Ditte Marie Munch-Jurisic

Ditte Marie Munch-Jurisic

Part-time lecturer

Current research

I am a philosopher specialized in the field of emotions and negative affect with a particular focus on the implications for majority-minority relations. My work on these questions proceeds from the perspective of practical philosophy, informed by the latest developments in the affective and social sciences, rooted in and substantiated by empirical evidence. In a range of different domains and social contexts, my research interrogates the social, moral, and political significance of aversive gut feelings like disgust and discomfort:

 

Moral injury

I am currently dividing my time between University of Copenhagen, where I teach several elective courses, and Emory University where I am a postdoctoral fellow researching the emotional dimensions of the phenomenon of moral injury in a project led by Professor and Vice Provost Christa Acampora. In contemporary military psychology and an increasing number of other settings (pastoral, social service, and medical work), the concept of moral injury is being introduced to describe the emotional turmoil that agents experience when they have transgressed their own deeply held moral beliefs or expectations. The various projects underway in our research team examine moral injury in contexts of war, the ongoing refugee crisis, the global pandemic, and the context of institutionalized and systemic racism.

 

Disgust, soldiers, war crimes and genocide

In my forthcoming book, Perpetrator Disgust: The Moral Limits of Gut Feelings (Oxford University Press, 2022)—I show that the phenomenon of perpetrator disgust provides a uniquely insightful perspective by which to interpret the phenomenology of emotional responses. Across time and cultures, some soldiers exhibit signs of distress while committing atrocities. They experience nausea, convulse, and vomit. Do such bodily responses reflect a moral judgment, a deep-seated injunction against atrocity? What conclusions can we draw about the relationship of our gut feelings to human nature and moral frameworks?

Drawing on a broad range of historical examples as well as the latest scholarship from the philosophical and scientific study of emotions, the book explores the relationship of cognition and emotion through the lens of perpetrator disgust. The book proposes a contextual understanding of emotions, by which an agent’s environment shapes their available hermeneutic equipment—concepts, categories, and names that individuals rely on to make sense of their emotions and navigate the world. The peer reviewers for the book—Dan Kelly and Alexandra Plakias, two leading experts in the field—praised the work as a “great and important project”, offering “detailed and nuanced discussion” with “excellent critiques of prevailing views”, and would recommend it “to anyone interested in emotions”.

 

Discomfort, bias and discrimination

While this study of perpetrators presents a novel, disturbing lens to examine certain popular assumptions about human nature and the moral value of emotions and gut feelings, I have in recent years also applied the contextual view of emotions to more conventional settings. Discomfort has received increasing scholarly attention for its potential to shake up the social status quo. What are the possibilities, limits, and implications of such arguments? And how do we distinguish between distress, a state that is potentially harmful for our health, and discomfort that may be worthwhile to endure?

As a Carlsberg postdoctoral fellow at Philosophy and Science Studies, Roskilde University, and recently at the new Center for Experimental Philosophical Studies of Discrimination, Aarhus University, I have explored how to account for the discomfort that arises from biases (“interaction discomfort”) and the conversations we have about them (“awareness discomfort”). I have both (i) scrutinized the increasingly popular claim that there is inherent moral potential in the feeling of discomfort (“The Right to Feel Comfortable: Implicit Bias and the Moral Potential of Discomfort”, Munch-Jurisic, 2020a), and (ii) argued for the need to actively and consciously go against our inclination to favor the most comfortable social environments (“Against comfort: political implications of evading discomfort,” Munch-Jurisic 2020b).

 

Anxiety, distress and conceptual deprivation

In all of these different domains, a central finding stands out. Agents make sense of their emotional states using conceptual tools they have absorbed from the social world around them, from mental short-cuts like cognitive biases, embodied scripts, and more deliberate reflection. The content of these hermeneutic tools shapes the way that agents come to understand their emotions and the motivations they draw from them. To grapple more thoroughly with this finding and to question some of my own hopeful assumptions, my most recent article  interrogates the individualist perspective through which affective states like distress and anxiety are typically understood ("Lost for words: Anxiety, well-being, and the costs of conceptual deprivation" Munch-Jurisic 2021). An agent’s inability to constructively interpret their affective states may be detrimental to their wellbeing and mental health. But the broader political, cultural, and socio-economic context shapes the kinds of stressors that agents are exposed to and also delineates the hermeneutic equipment they have available to interpret their stress. To understand and grapple with this problem of conceptual deprivation, philosophical theories on wellbeing and anxiety need to move beyond individualist perspectives

 

Please consult my website for my updated research profile

Teaching

I teach the courses "The Politics of Disgust: From Aversion til Dehumanization", "Theories in Minority research", "Normality and Deviation" and academic writing for students at University of Copenhagen.

Selected publications

  1. Published

    Lost for words: anxiety, well-being, and the costs of conceptual deprivation

    Munch-Jurisic, Ditte Marie, 2021, In: Synthese. 199, p. 13583–13600

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  2. Published

    Against comfort: Political implications of evading discomfort

    Munch-Jurisic, Ditte Marie, 1 May 2020, In: Global Discourse: An interdisciplinary journal of current affairs. 2020, 2-3, p. 277-297 21 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  3. Published

    The Right to Feel Comfortable: Implicit Bias and the Moral Potential of Discomfort

    Munch-Jurisic, Ditte Marie, Jan 2020, In: Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. 23, p. 237–250 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  4. Published

    Perpetrator Disgust: A Morally Destructive Emotion

    Munch-Jurisic, Ditte Marie, 2018

    Research output: Other contributionResearch

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