2020 – 2022: “I was there.” Laying the Foundations for a Comprehensive Phenomenology of Testimony

ABSTRACT

The underlying premise of our project is that only a phenomenology which is open to historical hermeneutics and which develops its analyses in the horizon of a philosophical anthropology of the subject is able to capture adequately, i.e. comprehensively and thoroughly, the fundamental structures of the experience of testimony and to account for the new dimension of subjectivity that this experience reveals (a dimension whose manifestations range from self-institution to absolute self-dispossession). It is precisely the specific nature of the phenomenon and experience of testimony which calls for such an approach, which combines phenomenological, hermeneutical and philosophic-anthropological directions of research.

Thus, a phenomenological approach describing the structures and sequences which are constitutive for the experience of testimony according to the guiding concepts of intersubjectivity and embodiment would be incomplete if it would not take into account both the historical inscription of this experience and its potential to make history.

Finally, the experience of testimony, through its ascending and regressive modalizations which go from body, speech to writing and back, reveals a new articulation of the “I”: the subject capable of giving testimony, of attesting through his/her own being, for the others, the truth of a past event, a subject whose condition is determined by the interplay between memory and history, by an existential fragility and by a fallible knowledge. Therefore, in order to fulfill the goal of our project, that is to lay the foundations for a comprehensive phenomenological theory of testimony, we will develop a threefold approach, combining the eidetic description, the interpretation and the philosophical reflection.

PROJECT INFO

  • Project director: Dr. Paul MARINESCU
  • Project title: “I was there.” Laying the Foundations for a Comprehensive Phenomenology of Testimony.
  • Project code: PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2019-2056
  • Contract no.: TE 122/ 2020
  • Program: Research projects to stimulate young independent teams (TE)
  • Financed by: UEFISCDI
  • Period of Time: October 2020 – September 2022
  • Funding: 431.812 lei

RESEARCH TEAM

Current team:

EVENTS

2022

  • International Conference: The Phenomenology of Testimony: From Inner Truth to Shared World, Nijmegen (Netherlands), 22 – 23 September 2022. Organized by the Center for Contemporary European Philosophy of Radboud University, Nijmegen, in cooperation with the Alexandru Dragomir Institute of Philosophy of the Romanian Phenomenological Society, Bucharest. Organizing committee: Gert-Jan van der Heiden, Paul Marinescu.

Speakers: Lovisa Andén, Jeffrey Andrew Barash, Ileana Borțun, Roland Breeur, Cristian Ciocan, Cătălina Condruz, Wout Cornelissen, Pascal Delhom, Paul Marinescu, Aoife McInerney, Gert-Jan van der Heiden, Sanem Yazicioglu. For the Conference Programme see [here].

2021

  • The National Colloquium of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology, The Experience of Testimony: Truth, Memory, Identity. Phenomenological Approaches [Experiența mărturiei: adevăr, memorie, identitate. Abordări fenomenologice]. 15–16 December 2021 (online). For the Conference Programme see [here].

Speakers: Cristian Ciocan, Ileana Borțun, George Bondor, Elvira Groza, Paul Marinescu, Cătălina Condruz, Cristina Cristea, Alexandru Bejinariu, Delia Popa.

Extended Deadline: January 30, 2021.
Email address: submissions@phenomenology.ro
Guidelines: https://zetabooks.com/library/journals/studia-phaenomenologica/

2021

The period January–December 2021 covers two research stages dedicated respectively to the analysis of the experience of testimony from a phenomenological perspective and to the study of the role that testimony plays in the elaboration of the representation of the past, via hermeneutic approaches. During this time, the research activities of the four members of the project focused on several key aspects: Identifying and investigating in the works of Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Luc Marion and others, the relevant contexts that can support a comprehensive approach to witnessing and testimony that is commensurate with the complexity of this experience. Framing the phenomenon of testimony within the category of a hermeneutic and ethical singularity. Developing and deepening the questions raised by relating witness and (collective) identity. Analysing how testimony appears in three distinct contexts of meaning: juridical, historiographical and at their confluence, as in the case of testimonies concerning recent humanitarian disasters, which inevitably carry a strong ethical-political significance. Outlining an existential phenomenology of testimony. Examining the phenomenon of testimony from epistemological and psychoanalytical perspectives.

Paul Marinescu and Cristian Ciocan edited and published an issue of the academic journal Studia Phaenomenologica (2021), dedicated to the project theme, titled: “From Witnessing to Testimony” (ZetaBooks, pp. 11-242, ISBN: 978-606-697-148-5. Indexed in the Web of Science, Arts and Humanities Citation Index). The two editors wrote the Foreword to this issue, “Introduction: From Witnessing and Testimony,” pp. 11-20. [Website]

Paul Marinescu, Cristian Ciocan and Cătălina Condruz submitted one research paper each to academic journals, indexed in the Web of Science.

The members of the project presented 3 papers at international conferences (with blind peer-review system) and 4 papers at the national colloquium of the Romanian Society of Phenomenology (all online) (for details, see Conferences’ section).

Paul Marinescu and Cristian Ciocan organized the national colloquium of the Romanian Society of Phenomenology, “The Experience of Testimony: Truth, Memory, Identity. Phenomenological Approaches”, 15-16 December 2021 (online, Zoom). Preparatory steps: Call for Papers [website], evaluation of abstracts, colloquium program [website], organizational activities.

2020

During the first months of the project (October – December 2020), the project team carried out the following activities:

Paul Marinescu

a/ preliminary analysis aiming to identify the main meanings of the notions of witness and testimony in Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy, starting with his 1972 article, “L’herméneutique du témoignage”, continuing with his works from the 90s (“Emmanuel Lévinas, penseur du témoignage”, Oneself as Another, Living Up to Death), and concluding with his later oeuvre, Memory, History, Forgetting (2000).

b/ examining the function of mediation specific to the phenomenon of testimony in Paul Ricoeur’s work, Memory, History, Forgetting, particular attention being paid to the way it transposes the enigma of the representation of the past from a phenomenology of memory into the field of an epistemology of history.

Cristian Ciocan

a/ preliminary analysis of the main contexts in the work of Emmanuel Levinas where he discusses the phenomenon of testimony, a special emphasis being placed on his two major works, Totality and Infinity (1964) and Other than Being or Beyond Essence (1971).

b/ identifying and examining two directions the phenomenological analysis of the testimony carries out in Levinas’ work: “the third as witness” and “the testimony as an an-archic form of the subject (the infinite and the other)”.

c/ investigating the relation testimony has, according to Levinas, with memory.

Ileana Borțun focused on connecting the theme of the testimony to the political phenomenology of Hannah Arendt, following these research directions:

a/ the status of the witness starting from Arendt’s conception of judging, in order to establish the position of the witness in relation to the event that s/he is witnessing. Hannah Arendt’s works: The Crisis in Culture. Its Social and its Political Significance (1961), Truth and Politics (1967), Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy (1970).

b/ the status of testimony in relation to the tense dynamics between action and work, which results in two major forms of testimony: spoken testimony and written testimony (together with other forms of material testimony, such as art: statues, paintings). Hannah Arendt’s works: The Human Condition (1958), Culture and Politics (1958), Labor, Work, Action (1964).

c/ The configuration of personal identity, given the fact that, in order to know who we are, we need witnesses to witness our deeds and words and to capture into stories the identity that our deeds and words reveal. Exploring the possibility of being my own witness. Hannah Arendt’s works: The Human Condition (1958).

Cătălina Condruz focused on two fundamental areas of research, both meant to uncover the phenomenon of testimony/witnessing, considered from the point of view of Jean-Luc Marion’s phenomenology.

a/ the first step consisted of an exploration and deepening of Marion’s theory of the gifted (l’adonné), in order to clarify the role and the status of the gifted as witness, within his phenomenological of givenness.

b/ the second step consisted of drafting a first research paper, aiming to put in relation Marion’s phenomenological endeavour with the hermeneutical one, specific to recent psychoanalysis.

The project team drafted the plans for four research articles, to be submitted next year to ISI Thomson or ERIH-Plus 2016 indexed journals.

Paul Marinescu and Cristian Ciocan started editing the XXI issue of the academical journal Studia Phaenomenologica (2021), dedicated to the phenomenology of testimony. A Call for Papers was disseminated wide: https://phenomenology.ro/newsletter-of-phenomenology-number-588-october-2020/

2022

  • Cristian Ciocan: Witnessing as an Existential Phenomenon, in: Laval théologique et philosophique (Web of Science) (accepted for publication);

  • Gert-Jan van der Heiden & Paul Marinescu (eds.): The Phenomenology of Testimony: From Inner Truth to Shared World, Brill Publishers, Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology series, 2023 (under review);

  • Paul Marinescu: On Testimony and Trace: An Approach to the Ontological Vehemence of the Past, in: Gert-Jan van der Heiden & Paul Marinescu (eds.), The Phenomenology of Testimony: From Inner Truth to Shared World, Brill Publishers, Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology series, 2023 (under review);

  • Cristian Ciocan: The Temporality of Witnessing, in: Gert-Jan van der Heiden & Paul Marinescu (eds.), The Phenomenology of Testimony: From Inner Truth to Shared World, Brill Publishers, Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology series, 2023 (under review);

  • Ileana Borțun: Arendt on Witnessing and Bearing Witness, in: Gert-Jan van der Heiden & Paul Marinescu (eds.), The Phenomenology of Testimony: From Inner Truth to Shared World, Brill Publishers, Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology series, 2023 (under review);

  • Cătălina Condruz, Self-Reflection as a Testimonial Act, in: Gert-Jan van der Heiden & Paul Marinescu (eds.), The Phenomenology of Testimony: From Inner Truth to Shared World, Brill Publishers, Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology series, 2023 (under review);

  • Paul Marinescu: “XXX”, submitted for publication at “xxx (Web of Science) (under review);
  • Ileana Borțun: “XXX”, submitted for publication at „xxx (Web of Science) (under review);
  • Cătălina Condruz“XXX”, submitted for publication at „xxx (Web of Science) (under review).

2021

    2022

    2021