Publication details [#500]

Cameron, Lynne J. and Irene Bruna Seu. 2012. Landscapes of empathy: Spatial scenarios, metaphors and metonymies in responses to distant suffering. Text & Talk 32 (3) : 281–305. 25 pp.
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Article in journal
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The study concerns itself with re-analyzing focus group data on responses to human rights violations. The aim is to investigate how the immediate, direct experience of participants affects empathy with suffering others who are physically far away. Instances of metaphor, metonymy, narrative sequences and typifying scenarios were among the devices identified within the discourse. All of these devices appeared to be important in co-construction of moral reasoning through dialogue. Particularly important were scenarios, metaphors, and metonymies related to space and location. The participants’ embodied experience, especially face-to-face encounters with people begging in the street, stood for apparent threats to personal space. Spatial metaphors used systematically throughout the discourse helped to build a landscape empathy and understanding, and helped make the distance for empathy optimal, i.e. neither too close nor too remote. Confronted with the suffering of distant others in the prompt materials, the subjects of the study provided responses which reflected parallel reasoning on the symbolic landscape. The article also discusses implications for augmenting empathic understanding of distant others.