KWI- Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen


Projekt New Thinking on Alienation

Principal investigators: Dr. Simon Hailwood (Liverpool), Dr. Gillian Howie (Liverpool), Prof. Dr. Logi Gunnarsson (Dortmund), Prof. Dr. Michael Quante (Münster)

Funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The English word 'alienation' has a number of different senses including, crudely: a state or process of estrangement; a transferral or renunciation of ownership (roughly equivalent to the German Entfremdung and Entäuβerung respectively) and the experience of parts of my own mental life or body as not really "my own".

One of the main aims of our Research Networking Project New Thinking on Alienation is to discuss these different senses and how they relate to notions such as reification (Marx's Vergegenständlichung) and objectification. Because we are concerned with the critical usefulness of the concept of alienation, the focus of the project is on its application (in its various guises) within the 'practical' areas of politics, environment and psychopathology (including debates within biomedical ethics concerning psychopharmacology and enhancement), as much as on analyzing the concept in the abstract and scholarly re-examination of its treatment in classic texts, such as Hegel's Phenomenology and Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. This concern with critical utility means it is also of interest to explore connections between thinking on alienation in those practical areas of politics, environment and psychopathology and philosophical pragmatism.

The objective is to strengthen a growing network of scholars, primarily from Germany and the UK, but also North America and other European countries, interested in a renewed exploration of the concept of alienation, its relation to the concepts of reification and objectification, and application within social/political, environmental and psychological contexts. In doing examine and assess the critical utility of ideas of alienation we shall be drawing upon international expertise in Hegel and Marx Scholarship, contemporary critical social theory, environmental and political theory and philosophical psychopathology; with political and social theorists and philosophers from analytic and non-analytic traditions. Altogether, we prepare the ground for a larger cross-national collaborative project to explore the wider, interdisciplinary applications of alienation, involving colleagues from such fields as psychology, psychiatry, public policy, sociology, geography and architecture.


There will be three workshops. The aim of the workshops is to explore, clarify and assess the usefulness of the concept of alienation and related notions in political, psychological and environmental contexts, whilst keeping in mind the exploration of an overall concept of alienation. Indeed, we shall be considering to what extent there is a determinate general concept of alienation, rather than a family of interrelated, yet context-dependent, notions of alienation.

For further details of these workshops and draft papers, visit the project website

Workshop 1: Alienation and the Environment
(University of Liverpool, February 26th-27th 2010)
This will consider ideas and senses of alienation from the natural world and from the humanly constructed environment.

Workshop 2: Psychological and Self-Alienation
(TU Dortmund University, Summer 2010)
This workshop will consider ideas and senses of alienation from oneself. Some of the issues concern psychiatric phenomena such as thought insertion, multiple personality, depersonalization, derealization, alien and anarchic hand syndromes and their philosophical interpretation. However, the issues are perfectly general and concern the meaning and significance of experiencing or viewing aspects of oneself as not one’s own.

Workshop 3: Social and Political Alienation
(Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Autumn 2010)
This will consider ideas and senses of alienation from the social and political world.