"The Ends of Liberal Listening: Pedagogies of Receptivity on a University Campus"

Professor Michael Lempert
Mon March 4th 2024, 3:30 - 5:00pm
Department of Anthropology
Building 50, Room 51A


What is at stake, ethically and politically, in whether and how we listen across differences? Online and off, and across the political spectrum, people debate whether canceling individuals curtails free speech and is bad for liberalism or whether such selective disengagement upholds liberal-democratic values by stopping harmful speech and amplifying marginalized voices. These debates overwhelmingly focus on expression, even as they enfold deep, often unexamined assumptions about reception--about when, how, and why to "listen." Drawing on a two-year, team-based ethnography on a university campus, I discuss efforts to teach students and staff how to listen well and examine what these reveal about contested notions of receptive harm and safety and how they compare with earlier episodes of liberal listening drawn from postwar America and second-wave feminism.


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