Julia Zaenker

Julia Zaenker

PhD fellow

Since September 2021 I have been a PhD-fellow at the Center for Subjectivity Research. I am employed in the ERC-Project "Who are We?"

Primary fields of research

  • I am interested in themes from "classical" phenomenology, broadly construed, and contemporary developments in phenomenology (critical phenomenology, 4E-approaches, applied phenomenology).
  • I am particularly interested in thinking about phenomena with normative import such as validity, categorical/predicative and practical judgment and responsibility.
  • To do so, I find it fruitful to explore the intersections of philosophy of language and phenomenology. For example, to understand the role of uptake in communicative encounters and its importance for social normativity.
  • I am convinced that taking up feminist approaches and promoting underrepresented themes in philosophy opens up the more interesting trajectories for research and helps to look beyond traditional boundaries and divides.

Current research

In my dissertation project, I investigate the interrelation of second-personal engagement and the emergence of collective and communal experiences. 

My starting point is a debate in early phenomenological writings on sociality. Most early 20th-century phenomenologists are advocates of a second-person turn. They argue that second-personal engagement, which involves reciprocity, uptake and communication, describes a particular subclass of experiences that works as an entry way to a shared social reality and is thus necessary for the emergence of “We-experiences”. Within this tradition, this view is contested by Heidegger. He claims that being-with-others, a basic affective “sense-of-us” grounded in social normativity, is a basic existential mode which cannot be explained in terms of reciprocity and second-person relations.

I want to show that this divide has been overemphasized in recent attempts to introduce these classical resources into the analytic debates on collective intentionality. The simple dichotomy Reciprocal I-You relation vs. Being-with-Others obscures relevant insights from what both sides call “phenomenology of communication” and fails to address the more interesting points that a phenomenological perspective could bring to contemporary discussions. What is actually distinctive about connecting to others in communication? To what extent is it helpful to distinguish a basic sense of sharing a common world and practical situations from genuinely participatory experiences of being-with-others?

To highlight this, I draw on feminist and critical-theoretical perspectives on the issue. Interestingly, phenomenological thinkers such as Arendt and Beauvoir and, more recently, Iris Marion Young and Nancy Bauer, have emphasized that the relation between “being-with-others” and situations of concrete address is much more ambiguous and might go beyond what the current debate in phenomenological social ontology can grasp. Rather than simply assuming that second-person relations entail a normatively demanding form of interpersonal understanding as mutual recognition, the more basic feature may be that of being and having a perspective in a practical situation. Rather than thinking about second-person encounters as either inherently harmonious or antagonistic experiences, the more basic experience may be that of not having control over the other’s perspective. This opens up the possibility to provide a more nuanced account of the normative structures that may arise from second-person encounters and to assess if these normative structures might always point beyond purely dyadic units.


Fall 2022

Seminar in BA-course "Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind" with Klemens Kappel, Søren Overgaard and Flippos Stamatiou

Lecture/Seminar in BA & Optional-course "Applied Phenomenology" with Dan Zahavi, Thomas Szanto, Mads Gram Hendriksen and Tristan Hedges

Spring 2022

Lecture/Seminar in MA-course "Philosophy of sociality: core concepts and contemporary challenges" with Felipe León, Patricia Meindl and Lucy Osler

Fall 2021

Lecture/Seminar in BA & Optional-course "Applied Phenomenology" with Dan Zahavi, Thomas Szanto, Mads Gram Henriksen, Patricia Meindl and Dominik Zelinsky

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