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CFP: Disgust

Call for Papers: ‘Disgust’

29th – 30st May 2015 – University of Kent, Canterbury

Keynote speaker: Roger Giner-Sorolla (Kent)


Disgust has received growing critical attention among researchers and university scholars in fields as varied as literature, philosophy of art, biology, psychology or gender studies. With the neurosciences increasingly gaining attention from the humanities for their project of explaining cognitive states and processes with reference to the material brain, it is opportune to reflect upon those experiences which strike the pit of the stomach before the head. Disgust seems to shock the viscera directly. It is considered by biology as an emotion rooted in evolution, an instinct serving to prevent our species from touching harmful substances.

 This conference wishes to explore the complex nature of the feeling of disgust. It is universally experienced even if the object of disgust as well as its linguistic expression can vary greatly according to the cultures. Yet, more broadly, it can also be elicited by abstract issues; that is, can or should it be related to ethical outrage as a way to protect human dignity and social order? The split in responses to Scorsese’s popular film Wolf of Wall Street is suggestive: for some the decadence of the financial services sector is thrilling – for others, simply disgusting.

Kant rejects disgust as a source of beauty in the Critique of Judgment (1790) but perhaps this assumption should be challenged to investigate whether disgust indeed has an aesthetic value. The popularity of disgusting images in cultural and artistic representations makes us wonder: can we experience aesthetic pleasure from disgust? Recent researches have been focusing on this positive aspect and most notably Carolyn Korsmeyer in Savoring Disgust (2011), in which she argues that the aesthetic experience of disgust can lead to knowledge and even beauty.

 Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, the following and their interrelations:

Psychological and psychoanalytical approaches: Disgust as an emotion: functions, structures – Self-disgust: how can we feel disgusted by our own body, ourselves? – Disgust vs. anger: what is the relation between these two emotions? Why are these two emotions often associated or confused?

Sociological, anthropological perspectives: Evolutionary and social role of disgust: why are we disgusted? – Relativity of disgust: what is disgusting? – Disgust and gender: is gender regulating our perception of/sensitivity to disgust? – Disgust and the other: Is there a suspension of disgust in parenting/love?

Disgust in the Arts: Representation of disgust, disgusting text vs. disgusting images: how is disgust represented in literary or cinematic fiction/the arts? – Disgust and beauty/aesthetics, horror, the sublime: why is disgust so appealing? What kind of pleasure do we experience from a disgusting representation?

Disgust and the body: Disgust and food – taste and bad taste – Disgust and the senses: why are some senses more reactive to disgust? Nausea and physical reactions to disgust: from surfeit to visceral disgust? – Disgust and contamination, disease: Is disgust grounded in fear of contamination? Disgust and sexuality: Is sexual desire haunted by bodily disgust?

Philosophical and political perspectives: Existential or moral disgust vs. core disgust – Disgust and morality, law: Can or should laws be motivated by disgust? Disgust and fear of social contamination – Racism – Far right regimes/ far right popularity in contemporary societies: can disgust create a social boundary?

Papers should last for 20 minutes and will be followed by 10 minutes of questions.

Abstracts (300 words) should be sent as a Word attachment to the conference organising committee at:

The email should include the name of the author, institution, and brief biographical details. You should also indicate in your proposal any audiovisual requirements you may have.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is 8th March 2015.


The conference is organised by Skepsi, a peer reviewed postgraduate journal based in the School of European Culture and Languages at the University of Kent and funded by the University of Kent (

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