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Political Forms Reading Group: The Politics of Pity

Wednesday 26 January 2022, 5.00PM to 6.00pm

During this meeting, we will discuss the political frameworks of pity, spectatorship and compassion that govern contemporary representations of suffering. We will read three chapters from Luc Boltanski’s book Distant Suffering: Morality, Media, and Politics (1999): ‘The politics of pity’, ‘Taking sides’, and ‘The moral spectator.’ We will consider Boltanski’s articulation of pity as a relationship which implements distance between the spectator and the suffering person, rather than fostering effective action and solidarity, and we will discuss how pity operates in current literary and political contexts to curtail compassionate and caring responses to suffering.

If you are interested in critical theory and political philosophy, the political dimensions of art and literature, or interdisciplinary reflections on politics, please do join us. The group aims to connect researchers working across different disciplines once a month to discuss readings in an informal and friendly atmosphere. 

For more information and access to these readings please contact Rebecca Bevington ( or Wiktoria Tunska (

Contact for access details.

Location: Zoom