic vision of the cave to reimagine poetry’s apprehensions. Moreover, I will examine how Stevens’ poetic technique shapes his theory of verse.
Daniil Zimin (E.U.S.P.): The truth about apes: scientific and artistic persuasion strategies in Charles de Pougens’s novel Jocko.
XVIII — early XIX century intellectuals relayed on representations of anthropoids among otherthings in their conceptions of human nature. But it’s hard to say how they decided whether arepresentation was credible.
Since antiquity travelers’ reports about semi-animal wild people mixed with mythological images bothered naturalists. In the late XVII – XVIII centuries direct observations of anthropoids happened more often and successes of comparative anatomy made possible to describe apes critically in their relation to human. Enlightenment philosophers and naturalists desired to make universal conception of natural order and to find a proper place for human in this order. Ape was considered as the figure of other — the tool that could help to determine human. But Europeans still possessed controversial information about apes, based on sources of variable reliability. They hardly could determine the difference between anthropoids and other parahuman phenomena, which circulated in mass media and public spectacles: “primitive” colonial people, wild children and monsters. Images of apes were highlyspeculative in discussions on human nature.
In this context it is productive to study the novel “Jocko” (1824) by French writer Charles dePougens as a case of artistic interpretation of scientific data. The subject of the novel is sentimental relationship between European traveler and female ape in colonial setting. Pougens’ intention was to question human superiority over animal and to emphasize human treats of an ape. He stated that his representation of ape was true and to prove it cited XVIII century naturalists and travelers. The novelgained huge popularity in Europe and Russia. Did Pougens’ strategy of combining sentimental narrativewith scientific data convince the public? Did the success reflect common interest of Poujens’contemporaries in concept of borders between human and animal? This case allows to examine use of scientific sources as means of fictional credibility.
Daria Panaiotti (E.U.S.P.): ‘The Truth of Life’ as a disciplinary constraint in the late-Soviet documentary photography.
The paper discusses the subject of documentary photography, as being socially variable and historically changeable, under Socialist Realism. It is focused on the analysis of official photo- documentary discourse, and on the question of how it has been absorbed by individual photographers in the late-Soviet period. The key issue of the research is how the ideologically- charged idea of truth-value refined forms of photographic reportage, and how it resonated with the energies of photographic creativity, while also inspiring constraints of those energies.
In the late 1950 – early 1960s, the notion of veracious imagery was dramatically being reshaped under the influence of political and cultural factors. While global photographic trends shifted from humanist activity towards an explicitly subjective observation (Edward Steichen’s idea of photography as a universal representative of human condition was replaced by John Szarkowski’s conception of the new, fragmented and subjective photo-document), in the USSR, the politics of de- Stalinization and re-modernization governed photographic discourse. Official Soviet criticism adopted the new political vocabulary in order to update the highly idealized version of photography’s evidential power warped by propaganda.
If the value paradigm of documentary photography implied spontaneity and non-intervention, in Soviet culture it was seen as a tool for enforcing normative patterns of gaze. Photographic discussions of the late-Socialism were largely aimed at combining the function of “critical gaze” with delivering normative points of view. This shaped the practice of documentary photography. However, as the photographic industry expanded and the number of amateur photographers grew, the sphere broadened to include a variety of personal, often contradictory creative acts and endeavours. The paper follows the development of documentary sensitivity under Socialist Realism and traces interweaving strands of photographic professionalism and amateurism which typified Soviet photographic landscape, in order to frame a range of individual strategies of social documentary. In doing so, it aims to explore what possibilities and restrictions late-Soviet documentary photographers encountered and, in this way, addresses the issue of social exclusion, discipline and normalization practices.
Pavel Stepanov (E.U.S.P.): On making friends and foes: representations of the West in the Soviet cinema of the 1920s-1930s.
The mass purchase of Western films from France, Germany and the USA by the Goskino USSR (The USSR State Committee for Cinematography) in the early and mid 1920’s made foreigncinema successful for the two decades not only with the audience, but with the Soviet directors as well. It led to production of numerous films by Russian cinematographers that were based on literary and historical plots, had a foreign character, contained West-located storylines and the elements of cinema poetics adapted to the Soviet realities.
For various ideological, political, narrative and stylistic reasons the images of the West in the Soviet cinema varied. The Western world was seen as cinematic example of progress (most of such films focused on American characters who visit the USSR at the period of the New Economic Policy), as a comrade in revolutionary (films of this kind were based on historical events: the events of the Paris Commune of 1871 or Hamburg Uprising of 1923) or ideological (anti-fascist films depicting the events after the Nazi party came to power in Germany, such as the arson of the Reichstagsgebäude building on February, 27, 1933) struggle and eventually, as the enemy of the Soviet state. Inspired by realities of the period, these films have created a myth about the West that was cultivated by the officials and as a result turned into a cinematically rationalized propagandistic truth about the Western countries.
The paper is going to examine the origins, characteristics and evolution of the polar forms of representations of the West being able to show how the cinematic truth about the West wasconstructed for the mass audience from 1920’s to 1930’s.
Miho Watanabe (Australian National University): ‘Awareness of Between-ness’ – an aesthetic and philosophy.
My proposed conference paper visualizes the concept of trust and truth through the making of artworks, which address an aesthetic and philosophy I have named ‘Awareness of Between-ness’. This concept I have named to define my perspective as a Japanese-Australian diaspora artist, visualizing this seemingly invisible subject as a new art form: ‘between-ness art’. I propose that ‘between-ness art’ is philosophical; it includes both the subjective and objective, finding subtlety in between the material and immaterial, and realizing the visual in between the real and non-real. ‘Between-ness’ can be explained by the Japanese word ‘Ma’ which is an important aspect of Japanese aesthetics as well as my art making. ‘Ma’ can be translated as “a conceptualization of both space and time”. However, ‘between-ness’ can also be understood in the Japanese philosophical idea of ‘pure experience’ proposed by Kitaro Nishida. Nishida suggested that ‘pure experience’ is the philosophical study of existence, which places experiences before cognition and it is that initial experience that I trust as a worthy acknowledgement of veracity or truth. Being aware of this ‘between-ness’ is to be aware of the truth, which is difficult to perceive, but valuing the dominance of experience, its significance is an essential part of between-ness art making and reception.
My art-making process is photography and I have been working as a professional photographer in commercial and editorial industries. Truth and trust in photographs are opposite sides of the same coin. My art-making process is to represent the real and non-real in my photographs, which conceptualize and theories truth and trust. I will show one of my ‘Awareness of Between-ness’ projects demonstrating my recognition of the thin layers of the photograph’s truth and trusted emotional existence. This contemporary artwork will fund our belief, communicating truth to society through art.
Patrick Wright (The Open University): Not Trusting our Eyes: The Ekphrasis of Abstract and Monochromatic Paintings.
My present research, which examines the ekphrasis of abstract and monochromatic paintings, is also exploring the question of how the viewer sees and engages with images more generally. One reason I am focusing on abstract and monochromatic paintings (such as Malevich’s Black Square) is that such images – often dismissed by the casual viewer as empty or uninteresting – reveal far more detail and areas of curiosity through the experience of close looking. Another reason is that they are often effective in drawing our attention to everyday experiences of visual mis-perception – such as neglecting things, not seeing things in plain sight, seeing things that are not there (e.g., pareidolia), and so on. In other words, a thorough inspection of such images, including marginal details, how they are presented (e.g., in a gallery or as a print reproduction), lighting, and so on, suggests that we cannot trust our eyes; the artwork is mediated by a complex array of conditions. Thus, rather than think in terms of truth with regard to these paintings, the viewer is more often than not deceived or has no idea what they are looking at.
My paper will test the above proposal from my perspective as a creative writing practitioner working towards a collection of ekphrastic poems, and as a scholar engaged in assessing present- day ekphrasis practice and criticism. Though my focus will be on seeing and mis-seeing an image in the process of writing an ekphrastic poem, my analysis will also allude to broader implications for how we trust the images we see and our capacity to see them. In presenting the viewer as one who sees through psychological and environmental filters, and struggles to practice what Freud and others have understood as evenly-dispersed attention, the standard dichotomy of clarity and blindness will be probematised and nuanced.
Irene Elmerot (Stockholm University): How can you trust the news? – a methodological suggestion on how to scrutinise the structure of news items.
In December 2016 the European retail company Lidl publishes its usual advertisement leaflet including a clothes’ model of African origin. On 31 December a politician writes on the public Facebook page of Lidl Czech Republic, opposing what he calls a ‘multicultural import’ (multikulturní dovoz), referring to this model. More comments along the same lines follow, and some days later, the debate is covered in three newspaper articles, which are the focus of this analysis.
The hypothesis here is that the structure of the news items amplified the polarization between groups of people (see below) by constructing the different items in the same way.
The news items were all constructed by three parts:
- Comments negative to ‘non-white’ models, made by
- politicians not yet established in the government and
- ‘ordinary people’, male social media commentators.
- Comments positive to ‘non-white’ models and supporting Lidl’s stance, made by
- Lidl themselves,
- ordinary people’, female as well as anonymous social media commentators, and
- established political ministers and experts.
- Comments from experts trying to explain the negativity.
Both construction and wording in the three news items amplifies the polarization and creates a biased source of information. A browsing reader may miss some comments entirely. When making a keyword analysis with a representative corpus, some words and phrases stand out both for being there and being absent. These patterns reflect contemporary media phenomena: the quest for ‘clicks’, perceived threats to the nation and its traditional citizens, and lacking signals of what in a news item that is an opinion and what is a fact. This may impact the idea of truth in a society, and shows how data may be scrutinized in search of a true picture.
Kristiina Savola (Stockholm University): Political narratives as constructors and legitimisers of interpretations of truth in Finnish politicians’ blog and Facebook posts.
During recent years, narratives have become a significant form of social and political participation. In Finland, as well as globally, claims about immigration as a threat for unified nations are a distinctive feature of right-wing populist discourses. By the means of narratives, politicians present themselves as the trustworthy heroes under threat of a national catastrophe. Meanwhile, touching stories about deserving immigrants spread in social media. Political narratives are stories that construct reality from the narrator’s point of view and assist people to understand themselves as political beings. Political narratives are both subjective and social and therefore an important resource when studying constructions of shared political realities and interpretations of truth, as well as political behavior from a discursive point of view.
In my paper, I will examine political narratives in Finnish politicians’ blog and Facebook posts during 2015, after the latest parliament election in Finland. Besides, I will give a brief introduction into political situation in Finland. The writers of the texts are members of the Finnish Parliament and positioned on the opposite sides of the political field. The topics discussed in the material contain, inter alia, so-called migration crisis and the difficult economic situation in Finland and Europe at the time, as well as the alleged division of the Finnish people based on differing values and opinions.
My theoretical and methodological perspective is grounded in Critical Discourse Analysis that has its core interest in construction of social realities and meanings, and power structures behind them. I will discuss narratives as discursive and rhetorical means with which, the blog and Facebook writers create a space for the reader, for identification with their in-group, and for sharing their interpretation of reality and truth.
Jade McGlynn (University of Oxford):History as proof: The role of historical framing in Russian media coverage of contentious political events.
During Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term, history, or selective interpretations thereof, was utilised by the Russian media to frame controversial political events. Employing framing analysis to over 8,000 articles and broadcasts in Russian media, I discuss how the government and media cohered hyperbolic narratives through the use of historical comparisons. In particular, I focus on the framing of three contentious events – the Ukraine Crisis, sanctions, and intervention in Syria – within supposed historical precedents, a process I term ‘historical framing’. By intensively conflating contemporary events with alleged historical precedents, the government and media were legitimising often spurious representations, using historical comparison as a type of evidence. Russian media and politicians used such ‘historical proof’ to replace and even contradict factual evidence. The media’s historical framing of controversial events was accompanied by increased government interference in the propagation of historical narratives. I explore the activities of government-organised NGOs, using the Russian Military Historical Society as a case study, and how they promoted patriotic and narrow versions of history. I also outline how such actions were supported by government discourse and new legislation, which reduced the already limited space for discussing alternative views of the past. Given the media’s use of historical framing, this increasing preference for patriotic historical narratives, shorn of inconvenient truths, further distorted the already unreliable Russian media coverage of events surrounding Ukraine, sanctions, and Syria.
Tomasz Hollanek (University of Cambridge): ‘Trustworthy interfaces? User experience design and trust in technology.
Designing the user’s experience of a specific technology or online
service is the essential step in building his or her trust in a product.
Ongoing developments in user experience design rely on dynamic, fully customizable interfaces that automatically adapt to the user’s needs, seemingly responding to his or her desire before it is consciously articulated. The role of the interface is to make our use of new technologies seamless, efficient, and yet imperceptible. This paper will explore different design strategies employed by major companies meant to enable the user’s trust, and later refer to alternative design practices aiming to question that trust, to eventually argue that in the era of ubiquitous computing, big data profiling and machine learning, trusting an interface requires a distrust in one’s own decision-making process.
The Stieglerian conception of the relationship between temporality and consciousness will serve as a frame of reference in my discussion of several distinct strategies of user experience design and the ways in which the interface can manipulate, facilitate, emphasize or efface the process of selection of information. I will focus specifically on the
design practices of Facebook, YouTube and Netflix, companies that can collect massive amounts of user data to feed their recommendation systems, and analyze that data to create ever more nuanced user taste profiles and content filters – to match users with appropriate content. The resulting ‘personalization’ of the selection process is, as I argue, at the core of the companies’ strategy of inscribing trust into our experience of new applications. While mainstream UX design strategies might lead to an effacement of active choice, my interest lies in the potential of alternative practices, promoted by groups such as Metahaven, in reverting the process and causing distrust – inviting the user to pose the question: can I trust my own choices?
Chelsea Spencer (MIT): Exdis No Disem: Knowledge and Information in the Era of Watergate.
In July 1973, two months into the Senate Watergate Hearings, the economist Leonard Silk wrote in the New York Times that the Watergate affair should be studied as “a fallout of the new information technology.” Emphasizing the urgency of this neglected line of analysis, Silk stressed that the whole ordeal, from the leak of the Pentagon papers to the recent revelation of the president’s secret in-office recording system, was “a struggle for information.” Meanwhile, the famous refrain of the Watergate Hearings was being posed, over and over, by Senator Howard Baker: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” If this question was one of mens rea, of criminal knowledge, then the first problem faced by the Senate Committee appointed to investigate it was one of information. To manage the deluge of data, the committee’s staff adapted an automated bibliographic system newly developed for the Library of Congress, thus launching Congress’s first experimental use of a computer to carry out its investigatory function. Notwithstanding Silk’s early call to examine Watergate as a crisis of information management, there has been little effort to analyze this pivotal episode in American politics as a crisis borne of its techno-epistemological context. This paper will trace the Library of Congress’s project of bibliographic automation from its development in the early 1960s to its use by the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973. I will suggest that as the mission of organizing knowledge became a task of information management—supported by word processors and other new techniques for storing, transmitting, and processing information—the meaning of trust and truth were likewise reconfigured.
Marc Aidinoff (MIT): Distrusting the Poor, Trusting the State: Networked Computing and Government Reform.
In the final decades of the twentieth century, the U.S. welfare state was in retreat. Indeed, the intertwined forces of conservatism and neoliberalism meant a fall in citizens’ faith in government itself and a dramatic withdrawal of state-sponsored material resources. This paper follows the work of public policymakers as they tried to reestablish trust in government through a commitment to computerized modernization. I argue that this computerization, in particular the use of computers in the quotidian operations of the state, further moved the locus of distrust away from the government itself and toward potential recipients of public services. Using the historical case study of welfare reform over four decades in the United States, I show how computing technologies were deployed to discipline the poor, and to shape the work of mid-level government bureaucrats including caseworkers and social service providers. Welfare reform depended on a tremendous amount of digital infrastructure for networked computing and communication, as well as a new computer-mediated categorization of the working poor. For a welfare recipient the state did not simply recede, instead the interface between state and citizen changed. Computerized processes reestablished the barriers between a deserving and an underserving poor. By positioning the computer as a mechanism to operationalize distrust, reformers sought to reassert government’s legitimacy. For example, by the end of the twentieth century, welfare recipients in rural Mississippi would have been very familiar with IBM 327X series equipment. They would have known the tap of keys on the display terminal, the click of the printer, the feeling of a caseworker’s eyes moving from the screen, and the consequences of the state’s largest computer network. As they became simultaneously known and distrusted by the system, they would make possible a renewed state.
Svetlana Moskaleva (E.U.S.P.): Civic Expertise on Urban Issues in St. Petersburg.
In the study, I’m tracing the of changing politics of urban management in Russia and the growing civic interests to the phenomenon called “urbanistica”. Creation of the new field of knowledge is followed by the public interest in the creation of expertise in it. What forms this kind of urban knowledge and democratization of public expertise in urban issues in authoritarian regime remains to be determined, especially in the context of Russia where the field emerged from a few individual initiatives rather than institutionalized form.
Using the theoretical perspectives from Science and Technology Studies, sociology of expertise (Eyal), and sociology of translation (Latour, Callon, Law), as well as literature on urban studies (Collier) this research reveals the mechanisms of the social construction of civic expertise and discusses the role of expert knowledge and trust in gaining citizens power to control urban issues. Expertise is understood as a network connecting together actors, devices, concepts, and institutional and spatial arrangements (Eyal, 2013). The idea of the study also corresponds to the concept of “civic governmentality” (Roy, 2009), which deals with the institutionalization of participatory citizenship.
Focusing on an activist group which leaders are now heading the department of urban studies at the university, working both with city functionaries, curriculum development, and forming the discourse on urban studies in St. Petersburg, the study shows the mechanisms of the social construction of civic urban expertise to broaden the understanding of the role of civic expertise and trust to it in St. Petersburg urban development. The methodology includes semi-structured interviews with the group members, analysis of the documents as well as participant observation provided in 2016-2017. Some of the mechanisms, used by the activist group are: presenting the evidence on the work of city authorities, appellation to the authority of science, working with friendly experts, the creation of alliances for the particular problem and use of disciplinary practices.
Elena Sobrino (MIT): Corroding Pipes, Corroding Trust: The Politics of Evidence in the Flint Water Crisis.
What does it mean to identify places, selves, and communities with the toxic residues left behind by industrialization? Drawing from ethnographic research conducted with residents in Flint, Michigan, a postindustrial Rustbelt city undergoing a crisis of high lead levels in its highly corrosive municipal drinking water infrastructure, this paper explores how evidence of toxicity can both conceal and reveal broader inequalities. I examine how efforts by different stakeholders, from community members to corporate boards, define toxic harm in relation to a single chemical: lead. Using anthropological and science, technology, and society (STS) methods, this paper explores how such stakeholders recast the water crisis in Flint as a technoscientific problem of abatement and diagnosis. I situate my account of the crisis as an ongoing event precipitated by neoliberalism, deindustrialization, and racism, and chart how this phenomenon gets read out through a narrow regulatory vocabulary.
This paper argues that epidemiological strategies of lead detection and medicolegal standards of evidence translate social insecurities into imprecise behavioral irregularities. For instance, frequently cited effects of lead include academic underperformance, delinquency, or even criminality. How do toxic chemical exposure events—and the attendant medicalization of entire populations—both follow from, and shed new light onto, other material inequalities of postindustrialism? With what mechanisms can trust, accountability, and truth be re-established under conditions of chronic environmental injustice? The Flint water crisis challenges scholars to re-examine these exigencies of chemical environments. I take Flint as a starting point for generating methodological and theoretical provocations to re-evaluate evidentiary practices around lead and other toxins in ways that account for the semiotic, geographic, and temporal instabilities and mobilities of these toxins.
Isabel Airas (University of Cambridge): (Dis)Trust in Sweden: Catalyst moments and the affective registers of support for national populist movements.
Europe, today, is experiencing ‘the sense of existential insecurity’ that is taking expression in, among other things, political volatility (Furedi, 2009: 197). Traditional political parties have undergone significant challenges, including the rise of new movements that unsettle the traditional Left-Right framing of political struggles. These ‘populist movements’ have in common that they are insurgent, situate themselves along an ‘anywheres’ – ‘somewheres’ divide, and, crucially, challenge the legitimacy of public institutions and reject the ‘status quo’ (Goodhart, 2017). In this paper, I explore the support for these parties through the findings of my ethnographic research conducted with supporters and members of the national populist party, the Sweden Democrats (SD), during the 2018 Swedish General Election campaign period. More specifically, I discuss the implications of three events between 2014 and 2018 that emerged from the data as moments where we witnessed a channelling of support toward SD. I will argue that these catalysts – the 2015 ‘refugee crisis’, the so-called ‘Decemberöverenskommelse’ or ‘December Agreement’ (a cross-party agreement that formed part of the 2014 government formation negotiations), and ‘gymnasielagen’ (a new law concerning access to education for unaccompanied refugee children) – all relate to questions of trust in important ways. They highlight how distrust of ‘the Other’, ‘established’ parties (and their representatives), and ‘mainstream’ media, demonstrate the crucial role of (dis)trust in support for national populist parties. The geographical lens adopted highlights the primarily affective nature of trust and that, consequently, trust-building exercises must acknowledge that not only information and its accuracy matters; a consideration arguably incorporated into nationalist and globalist populist campaigns alike. These ‘eventful’ moments, in short, help us analyse the effects political decision-making has on trust and offers insight into potential avenues through which public institutions can build resilience against the erosion of trust that may follow political events that affect public life.
Céline Henne (University of Cambridge): What we can aim for: A pragmatist and realistic account of truth.
“The cat is on the mat”, “Snow is white”, “There is a chair in my study”: here are some of the favorite examples chosen by philosophers to build their theories of truth. They effectively convey the idea that statements are true insofar as they agree with reality or facts. But while we might have an intuitive understanding of what this means in the case of simple observational statements, when it comes to more complex matters, such as the geopolitical situation in Syria or the influence of human activity on climate change, we lose our grasp of the sense in which claims can be said to “agree” or “correspond” to reality. Yet, it is precisely with regard to these more complex matters that a determination of the nature and extent of this agreement is most needed.
In the face of the difficulties encountered by accounts which, trying to generalize from simple truths to all truths, lead to unrealistic or metaphysically abstruse definitions of the truth- relation, some philosophers (e.g. Rorty) have chosen to give up the notion altogether. My paper aims at defending an alternative approach to the definition of truth which does justice to the realist intuition according to which our claims are true in virtue of how things are, all the while offering a workable notion of truth in practice.
I base my proposal on the epistemology of pragmatist philosopher John Dewey. My paper will focus on what I take to be the two main issues with traditional accounts: (1) simple cases are taken as paradigmatic cases of knowledge and as a starting point for a theory of truth; (2) they presuppose an omniscient and retrospective point of view. I then contrast the “Deweyan framework” as rejecting these two postulates, and offering a practice-based account of truth as a realist and realistic alternative to the traditional framework.
Alexandra S. Ilieva (University of Cambridge): How to (re)conceptualise truth: A Buddhist-Pragmatist Dialogue.
In the age of ‘fake news’, it has become apparent that truth is a malleable concept in need of reassessment and reevaluation. The prevalent realist position, according to which truth is a final goal of intellectual inquiry – there are facts of the matter ‘out there’ towards which human investigation is culminating – is increasingly under challenge, not least because of globalism’s constant reminder that the true does not always neatly match up across different local contexts.
Indeed realism’s own dogmatism regarding truth can itself be seen as enabling the rise of fake news. If truth is unipolar, then it engenders polarisation. Both ‘real’ and ‘fake’ news have the same realist starting point, presupposing that truth is somehow ‘out there’ to be discovered. The present paper will call into question this realist foundation by reformulating the issue with the aim ofcentralising truth’s utility above all else. Via a mergence of strands inphilosophical Pragmatism as well as Buddhist philosophy, we can begin to prioritise an understanding of the purpose and effectiveness of truth over attempts to discover its final nature, since endeavours of the latter sort essentialise the concept setting up the playing field for ‘real’ versus ‘fake’ news to compete endlessly thereby frustrating meaningful dialogue and outcomes.
A combination of Pragmatism’s deflation of truth via a focus on outcomes coupled with Buddhism’s emphasis on the context dependency of truth, can re-shift focus away from the essence of truth towards evidence and assertability conditions, whilst avoiding relativism and remaining firmly grounded in empiricism and intellectual rigour. Indeed, by bringing Pragmatism into dialogue with Buddhism we can re-conceptualise truth in such a way that disagreements will can be resolved not with appeals to ‘truth’ (since as we can see this is getting us nowhere), but rather via a pragmatic re-understanding of the role of truth in the social, political, cultural, and even soteriological realms.
Elin Danielsen Huckerby (University of Cambridge): Placing Trust in Each Other: Rortian Pragmatism and the Priority of Trust over Truth.
Where do we place our trust when we invoke the notion of truth? The pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty urged us to stop relying on God (religion), as well as Philosophy (metaphysics), or Nature (on science as the provider of ultimate answers) — on any “authority” external to human conversation — to adjudicate between beliefs. Instead, he insisted, all we have to go on are the remarks of our fellow inquirers.
This paper discusses the Rortian idea of truth to draw out what it implies about trust — a connection not given much, if any, attention in the literature on this matter. Making use of Robert Brandom’s work on rationality as the giving and taking of reasons, Stanley Cavell’s on acknowledgement, and my ongoing PhD work on Rorty and the idea of “literary truths”, it argues that Rorty’s controversial conception of truth can be usefully reconceived as a call for us to place our trust in each other; to trust our collective self. Specifically, this paper proposes that if all we have to go on are the remarks of our fellow inquirers, then building trust and trustworthiness must precede attempts to claim something as true for such claims to be persuasive, and that this need and its priority is a neglected dimension in the philosophical debate on truth. Emphasising it shows that as part of our justification for advancing a truth- candidate, we must be willing to, implicitly of explicitly, offer reasons for why we should be trusted – “stating the facts” is not enough. The resulting account has potentially significant implications for how academic institutions might proceed in order to strengthen or re- establish its position as a provider of knowledge, in the sense of true beliefs: building trust might be more important than formulating facts.
Jakob Ohlhorst (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): Trust Responsibly.
David Hume wrote in the Enquiry, “a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence”. Evidence is the gold-standard for getting to truth. This principle however, leads into scepticism, as Hume himself showed. Wittgenstein later observed, that it’s impossible to have evidence for all our beliefs. Instead, we have to trust certain things to be true.
This raises the question when it’s reasonable to trust. The best case would be if we only trusted in what is true, but this is unachievable. Meanwhile, if we had evidence, we would not need to trust. Does that mean that with respect to trust anything goes? Not necessarily.
A classical route is that trust is warranted by “practical” concerns. Kant for example took our trust in God’s existence to be required for morality, i.e. morality warrants trust. Alternatively, we trust in our community’s core beliefs. This is warranted because it permits communication. However, both these approaches are unsatisfyingly detached from truth, i.e. how things are.
I suggest an alternative: trust in something is reasonable when it’s posited manifesting genuine care for the truth. This means that trust needs to be intellectually virtuous to be reasonable.
This does not guarantee a truth-connection, but it sets the right goal and ideal for trust: truth rather than e.g. gut-feeling or expedience. Care for the truth also leads to virtuous dispositions that bring us closer to truth: open-mindedness, impartiality, curiosity etc. Open-mindedness, for example, allows us to correct our previous mistakes.
Virtue is also necessary to gain deep understanding of a field. To even get started in some field, we need to trust certain things to be true and certain methods to work. Finally, even beyond truth, virtuous trust is more valuable than naked trust. Virtue is essentially admirable, consequently virtuous trust is so too.
Joern Wiengarn (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): Three Concepts of Interpersonal Trust.
In our everyday language and across different social sciences the concept of “interpersonal trust” is used with significantly different meanings. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding especially in an interdisciplinary discourse. In my talk I would like to restore a little bit of conceptual order by identifying three main concepts of interpersonal trust, calling them “prognostic trust”, “deontic trust” and “responsive trust”. In what follows I will give a brief explanation of each.
The concept of “prognostic trust” is central in rational-choice-theory or game-theory. It represents trust as based on prognostic beliefs about how the trustee will behave. Thereby it abstracts from some elementary fields of phenomena. Here I will only highlight two aspects that a mere prognostic approach fails to represent: First, trust typically entails a normative expectation towards the trustee. Second, there are specifically “right” and “wrong” kinds of reasons for trust.
The concept of “deontic trust” promises to take these two aspects into account. It conceptualises trust as a deontic nexus between two persons. This concept is partially prominent in sociology. However, as I will argue, it fails to differentiate between trust and other kinds of deontic relationships.
Therefore, I will introduce a third concept, calling it “responsive trust”. The idea behind it is to capture the fact that a trustor does not just represent the trustee as bound by obligations. This can be shown by calling attention to the case of disappointed trust. Here the trustor may not only morally blame the trustee, but feel betrayed or personally hurt as well. This seems to indicate that the trustor does want to be acknowledged not only as a bearer of a generic right, but as an individual person with needs to be recognized.
P. Quinn White (MIT): Honesty and Discretion.
Why are lying and deception wrong? Disagreements over this question are the stuff of introductory ethics. But for all their differences, extant approaches to the question are marked by two shared presuppositions. First, they take as their explanandum lying and deception in isolation from other forms of communicative malpractice; second, they attempt to explain the wrong by considering communicators in the abstract. Both are mistakes. Instead of focusing on deception and lying alone, we should explain a broader notion of communicative virtue, at once a matter of honesty (sharing truths that should be) and discretion (withholding the truth when required). I argue that our particular relationships fix a line between that which is in and out of bounds. Relationships have different dynamics of intimacy, vulnerability and power, and the communicative norms of what should d should not be shared are those that best serve the relationship. These norms apply to us just insofar as we have reason to be in our relationships. We moreover sometimes have reasons to share or conceal the truth in order to shape our relationships. I close with a discussion of whether and how lying per se can involve a wrong distinct from deception.
Sophie Yvert-Hamon (Stockholm University): The Place of Truth in Religious Controversies: the case of the Traité de l’eucharistie by the Protestant Philippe Duplessis-Mornay.
The purpose of this paper is to analyse the tension between two conceptions of truth in the discourse of the religious controversies after the French Wars of Religion: truth conceived of as a certainty and truth conceived of as a quest.
The regulated coexistence of Catholics and Protestants in accordance with the Edict of Nantes (1598) fails to resolve the tensions between the two confessions, as attested by the numerous texts of religious controversy published under the Peace. In this war of words, in which each side tries to convince members of the other side to change their opinion and confession, the protagonists do not consider each other as trustworthy. Theologians are thus faced with the problem of achieving credibility and truth holds a central place in their discourse: it may be problematised, presented as a principle, advanced as an argument or aimed as an objective. The controversy shakes the conception of truth as incontestable, as well as the borders between orthodoxy and heterodoxy.
In 1598, the Protestant Philippe Duplessis-Mornay publishes the Traité de l’eucharistie. The treatise addresses one of the most pervasive topics of contention between Catholics and Protestants and prompts many other publications from the other side. The corpus chosen for the study is composed of the preface of the 1604 edition of the treatise. Using Discourse Analysis as a theoretical and methodological framework, this study focuses on the different uses of the term truth, as well as related terms (true, really, truly…), metaphors, opposites (error, untruthfulness) in order to understand the axiological organisation of the author. Two conceptions of truth are distinguished: truth as a certainty and truth as a quest. In the first perspective, the controversy furthers a power struggle in which the adversary is subjected to the division truth-error/untruthfulness. In the second perspective, the controversy seems to unify the protagonists in a common search for truth and a possible conciliation.
Glenn Bezalel (University of Cambridge): Conspiracy Theories and Religion: Reframing Conspiracy Theories as Bliks amid ‘Conspiratorial Ambiguity’.
“The truth is out there.” The words of a seeker of God or a conspiracy theorist? Although the academy has long studied the worldview of the former, the attention of scholars on the outlook of the latter has gained momentum only recently. Further still, the comparisons and contrasts between religion and conspiracy theorists are only just beginning to emerge. Like religion, conspiracy theories have largely been framed as a stigmatised form of knowledge: from Richard Hofstadter’s forceful description of conspiracies as a “paranoid style of politics” (1964) to Niall Ferguson’s dismissal of those who profess such “knowledge” as “aggrieved outsiders” who “invariably misunderstand and misrepresent the way that networks operate” (2017: xix). Yet recent scholarship calls on us to take conspiracy theories seriously as an area of study and a desire to judge them on their own merits rather than an a priori dismissal of them as a class of explanation. This paper argues that, ironically, it is within Karl Popper’s influential criticisms of conspiracy theory’s alleged epistemic vices (2002) that sow the seeds for re-examining our understanding of conspiracy theories in a more balanced and nuanced way. Popper’s work on falsification and the problem of demarcation inspired debate among philosophers of religion about the nature of religious belief, most notably a celebrated symposium in 1950 where Antony Flew, R.M. Hare and Basil Mitchell offered their understandings of religious beliefs through the use of parables (cited in Pecorino 2001). I argue that their debate, still overlooked by scholars on conspiracy theories, is elemental to understanding the epistemological foundations of the conspiracist worldview amidst what we may call ‘conspiratorial ambiguity’, with R.M. Hare’s concept of bliks, which are unfalsifiable worldviews, offering a way forward to reframe our approach towards the theory of conspiracy theories.
Erik Sundblad (Stockholm University): Questioning scriptural orthodoxy: Criticism of the authenticity of the prophetic tradition in contemporary Egypt.
The truth, veracity and extent of what constitutes religious scripture are often topics of crucial importance in contemporary discourses on the function of prophetic authority in Islam. The standing of the prophetic tradition (al-ḥadīṯ) – traditionally perceived to be the second scriptural source for religious guidance in Islam – is today at the center of many such discussions.
The belief in the authority of the prophetic tradition was first challenged in South Asia during the early colonial period. At the time groups and associations sprung up that critiqued the prophetic traditions, advocating instead for the supremacy of the Qurʾān, thus rendering them the name “the Qurʾān-alone movement” (Brown, 1996). In The Middle East, the concept of the Qur’ān as the sole scriptural authority first surfaced in the early 20th century in Egypt, and it is within the Egyptian milieu that such ideas have taken on their most radical guise (Musa, 2008).
In my paper I will explore the boundaries of the epistemological Islamic discourses on the question of the authority of the prophet, and the truth and veracity of the prophetic traditions. The paper will adopt a diachronic approach in which it will discuss how concepts such as truth and validity have been understood within the Qurʾān-alone movement in Egypt, and subsequently analyze how a radical segment of the contemporary Qur’ān alone movement in Egypt – the Ahl al-Qurʾān organization – approach these issues in their publications. By employing a discourse analysis, the paper will explore how the Ahl al-Qurʾān organization discusses the boundaries of what constitute prophetic authority and what the delimitations are for what they consider to be religious scripture.
In the paper I expect to be able to demonstrate that the Ahl al-Qurʾān organization holds views that radically departs, not only from the traditional Islamic views on scripture and prophetic authority, but also from more mainstream elements within the Qurʾān-alone movement.
Ian Edelstein (Australian National University): Truth and trust: The international Court of Justice (ICJ) and the South West Africa Case.
The South West Africa case remains the most explosive and politically controversial in the history of the ICJ. The Court’s 1966 decision, allowing South Africa to continue to apply its League of Nations instituted mandate over South West Africa, was according to legal scholar John Dugard, “the most controversial judgement in its history”. Until recently, the decision has been almost exclusively analysed with respect to the soundness of its legal reasoning.
This paper begins by exploring lawyer and legal historian Victor Kattan’s argument that the judgement was not based on legal reasoning alone. Kattan’s research indicates that Judge Zafrullah Khan was forced to “recuse” himself by the Judge President, Sir Percy Spender, in order to influence the make-up of the court. Kattan’s research suggests that this manipulation of the representation of the judges on the court, was a successful attempt to influence global political outcomes. This corruption, presented as truth, was thus never challenged as a political decision by trusting practitioners of international law.
The paper further demonstrates how the judgement legitimised South Africa’s right to continue to pursue its apartheid policies under international law, easing, at a crucial juncture, pressure on the South African government.
Finally, I examine what may have occurred within the polity of South Africa had the Court handed down an authentically truthful decision. My research of the period strongly indicates that a different ruling would we have seen an increase in support at the United Nations for the imposition of sanctions, or other measures, against Apartheid South Africa. When the two outcomes (what happened and what might have happened) are contrasted, the extent to which the ICJ’s egregious decision influenced events, both in Africa and globally, can be appreciated.
Lewis Graham (University of Cambridge): Only Human: Should We Trust Our Judges?
In our society, judges are expected to conform absolutely to the sacrosanct principle of impartiality. They are expected to be impervious to influence, and exhibit a Herculean neutrality to all matters before them. Members of society entrust judges with safeguarding the rule of law, protecting our human rights and ensuring that laws and properly enforced. When we bring cases, we seek resolution that is objective and impersonal, not subject to the whim of whichever judge happens to be sitting.
However, judges, like all of us, are human, and as such will be shaped by their experiences, backgrounds and ideological ideals. No judge can come to a case neutral – each judge brings their own prejudices and predilections to their role. Extensive research has now shown that in the UK, as well as in judiciaries around the world, there are noteworthy differences between judges, the beliefs they hold, and the way they decide cases. Some judges are mote sympathetic to human rights claims than their colleagues, others, for example, are more deferential towards the state or are more likely to grant significant damages.
This talk will outline this research and ask: what does this mean for the role of the judiciary in our society? If we cannot believe in their neutrality, can we still accept their humanity? If the ideal of absolute neutrality is shown to be a myth, does this undermine the legitimacy of our judges? If so, how can it be saved? Should it be saved at all? A number of potential suggestions will be offered, but I will propose that the greatest potential lies with a subtle re-conceptualisation of the role of the judge, one that is true to the reality of the humanity of judges remains compatible with justice and the rule of law.
Franziska Englert (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): Truth and Telenovelas in Transitional Justice contexts – exploring the possibilities.
Ever since the concept of Transitional Justice emerged in the 1980s, truth has become an almost mandatory component of dealing with the past in post-conflict societies. Alongside with justice and victim restitution, truth is argued to be crucial to achieve healing and reconciliation after massive violence. Truth commissions have become the archetype of truth-finding initiatives and Transitional Justice institutions around the world.
Despite its pivotal importance, truth is generally contested in post-conflict societies. Due to opposing narratives of the conflict and differing experiences, there often is no such thing as a factual truth. Therefore, only a complex truth can enable societies to reconcile.
Due to their mandate and their normative burdens, most truth commissions are unable to deliver this kind of complex truth. Yet, artistic, fictionalized interventions – such as books or films – have been identified as crucial mediums that offer the potential to do so. By providing an area for marginalized, counter-hegemonic and nuanced narratives, they can contribute to achieving a more complex truth. On the other hand, these fictionalized genres could be prone to manipulation and thus distorting the truth in the fragile post-conflict environment.
Against this backdrop, this presentation seeks to examine the relationship between truth and telenovelas (soap operas) about the conflict. More specifically, it aims at exploring the possibilities that these kinds of interventions offer to contribute to truth- finding and building a complex truth. The Colombian telenovelas La niña (2016) andNo olvidarás mi nombre (2017), which deal with the armed conflict in Colombia and were advertised as telenovelas for reconciliation in the context of the historic peace agreement with the guerrilla FARC-EP in 2016, serve as focal point of the investigation. It will draw on fieldwork conducted in early 2019, as well as on current research in cultural studies, Transitional Justice and media studies.
Paul Schrader (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): Global networks and the role of trustful relationships between experts: the case of international health projects in India, ca. 1940-1970.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, development policy became a global area of activity. Western governments, international bodies, humanitarian movements, as well as bureaucracies of newly independent Asian and African countries similarly hoped to eradicate economic poverty by establishing infrastructural planning or social welfare measures. Due to the involvement of protagonists from different continents, development projects often became very concrete places of global encounters where Western “development experts”, state officials from the Global South and local populations began to interact. Focusing on medical development projects in India during the late colonial era and the first decades of independence, this paper aims to reconstruct these global interactions and asks for the underlying structures which made them possible.
In many cases, the course and outcomes of developmental projects were considerably shaped by personal networks which the involved actors themselves perceived as “trustful relationships”. As most Western “development experts” in the 1950s and 1960s had neither any regional knowledge nor relevant language skills, they usually draw on existing networks of ex-colonial civil servants, missionaries or Western-trained Indian elites in order to select the priorities of their respective projects. As a result, which actor was seen as a “trustful” carrier of useful knowledge, and which was not, thus became an essential question for almost all development projects during the named period of time.
By linking global history with the history of medicine and insights from the fields of Postcolonial Theory and historical network analysis, this paper analyzes the work of health professionals – such as physicians, nurses or midwives; both from India and Western countries – being employed in medical development projects. In my presentation, I will examine existing connections between them and ask whether the factor of trust could explain the stability and durability of these networks and its reach.
Nushelle de Silva (MIT): Contaminating Cultures vs. Cultural Collaboration: Trust and Truth in Exhibition Conservation.
In 1946, newly-formed organizations UNESCO and ICOM partnered to support peacebuilding. Exhibitions that could move between museums were deemed a potent means for strengthening international relations through cultural collaboration, but early shows were beset by unforeseen challenges for moving art across borders. One of the most serious was poor handling of objects in transit, leading to damage and deterioration. Nathan Stolow describes egregious cases in which art shipments were returned covered in mould due to high temperatures and humidity, and one packed so carelessly that a dead frog was discovered among the art.
The UNESCO/ICOM partnership supported laboratory testing which combined existing art conservation research with new transportation designs, publishing recommendations in widely-distributed manuals for the care of traveling objects. Thus the field of exhibition conservation was born. The partnership served to standardize protocols for transporting objects that exceeded the purview of any single institution or state, which greatly sustained trust-building between nations and supported further cultural collaboration. However, while recent scholarship has interrogated UNESCO preservation policies for World Heritage Sites, little attention has been paid to its equally significant contribution to caring for moving objects. Occupying a fuzzy space between architectural and art conservation, issues of transit and handling are discussed in neither field.
This paper critically examines how exhibition conservationists built trust by presenting scientific evidence as truth about art and its environments that crucially shaped where, when, and what art could travel. It draws from literature on the colonial politics underpinning technical discourse on tropical architecture to consider how an understanding of ‘environment’ was similarly deployed in exhibition conservation to serve political ends, wherein cultures could be united or divided along lines of humidity and temperature, as well as geopolitical borders.
Alexander Blandford (University of Oxford): Data-driven democracy: understanding the use of candidate data in UK elections.
In looking at debates around disinformation attention is often focused on the monopoly technology platforms’ disruption of democratic procedures, this isn’t the whole story.
In the UK, groups of civic technologists work on projects to provide unbiased information about democracy. Their efforts come out of a belief in the power of open information in society. But what is the story of that data, how is it mediated both in technological terms, and by the politics of its creators, curators and consumers.
My research looks at Democracy Club, a small community interest company that collects and converts data about every candidate standing for election in the UK. I focus on trying to understand the motivations for people’s involvement, the use of the data and the process of its production through anthropological analogues and ethnographic research.
In my talk, I aim to cover the space for democratic data in the UK context, see where this fits within the context of fact checking and other data-led civic technology interventions into public life. I intend to cover questions of digital divides, data literacy, the markers of political decisions, the institutional blockers against open data and the place of traditional and internet politics in the discussion.
Chen Qu (University of Cambridge): An exploration of Chinese Migrant Integration Using a Multi-Method Approach.
The domestic migration in China, probably the largest human mobility in contemporary history, has attracted many scholars’ attention, along with the rural-urban migrants’ integration in cities (for instance, see Gu et al., 2007; Lin et al., 2017). There have been a great many of qualitative studies on Chinese migrant lives associated with a range of objective measures or indicators of integration from various dimensions, such as monthly income, occupational types, and the number of local relatives/friends they socialise with (Yue et al., 2013; Zhang et al., 2016; Zhang and Wu, 2017). Nevertheless, the truth of the exact meaning of such integration is still vague (Yue et al., 2013).
This paper, therefore, with discussing the role of urban public space in the integration, focuses on developing the concept of integration from a perspective of migrant subjective experience especially the sense of belonging, instead of defining integration merely using objective measures. To uncover the truth of what migrant integration means, meanwhile, I use a multi-method qualitative approach stressing methodological and data triangulation (King et al., 2019), which combines case study, ethnographical, and phenomenological research strategies. More precisely, fieldwork in a Chinese megacity was undertaken, in which three different types of public places were selected in the multi-site geographical case study and in-depth interviews with both the migrants and local professionals in the fields of urban space and migration conducted.
The research attempts to reveal the truth of ‘integration’, by showing the importance of migrant subjectivity. Also, although disputes do exist in adopting triangulation to increase research trustworthiness (Maggs-Rapport, 2000; King et al., 2019), the reliability and value is shown in this paper of the mix of multiple qualitative approaches in terms of addressing migrant integration and sense of belonging to the host city.
Savia Palate (University of Cambridge): Truth games and the Ideal Home: The case of the Parker Morris Standards.
Published in 1961, the Parker Morris Report is, perhaps, the most influential document on space standards of the 20th century in Britain, which remains prodigiously salient in today’s debates due to its generous recommended sizes when compared to the shrinking housing sizes of today, particularly after the financial crash of 2007/8. Paradoxically the product of a Conservative government, the Parker Morris Report was only embraced, briefly, by the succeeded Labour government in 1964 and eventually abolished in its entirety “as an obstacle to development” by Margaret Thatcher (1981).
Following Friedrich Nietzsche on “the actual causes of a thing’s origin and its eventual uses, the manner of its incorporation into a system of purposes, are worlds apart; that everything that exists, no matter what its origin is periodically reinterpreted by those in power in terms of fresh intentions,”1 this paper investigates the making of the Parker Morris recommendations through Michel Foucault’s theory on “truth games,”2 as implements in the production of domesticity. The legitimacy of space standards, as objective “truths,” most of the time, taken for granted until they fail to work, seemingly based on scientific and rational processes, is questioned here as produced, constituted, and constructed by forms of power concealed by its interested parties.
By exposing the complex history of the period right before the publication of the report, which potentially highlights how a presumably affluent society in aspiring to better “homes for today and tomorrow” is intertwined with conflicted interests between the state and the market, this paper intends to shed light on current, and yet again contested, debates on housing and space standards. This paper focuses, on the, most probably, biggest controversy embodied in the making of the Parker Morris Report: the effort to extend the terms of reference into private enterprise housing, which until then was not constrained to follow prescriptions on space standards, at a period characterized by an urge towards “freedom,” the evident shift of the state closer to capital, and the openly impulse towards property-owning democracy by the current government.
Shamim Homayun (Australian National University): Spaces of Mistrust: Truth-telling, Duplicity, and Highway Travel in Afghanistan.
This paper explores how themes of trust and deceit play out in a situation considered particularly dangerous – travelling Afghanistan’s highways. Even when one travels between two safe towns, there are often unsafe stretches of road along the way – where one fears being stopped by armed men and searched, kidnapped or even killed. To counter this, travellers may perform certain embodied behaviours. They often talk or dress in a way that presents them as “just a local” or “just a farmer” to taxi drivers, fellow travellers, or anyone on the road perceived as a threat. Many of my fieldwork participants, travelling the two roads between Kabul and Bamiyan, shared these experiences with me. What emerged is a sense that there are certain spaces in Afghanistan where one has to mistrust, where one must be duplicitous, and that there is a certain art or technique to doing this well. In public life beyond road travel, I argue that one’s ability to trust others has a strong spatial dimension – often inflected with a sense of chronic insecurity and mistrust between people, strangers, and authorities. There are certain spaces, such as mosques and homes, where sincerity and truth-telling are expected. These norms tend to shift when one moves into the ambiguity of unknown places, where one’s existential security is threatened. Although deceit is more acceptable in these spaces, with some even considering it a skill, this does not make “lying” or “hypocrisy” okay. Much social learning in Afghanistan is therefore about acquiring a nuanced diplomacy. One must learn to tread ambiguous spaces where both sincerity and duplicity are required, and navigate the contradiction between an obligation to honesty and the situational necessity of concealment. Perhaps this even strengthens the social ideal of sincerity, making those spaces where one can safely trust others more valuable.
Phoebe Springstubb (MIT): The eyes of the collective body: Diagrams of the 1761 and 1769 Transits of Venus.
The observations of the eighteenth-century transits of Venus were scenes of the earliest international scientific collaboration. This collaboration was premised on a vast exercise in attention: the astronomer, his eye to his telescope, was trusted participant in what was proposed as the synoptic measurement of an event across an immense geography. The epistemological dimensions of such an exercise required linking small-scale visual notations to large-scale descriptions of planetary motion. To make visible the angle of solar parallax, long a desideratum, one astronomer’s geometrical figures would have to be commensurable with the next.
Yet, the outcome of the transits would suggest a more complex picture of geometry’s explanatory capabilities in relation to the physical world.This debate reverberates in the visual imagery made during and after the transits. In contrast to the initial calculations’ tidy coherence, these epistemic figures are heterogeneous, despite shared subject matter. This variety relates, on the one hand, to a preference for numerical tables over other representational technologies by the companies and states supporting projects of so-called big science. On the other hand, the transit diagrams might be seen as teetering between two representational regimes, that of an efflorescence of images from a century or more earlier coinciding with the introduction of the telescope, and that of nineteenth-century astronomy’s embrace of photographic techniques. Engaging visual materials produced during and after the two eighteenth-century transits, this paper traces the ways in which such diagrams navigate between sensuousness and intellection, pictorial and mathematical precision. In considering such heterogeneity, transit diagrams are read for how they mediate between the tactile, descriptive work of observation and the larger theoretical project of measurement in service of an abstract, ultimately non-sensible concept—solar parallax.
Roxanne Goldberg (MIT): Between Tradition and Science: Perceived Authenticity in an Art Dealer’s Manuscript.
In May 1903, Baltimore art collector Henry Walters (1848–1931) sailed to Istanbul, where he purchased more than twenty objects said to be “made for the luxurious Shahs and Sultans.” The description comes from Ottoman Jewish antiquities dealer Robert S. Pardo, who penned a descriptive manuscript to accompany the many swords, daggers in bejeweled hilts, fantastic narghile, and other fine and decorative objects — many of which have since been evaluated as pastiches of poor quality or little historic value. The Pardo Manuscript raises questions about the relationship between truth, trust, authenticity, and value in the early twentieth-century market for Islamic art and antiquities. How did Ottoman merchants manufacture value and persuade Euro-American buyers to trust them on the basis of perceived authenticity? Which rhetorical strategies were used to appraise Islamic material culture? How did art and antiquities dealers stylize themselves as trustworthy sellers of authentic treasures? How was trust gained and expertise communicated?
To answer these questions, this paper engages in a close reading of the Pardo Manuscript. It considers literature on nineteenth-century objectivity together with historian Julia Phillips Cohen’s contention that the self-Orientalism of non-Muslim Ottomans who bought, sold, wore, and otherwise engaged with “traditional” objects of “the Orient,” was a form of the same code-switching that led nineteenth-century upper-class households around the world to selectively incorporate signs of the other — whether a Damascus Room in Berlin or European chairs in Morocco. In analyzing the rhetorical strategies used by Pardo, this talk demonstrates how value was created by non-Muslim Ottoman art and antiquities dealers, who bridged the “authenticity” of the East and the refined taste of the West, and the scientific objectivity that verified both. Through an investigation of the art dealer, his identity performance, and rhetorical strategies, this study problematizes concepts of truth, value, and authenticity as they were understood in the early twentieth century.
Wanne Mendonck (University of Cambridge): Victorian Post-Truth? John Ruskin, Charles Darwin, and the Scholarly Fight for Cultural Authority.
In or about the middle of the nineteenth century, truth exploded outwards. The combination of empiricism and hypothesis that characterised the new scientific epistemologies of figures such as Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin radically expanded the field of knowledge temporally and categorically, threatening the traditional loci of truth: revelation and taxonomy. Different systems of knowing, and different concepts of what constituted truth, were in competition for a limited share of cultural authority and trust. When we take into account a 21st-century vocabulary of the pragmatic relativity of truth emblematised in the idea of post-truth, and scholarly attempts at interdisciplinary conversation as well as disciplinary rivalry, the mid- to late- Victorian moment seems an especially salient object of inquiry for our own time. Via such inquiry, I argue that models of cooperation and competition need to be combined to adequately understand historical discourses of truth.
My paper will address these issues by investigating Victorian art critic John Ruskin’s forays into scholarly disciplines that were not his own, such as zoology, botany, or political economy; with an especial focus on recalibrating his famous opposition to Darwinism. Building on the work of scholars such as George Levine, Dinah Birch and Mark Frost, it considers what Ruskin tried to achieve in his attempt to combine detailed empirical observation with spiritual and taxonomic determinism. It argues that Ruskin’s derivation of holistic truth claims from subjective association constructs a paradoxical understanding of truth as simultaneously relative and absolute. As an alternative to scientific and religious discourse in the intellectually troubled decades that saw the gradual institutionalisation of modern science, Ruskin’s texts form a provocative compound that challenges our belief that we know what Victorian (or other periods’) ‘truth’ might be.
Eman Faisal (University of Cambridge): Investigating the reliability of qualitative data using triangulation technique: A case study of a Saudi first-year.
Objectives: This exploratory study aimed to investigate if qualitative data collected from a Saudi male first-year undergraduate would reflect truth and if it can be trusted. This includes the student’s honesty about the fact that he does not conduct research or do homework himself, but that others complete these tasks for him.
Design: This exploratory study included six sequential stages, all of which targeted collecting qualitative data.
Methods: First, a teacher of the first year was interviewed to explore the help-seeking behaviours that first-year undergraduates adopt in general. Second, a Saudi first-year was interviewed face-to-face to explore his help-seeking behaviour. Third, his mother was interviewed to investigate her son’s help-seeking behaviour from her perspective. Fourth, the student completed an 11-week diary task that helped in understanding his weekly help-seeking behaviour during the term time. Fifth, he was interviewed again, but this time after completion of the diary to give further explanation and clarification about his behaviour during the diary task. Sixth, 18 months later, the student was asked (via WhatsApp messaging) about his grade and if he could continue his studies in the field that he aimed to.
Results: The student’s extracts matched his mother’s in terms of the fact that he does not conduct research himself, but actually his mother carried it out for him. The teacher also stressed the fact that there are a number of learners who do not do their homework themselves, which matches the student’s admission that he does not like, or do, homework, but he copies it from his classmates.
Conclusions: Although the student revealed that he seeks for complete help from others, he admitted that this is a wrong behaviour. Nevertheless, this was a common problem among his peers, as the teacher stressed, which implies that there might be a reason that encourages such executive help-seeking behaviour among first-years.
Chelsea Morgan (Australian National University): When Trust Creates ‘Truth’: Biological Anthropology and the Binary Bias in Sex.
Sex as a binary system in humans is often considered a basic biological principle. In biological anthropology, sex estimation of human skeletal remains relies upon two principles and how they affect skeletal structure: sexual dimorphism, and parturition. Sexual dimorphic principles indicate that human males are larger and more robust than human females. Parturition is the only exception of this, stating that pelvic bones are noticeably larger and differently shaped in females due to childbirth adaptation. Due to these two principles, popular methods place certain bones or features into a hierarchy of ‘most reliable’ to ‘questionable at best’ when estimating sex.
What is missing from this narrative are modern studies of bone metabolism and growth, and how they might relate to the expression of sex in the skeletal structures. Despite an abundance of methods ranging from pelvic structure to measurements of calcanei, there is little regarding differences in bone growth and sex from a microstructural perspective. This implies methods used in fields requiring estimation of sex in humans are based upon gendered ideas of what categorises humans as ‘male’ or ‘female’. In addition to this, these principles have not been tested concerning their actual metabolic differences between humans placed into binary sex categories.
This study examines how prone past and present literature is towards estimating sex relying on existing sexual dimorphic and parturition principles – and how much they are supported or questioned by new methods and research investigation into bone metabolism. Potential avenues that could be used to test our existing assumptions and methods are explored, as a heavy reliance and trust is grounded in existing sexual dimorphic and parturition principles. A more multi-disciplinary approach is recommended, as is a thorough testing of these principles with research concerning metabolic growth in human skeletons in relation to their sex
Bright Masocha (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): ‘Political truth and actual truth’ – discerning the truth in a socio-politically polarised research environment.
Data collected in a politically polarised society can be highly influenced by completing socio-political views that the research has to discern the truth or any acceptableconclusion. In a field setting, interview questions are usually responded to by the “truth”, since in most cases responses start with, “The truth is…”. As a researcher you begin to wonder why these “truths” are different. Research findings in social sciences are likely based on the socio-political underpinnings of the target group. However, in anthropology fathoming the truth is based on trust or is it? The argument that prolonged field stays that we find ourselves in are thought to be the answer to this problem, yet even among the anthropologists in the same study site are likely to have different truths based on facts. Can’t emersion in the researched community itself as researchers change them?My argument is based on my fieldwork in the Gonarezhou Trans frontier Conservation Area (GTFCA) uniting Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa, where I used participant observations, individual case studies, interviews, document utilisation and group discussions, I argue that truth is hierarchical depending on the trust that the research has built. Also, trust is cumulative over a period of time and highly based on methodological framework. Political, social and economic circumstances culture individuals to have some views in particular aspects of life and the researcher therefore, might be influenced by such to make conclusions.
Andrew Dickinson (University of Oxford): Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘George Washington-handicap’.
Critics have often praised the truthfulness, trustworthiness, accuracy and precision of Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. She makes some strong claims for its honesty herself. Describing what she calls her ‘George Washington-handicap’ to Robert Lowell, Bishop writes: ‘I can’t tell a lie even for art, apparently; it takes an awful effort or a sudden jolt to make me alter facts’. In another letter to Lowell she goes further, claiming that ‘it’s almost impossible not to tell the truth in poetry’. Is this confidence hubristic? There are occasional factual errors in Bishop’s poetry; she is also open to the charge Thomas Hobbes levied at all writers who ‘use words metaphorically, that is, in other sense than that they are ordained for; and thereby deceive others’. She herself qualified her statements to Lowell, admitting that ‘sometimes I think I’m telling the truth when I’m not’.
In this paper, I propose to examine the kinds of truth expressed in Bishop’s poetry, and the ways in which she encourages readers to trust her poems. I will focus on three aspects of her poetry. The first is its ability, as she wrote about Marianne Moore, to strike ‘a tone of complete truth-telling’ through its frequent use of rhetorical self-correction. In ‘Poem’, for instance, she writes ‘Our visions coincided—“visions” is / too serious a word—our looks, two looks’. The second is her poetry’s incorporation of clichés, phrases which have been paradoxically described as both expressing general truths and dishonestly flattening the specifics of experience. The third part of my paper will consider her poetry’s truthful depiction of the natural world. Samuel Johnson censures Abraham Cowley’s poetry for being overly specific and including the technical language of biology, writing that ‘It is the odd fate of this thought to be worse for being true’. Bishop’s ‘constant faithfulness to the creaturely world’ challenges this view; her poetry combines the virtues of the biologist with those of the poet.
Burak Sezer (a.r.t.e.s Cologne): The Cryptography of Randomness in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge.
Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel Bleeding Edge (2013) deals with a transformed New York City under the egregious influence of the Internet. Maxine Tarnow, an ex-Certified Fraud Examiner, tracks mysterious online activities that appear to have a direct connection with the September 11 attacks. The Internet is, for Pynchon, a potentially secure space because all communication can be encrypted via mathematical hash functions, which preclude any third party to monitor the communication channels. This is opposed to Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), where a character named Metzger claims that in the United States “[d]elivering a mail is a government monopoly” (36) since all mail routes are overseen by the state; the standard postal service does not facilitate such an encryption. The aforementioned hash functions derive their reliability from true randomness, which the Internet can offer as it “ain’t Vegas. No casinos, honest odds. Random numbers here are strictly legit” (Bleeding Edge: 405, original emphasis). This source of randomness, called ‘entropy’ or ‘noise source’ in Claude Shannon’s A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949), encourages everyone to trust the Internet because the numbers are uncontrollably free and hence all hash encryptions safe; however, Pynchon also introduces the operators of an ominous website hashslingrz.com, who propagate pseudorandomness: an algorithmic and automated number machinery so that “disbursement numbers” (41) are “[n]owehere near the Benford curve” (42), “[h]ash totals […] don’t add up” (42) and “[c]redit- card numbers failing their Luhn checks” (42). Their numbers look random at first, but are in truth engineered, endangering the safety of hash encryptions – they are the ‘hash slingers,’ as their name suggests. This paper triangulates the concepts of mathematical hash functions, randomness and trust in Bleeding Edge, presenting Pynchon’s discussion of a paradoxical mathematics that both guarantees and undermines trust at the interface of true randomness and pseudorandomness.
Celia Depommier-Cotton (University of Cambridge): Is there someone upstairs? A reading of Stendhal in the age of technopopulism.
I propose to explore the question of ‘Trust and Truth’ through Stendhal’s literary testimony at the beginning of 19th century. Stendhal (1783-1842) is known for being the first ‘modern’ novelist. As a republican and a liberal, he questions the Ancien Régime core values and constantly shows how ‘truth’ is relative to cultures, individuals and personal interests. His works display and deride three types of stereotypes: gender stereotypes, politico-social stereotypes and national stereotypes. In this modern movement of the mind that he implements, the only truth that remains is the denunciation of ‘l’esprit de sérieux’ itself (the spirit of seriousness, or dogmatism). In the literary history, Stendhal is a radical step forward towards modernity. It is not possible anymore for him to think of a transcendantal rule that would apply to individuals, like in Rousseau or Richardson’s literary works of the past century. He’s the first novelist to place truth in ‘the individual’. He thus sows the seeds of Flaubert’s generalised irony, Zola’s overall bitterness, and modern individualism more broadly.
If any position of power is derided by Stendhal (the bourgeois, the préfet, the marshal, the priest, the surveyor), does it mean that Stendhal is a populist? As a contemporary of Tocqueville, Stendhal is not the last to fear the omnipotence of the people, as numerous passages show. Thus, his work reads as a double denunciation, of those who pretend to know and those who don’t know. The French technocratic power, centralised in Paris, is derided by Stendhal as much as ‘the mass’. As a witness of the first attempts of democracy in France, Stendhal already hints at what I perceive to be the main aporia of democracy today: ‘technopopulism’. I will thus promote this concept by showing how these two forms of the false, ‘technocracy’ and ‘populism’, tend to dialogue and paradoxically reinforce each other.