Symposium: Using the Concept of Identity

VDescombesEDDA, in collaboration with the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris (EHESS), is hosting a symposium on the use of the concept of Identity, Friday 25 September 2015, 13:00–17:30 in Askja Building, Room 132.

The keynote speaker is Vincent Descombes, Professor of Philosophy at EHESS and member of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. In his 2013 book, Les embarras de l’identité (e. Puzzling Identities), he discusses the current use of the word “identity” with various qualifications and aims to explain how it is possible to move conceptually from the logical sense of identity (“one and the same thing”) to the psychological sense (“being oneself”). In order to do so, he begins by clearing the ground for such an elucidation on a lexical and logical basis before addressing first-person identity questions both in the singular and in the plural.

The identity concept is central to several disciplines within the social sciences and the humanities. It is also commonly used in public discourse in relation to various social and societal issues, ranging from the personal to the collective. This wide use poses an epistemological problem as the understanding of what the concept entails varies a great deal. At the symposium, this and other problems associated with the use of the concept will be explored. Researchers and scholars of different disciplines present their papers, which explore notions of identity from various perspectives.


13:00-13:10 Opening by Irma Erlingsdóttir, Director of EDDA

13:10-14:30 Vincent Descombes, Professor of Philosophy, EHESS
Keynote Lecture and debate

14:30-14:50 Gunnar Harðarson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Iceland
Alphabet and Identity in Old Icelandic Intellectual Culture

14:50-15:10 Björn Þorsteinsson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Iceland
Difference and Contradiction: Derrida Parting with Hegel?

15:10-15:30 Discussion

15:30-15:50 Coffee & Tea

15:50-16:10 Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Iceland
Representations of Identity? The Auto/Biographical Subject’s Facts and Fictions

16:10-16:30 Jón Ólafsson, Professor of Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Iceland
Identifying with Democracy

16:30-16:50 Philippe Urfalino, Professor of Sociology, EHESS
Identity and Mode of Being of Deliberating Bodies

16:50-17:30 Discussions and Closing Remarks

Moderator: Guðmundur Hálfdanarson, Professor of History, University of Iceland