“I am he who finds the resources to respond to the call.”
“The foundation of consciousness is justice and not the reverse.”
“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it,
the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.”
In 1963, on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin wrote to his nephew that “celebrating freedom” was 100 years premature. Similarly, we may recognize today that, 50 years after MLK Jr.’s assassination, creating the conditions for the emergence of human community remains an outstanding task. For Levinas, I am who I am in so far as I locate the resources to respond to the call of the Other. For Baldwin, this work involves catching sight of ourselves as we really are, including what we have done and what we have left undone.
Last year, our conference was devoted to the theme of Levinasian apology: the movement of conscience, away from its absorption in itself, being called into question by the Other. This movement of apology, implicating one in the ethical texture of all human community, is simultaneously a movement towards justice. Justice here is neither a theoretical concept nor a prescriptive, practical ideal. As an inherent, elemental aspect of our intersubjectivity, its call is made upon us personally, immediately, and endlessly. To inquire into this justice is thus not to ask what might be or ought to be, but to uncover what already is.
If the interruption of justice is already underway, then our task is to recognize and heed it. How do we become better at noticing its appeal? How do we name, mourn, and address our shortcomings in responding to justice’s call? How can we make room for possibilities of the interruption of the Other in therapy, in community, and in the world at large? How can we actively cultivate opportunities for the Other to teach us?
These questions of the movement and meaning of justice are of central importance to us as clinicians, scholars, and members of human communities. In this year’s conference, we invited attendees to consider the modern dilemmas and contexts that ask us to seek and find ever-deepening meaning in this movement, where the Face of the Other endlessly calls us to justice.
This year we were delighted to welcome Dr. Richard Cohen as our Keynote Speaker