Circulation & Empathy


This will be a brief overview of the theoretical framework of one of my dissertation chapters. Even in the information age, interactions with objects and their circulation remain at the centre of our lives, including in the public library’s circulation department. Benjamin was critical of the psychological process of empathy (Einfühlung) by which an individual identified with or even projected their own identity into an object—physical or intellectual. Such bad empathy, as I’ve chosen to call it, results in commodity fetishism, in the former case, or an uncritical historicism that legitimizes oppressive violence, in the latter. I will discuss four different types of empathy (true, bad, ambiguous, and neutral) and how the public library can undermine bad empathy with the exchange value of the library item as commodity.

Oct 2, 2020 11:07 AM — 11:14 AM
Greg Nightingale
Greg Nightingale
Faculty of Information & Media Studies, Western University

Greg Nightingale is a former public librarian and current PhD candidate whose dissertation applies Walter Benjamin’s critical theories to library as place research.