People - 01.08.2023 - 09:00
Prof. Dr. Abbt completed her degree course in German Studies, Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Zurich. Subsequently, she became a research assistant in Applied Ethics and Medical Ethics at the University of Basel and a Fellow of the Collegium Helveticum of ETH Zurich. In Zurich, she completed a second Master’s degree in Applied Ethics and obtained a teaching diploma in Higher Secondary Education for the subjects Philosophy and German. In 2005 she completed her Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Zurich with the doctoral thesis: “Wortverlassen. Die literarische Darstellung von Sprachlosigkeit als Herausforderung für die philosophische Ethik”. (Without Words. The Literary Portrayal of Speechlessness as a Challenge for Philosophical Ethics.) From 2006 until 2010, she was a research assistant in Political Philosophy at the University of Zurich, where until 2014, she also headed up the executive education programme of the Philosophy department.
In 2016, she obtained her habilitation with the book “Ich vergesse. Zum Verhältnis von Denken und Vergessen aus philosophischer Perspektive” (I Forget. On the Relationship between Thinking and Forgetting from a Philosophical Perspective) at the University of Zurich and obtained the Venia Legendi in Philosophy. In 2014, she successfully applied for a professorship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (today: SNSF Eccellenza) with the research project “Fremd- und Vieltuerei/Allotrio- und Polypragmosyne. Zur Bedeutung von Formen der Nicht-Identität für die Demokratie” (Allotrio- and Polypragmosyne. On the Significance of Forms of Non-identity for Democracy), which she completed between 2015 and 2019 with a team at the University of Lucerne. In 2019 she was offered an appointment in Austria. From 2020 until the summer 2023 she was a Full Professor at the University of Graz and Head of the Political Philosophy section. During her academic career, she has received various awards, which led her to prestigious international research institutions, including the School of Theory and Criticism at Cornell University, the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, the Swiss Institute in Rome, the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna and the “Normative Orders” Cluster of Excellence at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.
Democratic theory, cultural philosophy, political aesthetics and memory theory are the thematic focuses of Prof. Dr. Abbt’s research. European Antiquity, the Enlightenment, 1968 and the present form the historical context of her research. The philosophy of forgetting set forth in her habilitation thesis highlights the intricate interrelation between thinking and forgetting. The results of her research have been widely received in the international research community and contributed to a rehabilitation of the forms of forgetting in the context of memory theory and a redefinition of memory studies.
She is an expert in radical understandings of democracy and explores approaches from social philosophy, deconstruction and critical theory. Drawing on examinations of democratic self-image in ancient Greece, she argues for a transformative understanding of freedom and against an exclusive understanding of the term demos. In Lucerne, Prof. Dr. Abbt researched the term polypragmosyne (meddlesomeness) and the democratic concept of identity expressed within it.
Prof. Dr. Abbt is currently undertaking two research projects: The first project is aimed at presenting an alternative theory of democracy, which explains why democratic systems and a transformative understanding of freedom are closely interrelated and the social and political consequences that result from this.
The second project has a politico-aesthetic focus. Here, she is examining the anti-democratic critique of experiences of imitation in the history of political philosophy since the Enlightenment. Anti-democratic positions underscore the determinate nature of people and relationships. Where freedom is rejected as transformative, there often leads to a decided reservation towards practices that make freedom of action or thought palpable. Starting from a historical perspective, there follows a systematic inquiry into the political impact of social imitation and experimental role-play.
Prof. Dr. Abbt is involved in various inter- and transdisciplinary research collaborations, in particular with researchers from law and political science, as well as cultural and literary studies. These collaborations explore a range of topics, including questions of political plurality, metaphors of membership within philosophical arguments on migration, and neutrality as a scientific and political concept.
Prof. Dr. Abbt has extensive teaching experience going back many years. Her overarching goal is cultivating differentiated, creative, free, and critical thinking in students. Through the joint examination of texts and positions, students hone their recognition of contradictions and baseless assertions, discover the joy of insight, of changing their perspective and of self-reflection, embarking on an in-depth search for robust arguments for and against their own points of view.
Prof. Dr. Christine Abbt succeeds Prof. Dr. Dieter Thomä.
Image: Sabina Bobst