“The Symbolic Construction of Reality”

III. Conference of The International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science

Tokyo, May 6-8, 2016, Waseda University

 Conference Program


The concept of “symbol” is without doubt in the core of the theoretical framework of the human sciences. In order to highlight the significance of symbols for the constitution of human life, Ernst Cassirer defined the human being as “animal symbolicum,” because he considered the concept of rationality as inadequate to describe human cultural forms and realities. Its relevance is beyond question and a great variety of differing notions of the symbol were developed by social behaviorists, pragmatists, cultural anthropologists, psychoanalysts, literary theorists, philosophers of life, semioticians and many more. Yet, it remains unclear how these theoretical positions are connected to each other and to what extent they can be combined with each other. Furthermore, a concise and systematic theoretical examination of the concept of symbol is rather underrepresented.

An utmost important symbol conception was developed by Alfred Schutz at the interface of phenomenology and the social sciences, which offers the particular potential to influence and enrich diverse disciplinary perspectives. He parts from the idea that symbols as elements of our life-world allow us to communicate everyday transcendent experiences. They allow us to mutually and collectively experience religious and aesthetic ideas, political ideologies, scientific thoughts, etc. They make it possible to share with othersthe variety of the multiple realities we live in. Furthermore and specifically important for the social sciences, the functioning of symbols is the basis for establishing constructed social entities such as society, community (the nation), social groups, or personal relationships such as love, friendship, etc. On the other hand, symbols are also struggled for as demonstrated by terrorism which focuses on targets with a strong symbolic relevance such as the World Trade Center. The strong impact of the Schutzian concept of symbol becomes recognizable in the modern sociology of knowledge (Berger/Luckmann), ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, social scientific hermeneutics, and as well in the reception theory of the literary sciences.

For its third conference The International Alfred Schutz Circle for Phenomenology and Interpretive Social Science calls for papers with a focus on “The Symbolic Construction of Reality.” Both empirical and theoretical papers will be acceptable. Different kinds of academic perspectives from the social sciences, philosophy, history, art theory, etc., are in the same way welcome as concrete analyses of symbolic forms. Inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives are also encouraged as well as critical approaches. Besides the general focus on “The Symbolic Construction of Reality,” there will be sessions in addition that are principally open to other topics within the Schutzian paradigm. Paper proposals are not necessarily bound to the main topic of the conference. Session proposals are also welcome.


Call for Papers



Local Organizer:       Hisashi Nasu, Waseda University (Tokyo)

Organizers / Executive Committee: Jochen Dreher (Chair), Michael D. Barber, Hermílio Santos, Andreas Göttlich   
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