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Paul Marinescu, Cristian Ciocan (eds), From Witnessing to Testimony (Studia Phaenomenologica, Volume 21/ 2021)

Paul Marinescu and Cristian Ciocan, Introduction: From Witnessing to Testimony [OPEN ACCESS]

Gert-Jan van der Heiden, Testimony and Engagement: On the Four Elements of Witnessing

  • Abstract: In order to develop a hermeneutic-phenomenological analysis of testimony, this essay will first argue that testimony is “said in many ways” without being homonymous and that contemporary epistemological approaches to testimony are not capable of accounting for all paradigmatic forms of testimony. Second, it is argued, following and extending the work of Paul Ricoeur, that by emphasizing the sense of engagement or Bezogenheit as a basic characteristic of testimony, we may find another approach to testimony that offers a phenomenological alternative to the observational model of witnessing and the accompanying conception of testimony as report. Third, this approach is further developed and analyzed in terms of the four elements of testimony, namely, subject matter, witness, act of testifying, and addressee.

Dorothée Legrand, Ecouter parler le langage – Triplicité du témoignage

  • Abstract: We explore the idea that a testimony is always constituted by at least three parts—the word of the witness, the listening of the one to whom it is addressed, and language as a symbolic register where speaking and listening are inscribed. Thus, the structure of testimony would not be captured only by the subjective formula “I was there”—a subject designates himself in reference to a past experience—, nor by the intersubjective formula “I am speaking to you”—a subject designates himself and his listener in the synchrony of the word addressing the other. What is also necessary to consider, in order to capture the structure of testimony, is that “there is language”—the testimony transcends diachronically the speaker and the hearer by inscribing them inseparably in the symbolic register that they share, namely language.

Michele Averchi, Knowledge by Hearing. A Husserlian Antireductionist Phenomenology of Testimony

  • Abstract: In this paper, I argue that Husserl offers an important, although almost completely neglected so far, contribution to the reductionist/antireductionist debate about testimony. Through a phenomenological analysis, Husserl shows that testimony works through the constitution of an intentional intersubjective bond between the speaker and the hearer. In this paper, I focus on the Logical Investigations, a 1914 manuscript now published as text 2 in Husserliana 20.2, and a 1931 manuscript now published as Appendix 12 in Husserliana 15. I argue that, in those texts, Husserl highlights three essential phenomenological features of testimony: a) testimony is personal, meaning that it only takes place among persons, b) testimony is social, meaning that it requires the joint effort of multiple cognitive agents, c) testimony is community-building, meaning that it generates a long-lasting social bond among the parts involved.

Yasuhiko Sugimura, Témoigner après la « fin de la philosophie » : L’herméneutique radicale du témoignage dans la philosophie française post-heideggérienne

  • Abstract: Witnessing after the “end of philosophy,” in the sense in which Heidegger mentions it in his famous lecture on “The end of philosophy and the task of thinking”—what does this mean for us and our world today? As a preparation for an answer to this question, the present study proposes to elaborate a radical hermeneutics of testimony, by invoking French philosophers who can be qualified as “post-Heideggerian”—Lévinas, Ricoeur, Derrida, among others—whose thoughts of the testimony were developed through the essential critique on Heideggerian idea of attestation (Bezeugung) and the creative reactivation of the semantic resources historically preserved by terms such as “witness” and “testimony”.

Jean-Philippe Pierron, Pourquoi avons-nous besoin du témoignage ? Penser le témoignage avec Paul Ricœur

  • Abstract: This article proposes to analyze the relations between ethics and the poetics of testimony. It does so by testing Paul Ricoeur’s analyses of testimony with the literary work of the Belarusian Nobel Prize winner Svletana Alexievitch. After having shown why witnessing occupies a type of expressivity that is singular in contemporary times, and then having been surprised by the strong links that unite witnessing and the experience of evil, Alexievitch’s work is chosen to explain what the resource of the poetic could be, in the face of the question of evil. Ultimately, the consequences are drawn for the development of a practical wisdom in which testimony would be in a good place.

Rodolphe Olcèse, Excès du témoignage, déhiscence du témoin. Søren Kierkegaard, Emmanuel Lévinas, Jean-Louis Chrétien

  • Abstract: This text articulates the concept of subjective truth developed by Søren Kierkegaard in Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, in connection to a conception of testimony which both exceeds and reveals the possibilities of thinking and acting of the witness. This imbalance between the testimony and the witness finds an important extension in the distinction between the Saying and the Said made by Emmanuel Lévinas in Otherwise than Being, or Beyond Essence. This distinction opens up an understanding of thought as affectivity and allows witnessing to be viewed in the light of responsibility to the other. By being part of this philosophical heritage, Jean-Louis Chrétien shows how the testimony of the infinite is also phenomenalized in the experience of a chant that discovers its own modalities in this excess of beauty on the voice that tries to say it.

Francesca Peruzzotti, Entre parole et histoire. Le témoin dans la philosophie de Jean-Luc Marion

  • Abstract: Witnessing is an increasingly important theme in the work of Jean-Luc Marion. According to Marion, the witness can be considered an appropriate figure to define the first person, the “I,” without reducing it to subjectivism and without envisaging the intersubjective tie as binary (dual or dialogic), inasmuch as the testimony refers instead to a ternary relation. The present analysis investigates the difference Marion identifies between the religious witness and what seems to be, according to common sense, the regular witness. While in the latter case, the subject is completely foreign to the event to which s/he testifies, in the case of the religious witness, the commitment is total. We will tackle this difference by showing that the fact of testifying always implies a connection with effectivity, which reveals itself through the profound commitment characterizing the witness’s life, up to the point of death. This becomes obvious when considering the role played by the witness’s confessing speech, which establishes an unsurpassable ternary relationship between the witness, the object of the testimony, and the one to whom it is addressed, by deploying an absolute form of the social bond.

Rafael Pérez Baquero, Witnessing catastrophe: Testimony and historical representation within and beyond the Holocaust

  • Abstract: This paper explores the contemporary phenomenological and psychoanalytical analyses of testimonies regarding traumatic historical events, with special attention to how such testimonies pose new challenges for the historiography of historical events in which witnesses participated. By exploring discussions on the memory of the Holocaust as well as the Spanish Civil War and Francoist repression, this paper addresses the extent to which the tensions and temporalities underlying the process of bearing witness to and giving testimony about traumatic historical events might reshape how their history is being told, written, and remembered.

Lovisa Andén, Literary Testimonies and Fictional Experiences: Gulag Literature in between Facts and Fiction [OPEN ACCESS]

  • Abstract: This article discusses the role of Gulag literature in connection to testimony, literature and historical documentation. Drawing on the thoughts of Jacques Derrida and Hannah Arendt, the article examines the difficulty of witnesses being believed in the absence of evidence. In particular, the article focuses on the vulnerability of the Gulag authors, due to the ongoing Soviet repression at the time of their writing. It examines the interplay between the repression and the literature that exposed it. The article contends that the fictionalization of Gulag literature enabled the authors to go further in challenging Soviet repression. Focusing on the fictional accounts written by Varlam Shalamov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, it argues that the fictionalized Gulag literature makes the experience of the camp universe possible to imagine for those outside, allowing readers to believe in an experience that otherwise seems incredible.

Cassandra Falke, The Reader as Witness in Contemporary Global Novels

  • Abstract: Phenomenological literary criticism has long taken the one-on-one exchange with an other as the model for thinking about the reader-to-text relationship. However, new novels portraying genocides and civil wars are more likely to position readers as witnesses. Drawing on Jean-Luc Marion’s description of the subject as witness as well as works by Kelly Oliver and Jacques Derrida, this article offers a phenomenological description of the reader as witness. As witness, the reader is situated both by the literary text and also by his or her particular embodied and intersubjective relations to the world. Constituted and no longer constituting, the reader/subject as witness finds herself a site in which other’s decisions have already been made, and her responsibility arises from the decisions she makes possible for others in the future.

 

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EXTENDED DEADLINE: Studia Phaenomenologica vol. 22 (2022): GESTURES

Guest Editors: Christian Ferencz-Flatz & Delia Popa In recent years, gestures have moved into the center stage of theoretical interest. Prepared by various forays in the field of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, which led to an increased focus...