Crises We Live By: A Metaphorical Approach to the Crisis

March 30, 2022 at 8:00 am - March 31, 2022 at 5:00 pm EDT

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Crises We Live By: A Metaphorical Approach to the Crisis

March 30, 2022 at 8:00 am March 31, 2022 at 5:00 pm Germany/Potsdam/Hybrid

The word ‘crisis’ often appears trite and hackneyed in its daily use. Media and politicians, but also “people on the street”, commonly speak about one or multiple “crises”: the 2007 economic crisis, the pandemic crisis, the crisis of our values, the crisis of Western society, identity crises and cultural crises, etc. From a financial, economic, political, psychological or even moral perspective, and many more, the word ‘crisis’ continues to leave traces on our public and private discourse, often accepted as an unavoidable and uncontested category to qualify the present.

This noun (stemming from the ancient Greek κρίσις, with its range of meanings, “decision”, “discrimination”, “crisis”) has a more general figurative sense, i.e. “a vitally important or decisive stage in the progress of anything; a turning-point; also, a state of affairs in which a decisive change for better or worse is imminent”. However, it “is now applied especially to times of difficulty, insecurity, and suspense in politics or commerce” (both quotations from OED online).

In order to approach the fundamental nature of this concept, the organizers acknowledge the need to investigate the cognitive aspect of experiences generally defined as ‘crises’. Accepting one of the major findings from Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT), i.e. that abstract concepts are largely metaphorical, this conference will attempt a study of what we commonly tag and simplify as ‘crisis’ through the metaphors with which these experiences have been defined, uttered, and thus lived. Through a series of case studies, they aim to understand the general idea of crisis as well as the specific character of different crises reflected in each metaphor (e.g. the common metaphors of ‘collapse’ and ‘decline’, ‘darkness’, ‘ill body politic’ and ‘pestilence’, ‘destruction’, etc.).

They encourage a transdisciplinary methodology, believing that the discussion and the ensuing collective volume will, by transcending subject boundaries, broaden the perspective on crises to include different approaches in dialogue with and, sometimes, in opposition to one another. Although the conference clearly does not pretend to carry out a comprehensive and complete study of the subject, the challenge is to detect a continuity of cognitive meanings despite the ubiquity of ‘crises’ and the variety of their metaphorical representations, even to question the very existence of a single notion of crisis applicable to all contexts (social, cultural, political, etc.) and thus highlight the extent to which this concept is overused or misapplied.

As the category of crisis is now embedded in Western tradition and especially political discourse (and therefore it is not surprising that for its definition one Greek term has been adopted), the conference organizers would like to also challenge this category by paying special attention to other ways – and thus other metaphors – to think about the ‘crisis’, metaphors extraneous to and absent from Western discourse. Promoting a decolonialising standpoint, they would like to encourage papers dealing with other discourses about turning points from both a collective and personal perspective.

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