Call for papers:  Suffering in Contemporary Society

Full paper deadline: July 1, 2020.

As human beings, we suffer. Suffering, in its myriad of forms, pervades our entire lives. In this sense, suffering unites; “… unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim.” (Schopenhauer, 1981, p. 45). Everyone suffers. We’re all in this together. On the other hand, we are not. There are vital aspects of ‘unshareability’ at the existential core of suffering that makes it my “ownmost” (Heidegger, 1927). Løgstrup (1956) describes the unshareable othernessof the Other as a “blessed loneliness” (p. 149), arguing that it is through this unshareability that the need to attest our inner experiences and articulate these through language or actions emerges. It is thus the unshareability of suffering that creates the active need to connect with others through an attempt to share. Further, cultural, socio-economic and religious aspects of suffering necessarily make it an historical phenomenon that emerges in particular ways and which must be handled in particular ways depending on the nature of suffering and the practices that emerge to deal with it. 

In this special issue, we wish to investigate contemporary forms of suffering in an interdisciplinary attempt to unite “the community of those who have nothing in common” (Lingis, 1994) other than, perhaps, suffering. We encourage scholars from all disciplines that are doing work related to suffering to contribute to this special issue on a topic that simultaneously unites and divides us all. The twentieth century (in Isiah Berlin’s words “the most terrible century in human history”) witnessed previously unseen forms of organized human cruelty and the wounds of Holocaust remain open. The twenty-first century is so far marked by climate change, refugee crisis and terrorism on a global scale - leaving none of us unaffected. Our health care systems, schools and workplaces are imprinted with various type of problems that cannot be distinguished from broader “social pathologies”. Stress- and depression rates are constantly increasing and so it seems we are still suffering on a number of levels. 

Our time is often described as excluding negativity in various forms and because of this, we have lost a ”language of suffering” (Brinkmann, 2014). Previously authorized moral, existential and religious frameworks for understanding and conceptualizing suffering have been replaced by biomedical and diagnostic discourses. Even though coming to terms with this ‘temporal aporia’ (Ricoeur, 1995) is an impossible endeavor, we would - in line with the spirit ofQualitative Studies - like to encourage contributions from both humanistic, social science and health sciences that take the task seriously to formulate responses to various forms of suffering outside of symptom-based and casual categories. We are looking for papers that address, but are not necessarily limited to, the following topics and questions:

Suffering and culture: In the wake of both Marx, Freud, Weber and Becker who all point to a dialectical relationship between suffering and culture as such: what can suffering tell us about contemporary society?

Existential and cultural aspect of suffering: How are the existential universals of death, griefand the like socioculturally mediated and represented?

The normativity of suffering:To what extent should one be against suffering? Are there ways of suffering that are “good”?

Medicalization and Pathologization: What consequences do the increase in the medicalization of human conditions have for our understanding of suffering? 

Suffering and pain: They remain distinct but related. On a conceptual level: how are they related? On a practical/clinical level: how is does the experience, mediation, representation and expression of pain linger on contemporary society?

Workplace: How is the contemporary workplace a source of – or remedy for various forms of suffering? And what role does the work/home balance play here?

Child care and schools: What aspects of suffering are relevant in these domains?

Climate change: What new forms of suffering does climate change and the accelerated extinction of species and ecological systems give rise to?

Suffering and technology: What impact does social media and modern technologies have on our experience of and dealings with suffering? 

Non-human suffering: Do animals suffer? Trees? Things? Does a planet suffer? And in case so, what are the implications for ethics, politics and law? 

The role of academia: In which ways (if any) do or should research and academic publishing inform and nuance living with suffering?

Autoethnographic accounts of suffering


Instructions for authors:

For any questions, please contact the Editors: Alfred Bordado Sköld: or Peter Clement Lund:

  • Call for papers: Writing dialogues – dialogical writing



     Full paper deadline: September 1th 2018 

    For this special issue of Qualitative Studies, we invite discussions and explorations of the dialogical nature of writing. We encourage papers that explicitly address dialogical knowledge creation through writing and ways to make dialogical aspects visible in academic texts. We want to emphasize writing as a research activity in its own right, tightly entwined with reading, exploring, stating and sharing with others – that is, dialoguing. 

    In everyday life, dialogue usually means a conversation or verbal exchange between two or more persons. Dia- is a prefix meaning ‘through’ or ‘by’, and logos can mean word(s), discourse, talk, thought, reason, knowledge and theory (Linell, 2009). Therefore, dialogue has a broad range of possible meanings, all addressing the interactional, relational nature of exploring and getting to know something. Moreover, dialogue holds an aspect of semiotic mediation - that is, meaning-making activities in and through words, signs, symbols, concepts or body language (Linell, 2009). These mediations can be face-to-face or technology mediated, and they can be immediate, delayed or interwoven in time, space and modalities. While dialogue refers to these mundane social activities, it is also often used in a normative sense involving symmetry and cooperation as opposed to, for example, monologuing or arguing. 

    A text is, as a material artefact, a monologic format. However, its production and reception are dialogic. Moreover, dialogue within the actual text can be explicit and implicit in various ways. Hyland (2005) argues that all metadiscourse in writing is dialogical. Questions and commentary explicitly function to build a writer-reader relationship by anticipating readers’ mood and possible reaction to the text (p. 32), while more subtle markers, such and hedges and boosters, can function indirectly to get the reader on board or soften potential reservations.

    This call invites papers engaging with broad - empirical or abstract - notions of dialogue in or through writing. These could be: internal dialogue; dialogue between positions or ideas; ‘data as dialogue partner’ (Alvesson & Kärreman, 2011); engaging with interviewees’ response data in the text (Helin, 2014); co-writing as dialogue (Edwards & Fowler, 2007); analysing in dialogue with fiction (Wegener, 2014) or other modalities; explorations into the craft of writing through exchange of letters (Meier & Wegener, 2017) or emails (Wegener & Tanggaard, 2013). We also invite papers that explore and discuss ways in which dialogue can be crafted in writing, where qualitative researchers can find inspiration to do so (Narayan, 2007; 2012), as well as dialogical writing as an integrated part of the research process (Helin, 2016; Lorino et al., 2011). 

    Thus, in this issue we invite contributions that explore writing as dialogue and dialogue in writing as core activities in qualitative research. We are looking for papers that address, but are not necessarily limited to, the following topics relating to the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of dialogue in academic writing: 

     Reflections on the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of dialogue and their implications for the way we write qualitative research texts. 

     Strategies for dialogue in both co-authored and single-authored texts. 

     Experiences, experiments and explorations into written dialogue or dialogical writing. 

     Dialogue as a writing methodology – implications, strengths and weaknesses of dialogue as a means of knowledge creation or knowledge dissemination. 

     Designs and methods that invite dialogical perspectives on a phenomenon or concept. 

     Accounts of empirical studies that explicitly used dialogical writing as a means of knowledge creation, analysis and representation. 

     Dialogues between researcher stances, voices, writer personas or other characters in the text. 

     Explorations of the relationship between language, dialogue and understanding in/through writing. 

     Implicit and explicit dialoguing in writing. 

     The limits of dialogue in writing - when dialogue breaks down, doesn’t do the job or simply obscures things. 


    Alvesson, M., & Kärreman, D. (2011). Qualitative Research and Theory Development. Mystery as Method. Los Angeles: Sage. 

    Edwards, R., & Fowler, Z. (2007). Unsettling boundaries in making a space for research. British Educational Research Journal, 33(1), 107–123. 

    Helin, J. (2014). Writing Process After Reading Bakhtin From Theorized Plots to Unfinalizable “Living” Events. Journal of Management Inquiry, ahead-of-p

    Helin, J. (2016). Dialogical writing: Co-inquiring between the written and the spoken word. Culture and Organization

    Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse: Exploring Interaction in Writing. London: Continuum. 

    Linell, P. (2009). Rethinking Language, Mind, and World Dialogically. Interactional and Contextual Theories of Human Sense-Making. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc. 

    Lorino, P., Tricard, B., & Clot, Y. (2011) Research Methods for Non-Representational Approaches to Organizational Complexity: The Dialogical Mediated Inquiry. Organization Studies. Volume: 32 issue: 6, page(s): 769-801 

    Meier, N., & Wegener, C. (2017). Writing With Resonance. Journal of Management Inquiry, 26(2), 193–201. 

    Narayan, K. (2007). Tools to shape texts: what creative nonfiction can offer ethnography. Anthropology and Humanism, 32(2), 130–144. 

    Narayan, K. (2012). Alive in the Writing. Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 

    Wegener, C. (2014). Writing with Phineas. How a fictional character from A. S. Byatt helped me turn my ethnographic data into a research text. Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, 14(4), 351–360. 

    Wegener, C., & Tanggaard, L. (2013). Supervisor and Student Co-Writing: An Apprenticeship Perspective. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(3).

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