Call for Papers: Special Issue on Phenomenology and Virtuality

Call for papers:

Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Special issue : Phenomenology and Virtuality

Edited by Gregory Swer and Jean du Toit


Our age is typified by technology (Kroes & Meijers, 2016: 12), but it is the question of the virtual that has particularly come to the forefront after the turn of the century. The contemporary era of emergent digital technologies has seen the multiplication of virtual spaces – our civilizations are indeed steeped in the virtual – which has resulted in complex changes to the dimensions of our existence and experience. While thinkers such as Baudrillard (in Simulacra and Simulation (1981)) emphasize a dichotomous relationship between reality and virtual reality, the enmeshed character of modern individuals within emergent virtual spaces may call into question the continuing relevance of such oppositions.

The term virtuality (a conflation of the words reality and virtual) may present a challenge to dichotomous views on reality and the virtual. Virtuality does not merely refer to virtual reality, but rather – in a broader sense – circumscribes the many virtual spaces that arise from modern digital technologies within the life-world of the individual. Virtuality denotes not merely those ‘obvious’ virtual spaces that one engages with via so-called VR headsets and goggles, but rather the multitudinous forms of the virtual that already find their occurrence through social media networking sites and data transfer technologies, through instant communication (words spoken or written by one person and sent to another), through cell phones and TV screens, through advertising (targeted or otherwise), and by means of geographical guidance via GPS systems. The modern individual is immersed within virtuality, and we are living in a world of technological appearances wherein making sense of virtuality is becoming increasingly pressing.

A danger of the technological expansion of the virtual, especially as the virtual heads inexorably towards omnipresence, is that everything seems to fall apart into mere appearances.  Robert Sokolowski formulates the problem of appearances in our technological era in terms of three phenomenological themes: 1) parts and wholes, 2) identity in manifolds, and 3) presence and absence. He argues that we are “flooded by fragments without any wholes, by manifolds bereft of identities, and by multiple absences without any enduring real presence. We have bricolage and nothing else, and we think we can even invent ourselves at random by assembling convenient and pleasing but transient identities out of the bits and pieces we find around us. We pick up fragments to shore against our ruin” (Sokolowski, 2000: 3-4). Sokolowski suggests that, in our engagement with the virtual, we are caught up in a crisis of appearances. However, are other avenues open to us?

If phenomenology allows one to “return to the things themselves” (Husserl, 2001: 168), to “describe the basic structures of human experience and understanding from a first person perspective” (Carman, 2002: viii), then the individual’s encounter with virtuality is a problem that phenomenology is particularly suited to address. It is the aim of this special issue to promote interest in the emerging field of the phenomenology of virtuality, and insights from a wide variety of phenomenological perspectives (and multi-disciplinary viewpoints in conversation with phenomenology) are welcomed in addressing this topic.

Topics of discussion could include (but are not limited to) the following:

-          What is the relation between virtuality and phenomenology? In what ways may traditional phenomenological thought be re-deployed to gain insight into virtuality?

-          What is the relation / differences between non-virtual and virtual being? Is it possible to distinguish reality from virtuality?

-          How is selfhood constituted in virtuality? What does inter-subjectivity look like in this regard?

-          How are the notions of gender and race constituted in virtuality?

-          What is the relation / lack of relation between cognitive science and phenomenological interpretations of virtuality?

-          What is the relation between virtuality and the imaginary?


The contributors must submit their papers before 24 August 2020, with expected publication of papers towards the end of the year.

Link to online CFP: HTTPS://BIT.LY/2NGPWCX

Please send articles to:

Gregory Swer (editor of the journal): Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jean du Toit (guest editor of the special issue): Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Former SASA president elected to ISA executive

Prof Grace Khunou (UJ) was elected to the Executive Committee (National Associations) of the International Sociological Association at the recent ISA conference held in Toronto, Canada.

New SASA council elected

The SASA council for the period 2019 - 2020 was elected at the Annual General Meeting: 

The executive for this period is 
President: Trevor Ngwane
Vice President: Chinwe Obuaku-Igwe
Treasurer: Letitia Smuts
Secretary: Aisha Lorgat


SASA Statement Condemning the Repression of Scholars

The South African Sociological Association (SASA) wishes to add its voice to the chorus of condemnation of the recent spate of repression of scholars witnessed around the world.  We express our solidarity with those students and academics who have been victims of imprisonment and violence or otherwise face prosecution, dismissal, and harassment.


In 2015, academics in various countries have received death threats and been assassinated while studying social movements, most notably in Columbia. Since early 2016, three chilling examples bear witness to the escalation of academic repression.  More than 1200 scholars in Turkey signed a petition for “Academics for Peace” which opposed the government’s decision to pursue a war against the Kurds. For this act only, they were targeted, in many instances investigated, and others were arrested.  In India, at Hyderabad University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, non-violent protests against the death penalty led to a major government clampdown. In Egypt, a young scholar named Giulio Regeni disappeared and was found tortured and killed while conducting doctoral research into independent trade unions in the city of Cairo. This comes in the context of the disappearance, torture and murder of hundreds of Egyptian students and academics since the military coup of 2013.


In Ethiopia, in November 2015 a demonstration by pupils and high school students against land grabbing in solidarity with farmers was brutally repressed with live ammunition triggering nationwide protests. Since then, food boycotts, sit-ins and silent marches have been held throughout the country including in universities such as Addis Ababa University, Haramaya University and Ambo University against the repression and for broader political rights. These peaceful protests have been met with the use of live ammunition, summary executions, enforced disappearances, rape and mass arrests leaving over 400 dead, thousands injured and tens of thousands behind bars including students, teachers and academics. 


As we join fellow sociologists and scholars worldwide in unequivocally denouncing the stifling of dissent and free expression in academia, SASA repudiates not only these overt and vile attacks on critical thinking, we equally rise up in outrage over the systemic exclusion and continued discrimination against vulnerable groups in higher education.

We subscribe to the view that academic freedoms are a key indicator of the overall status of political freedom and democracy. No government, however, democratic or otherwise, should impose restrictions on the autonomy of scholars as innovative thought can only flourish when ideas can be exchanged and debated free from government repression.


In South Africa, following unprecedented and peaceful student occupations of universities across the country in late 2015, hundreds of students and university workers and academic staff were arrested by the police. The freedom of movement and the right to assemble has since been trampled upon by new management policies and private security which both prevent the legitimate right to protest. Our history in South Africa has taught us all too well the imperative of academic freedom in the context of authoritarian rule. The politically motivated suppression of dissenting opinion and academic expression under apartheid necessitated a form of direct institutional collusion and repression on the part of universities to prevent academics from stepping out of line and we feel this increasingly creeping into our campuses after 22 years of democracy in South Africa. But our history also taught us that intellectual freedom without social accountability can render us mere islands of privilege, to echo Mahmood Mamdani’s words.


Therefore, in reiterating our solidarity and support to the struggles of students and teachers under attack in Turkey, India and elsewhere, as sociologists and social scientists we endorse the global call to continue working and mobilising our skills towards producing a better understanding of our world in order to ultimately make it more just and equal.