Compassion — a timely feeling


Bronze sculpture of Western religious figures

Hosted by History of Emotions - UNE Node

History of Emotions network logo

Thursday 24 – Saturday 26 October 2019
Oorala Lecture Theatre 
University of New England, Armidale NSW, AUSTRALIA

Proudly co-sponsored by:

In a world of diametrically-opposed attitudes towards policed and regulated border control, violent inter-religious intolerance, and impending ecological disaster, it is time to turn our minds to compassion.

Compassion is a social emotion that binds people together. This conference will explore the role of compassion in a range of contexts, how it’s used to move groups and audiences and how interdisciplinary research can help us better understand this emotion.

Welcome to Armidale!

Feeling lost? Please don't hesitate to call our Faculty Research Officer Huw Nolan on (02)67735666 or 0409498062. Please leave a message, he will call you back.


In today’s world, divided as it is, by diametrically-opposed attitudes towards policed and regulated border control, violent inter-religious intolerance, and impending ecological disaster, it is time to turn our minds to compassion. At its root compassion is a social emotion. It involves fellow feeling, and as such it is a passion that binds people together. Stoics and neostoics question the efficacy of compassion, conceived as pity, arguing that it stymies the potential for necessary transformative social action (Justus Lipsius). While on the one hand the concept of compassion as feeling with others suggests an egalitarian ideal, on the other, pity or feeling for others can imply a hierarchy. For Lauren Berlant (2004), for example, the relation between the one feeling, empathizing, sympathizing, or pitying and the object of those feelings involves inequality. Others note that inevitably gender, race, class and power shape the experience, and expression, of compassion. In popular discourse compassion is often viewed as intrinsically feminine, even maternal. In the humanities, compassion and related concepts empathy, sympathy or simply fellow-feeling, have long been associated with questions about what it means to be human, and/or what it means to be a member of a community.

Compassion is a collective emotion often held up as a key attribute of an ideal possible society. As such it is associated with discourses that model social worlds for example, social or political movements, political theory, moral philosophy and certain literary genres. What role does compassion play in specific social, learned or institutional contexts? How is it deployed to move readers, citizens, the public, a congregation, or a theatre audience for example? How is it mediated, shared, transformed and put to work? And what positive, if any, can come from thinking about compassion once again? This event will underscore how we can better understand the workings of compassion through interdisciplinary research.

The program committee would like to invite participants to consider compassion as a lens through which to view a range of discipline-specific topics, with a view to establishing fresh grounds for a wide-ranging interdisciplinary conversation. The aim is to publish selected papers in a special journal issue or edited collection. Please forward 200-word abstracts for 20-25-minute papers, or proposals for themed panels of 3 papers, and brief 150-word participant bios to by 15 September 2019.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Compassion and climate change
  • Compassion and care
  • Reviewing the past with compassion
  • Discourses, forms or rhetorics of compassion
  • Rituals of compassion, ritualized compassion
  • Histories of compassion, case studies of compassion
  • Compassion vs hate, terror, and/or other modes of disaffection
  • Compassion and social justice
  • Compassion in art, music, literature, philosophy and/or theatre
  • Compassion and the culture wars
  • Gendering compassion, class and compassion, race and compassion, citizenship and compassion
  • Compassion and non-humans

Keynote speakers (on campus) (24-25 October)

  • Professor Steven Mentz (St Johns University, USA)
  • A/Prof Katie Barclay (University of Adelaide)
  • Dr Delia Falconer (University of Technology Sydney)

Off-campus events - 26 October

  • Day trip visiting Wing Hing Long Museum (Tingha), Myall Creek (massacre site), Bingara for lunch and Yarrowyck (rock art site).

Download a program

Download an Abstract Booklet (500KB)

Travel to Armidale

Armidale is Anaiwan Country, and the Anaiwan share custodianship of these lands with the Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti and Kamilaroi nations. 

We pay our respect to all of their Elders: past, present and emerging.

Welcome to Anaiwan Country

Daŋgana ndaga? Nyaŋa ndaga waŋan?

[How are you? What brings you here?]

Find out more about the Anaiwan Language Revival Program. If you would like to explore the region, visit the Armidale Tourism website.

Conference venue: Arts Building (E11) at the University of New England (Armidale campus), Armidale NSW 2351, AUSTRALIA.

Travel information: for travel to and around Armidale please consult: Travelling To Armidale

UNE's Armidale campus

For more information about the Armidale Campus and Facilities browse the information provided at Campus Life.

Getting around Armidale — travel options to the campus

Taxis — Armidale Cabs offers a taxi service throughout Armidale and Uralla. The phone number is 131 008. A fare from the airport to the CBD or to the University is approximately $25 (estimate only).

Buses — a bus service runs from Armidale town to the UNE campus at $2 per trip. View the timetable. The conference will also be providing a complimentary shuttle bus service for some of the travel. Details and timetables TBC in January 2019.

Car — major car hire companies operate in Armidale from Armidale airport or in town. You'll need to pay for parking on the Armidale campus. Casual parking is $8 per day or $15 per week.

Cycling — there are bike hire options in town and fairly easy cycling along the creek to the university. Try contacting Armidale Bicycle Centre or Bicycle Central on Marsh.

Walking — Google suggests it is a 55-minute walk from town to the campus along the creek path or nearby roads. Reliable walking maps will be available closer to the time.


Accommodation is available in Armidale or on campus. The campus is approximately 5km from the central bus stop in Armidale. There is a wide range of accommodation in Armidale to suit all budgets. Please consult the Armidale Tourist Information Centre for more information.

Note: All evening events will be held  in town. We'll provide transport from the university to town at the end of each day. For this reason, we recommend staying in town. There are more food options and more things to do in the evenings in town than on campus.

In Armidale town

City Centre Motel Inn in central Armidale has offered a 25% discount up to $100 for ASLEC-ANZ delegates. Use the code ASLEC13-15

Rural Stay (B&B and self-contained accommodation options in Armidale)

Cotswold Gardens, 34 Marsh St,  +612 6772 8222

Quality Hotel Powerhouse, 31 Marsh St,  +612 6772 7788

Lindsay House, 128 Faulkner St, +612 6771 4554

Sandstock Motor Inn, 101 Dumaresq St,  +612 6772 9988

Abbotsleigh Inn, 76 Barney St,  +612 6772 9488

Near the airport (private transport recommended)

Moore Park Inn, 63 Moore Park Lane, +612 6772 2358

There is a wide range of accommodation in Armidale to suit all budgets. Please consult the Armidale Tourist Information Centre for more information.

There will be no conference registration fees. The Faculty of HASSE, University of England will provide tea and coffee, and a light meal on Friday 25 October. Accommodation is to be arranged privately by participants.

ECR Bursaries

A limited number of bursaries sponsored by the Faculty of HASSE, UNE and the Monash Climate Change Hub will be available to cover travel costs for postgraduates, recent graduates, or unwaged Early Career Researchers. Please send funding applications to by 15 September. Applications should include a brief statement of no more than one page justifying your need for funding, your proposed paper title and abstract, and an up-to-date cv.