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UCLA Initiative to Study Hate hosts symposium exploring hatred in art

The UCLA Initiative to Study Hate hosted “The Uses of Hatred” symposium on Saturday in Royce Hall, which is pictured. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Amy Wong

April 2, 2024 5:33 p.m.

This post was updated April 2 at 8:33 p.m.

UCLA faculty shared the benefits of studying different forms of hate at a symposium hosted Saturday.

Sponsored by the UCLA Initiative to Study Hate, “The Uses of Hatred” symposium was held in Royce Hall and aimed to discuss humanities approaches to studying hate. The event included discussions from scholars around the world about Jane Austen, literary criticism, and dilapidation and delinquency in art.

David Russell, an associate professor of English who co-organized the event, said he was inspired to host it because of hatred’s importance to human history.

“Hatred has always been with us,” he said. “It’s a big human emotion, like love. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s a perpetual problem, but it’s been handled and made use of and expressed in different ways, and we could study those ways.”

The symposium aimed to explore rather than quantify hate, as some social scientists tend to, Russell said.

Sarah Kareem, the event’s other co-organizer, said she thought the symposium would be a good opportunity to demonstrate how the humanities can contribute to the discussion of hatred, especially since art and literature studies tend to focus on positive emotions such as love and admiration.

“It actually can be something that’s reassuring or inclusive when you talk about those other kinds of feelings that people can have in relationship to aesthetic objects,” she said. “I think everybody can relate to feeling bored or finding something difficult or challenging or not understanding it.”

Kareem, an associate professor of English, said hatred is difficult to define, adding that the term’s use today is often fueled by intolerance and the demonization of marginalized groups.

Hatred can also be a productive or freeing emotion when it is not something directed at a person or used without awareness of its impact, said Helen Deutsch, a professor of English and an attendee of the event.

Deutsch said hatred impacts everyone and is important for literary criticism. She added that the presentations on Austen’s work and hatred within literary criticism demonstrated how hatred is necessary but insufficiently explored in the literary imagination.

“It’s something that we all are motivated by, whether we want to admit it or not,” she said.

Wendy Anne Lee, an associate professor of English at New York University and a speaker at the event, presented Austen as providing a model for healthy hatred.

Donald Winnicott, a psychoanalytic thinker referenced by different speakers, provides a framework for what it means to hate well, Lee added.

“For Winnicott, hating well involves being able to acknowledge your hatred and to do this psychoanalytic work of organizing or distinguishing between the hatred that is coming from you … and hateful qualities of the other,” she said.

Lee said hatred is everywhere in the digital world, where it can be scaled and disseminated quickly, adding that a more thoughtful and patient processing of hatred is important to consider.

Winnicott makes the distinction between two types of destruction, with one type being critical and aimed at improvement while the other is antisocial, Kareem said.

Kareem said she hoped the event helped people understand hatred as being more than a negative emotion.

“The humanities are really the discipline that allows us to kind of explore those facets of what it means to be human and to have human experiences,” Kareem said. “This event is helping us draw people’s attention to these different manifestations of hatred that are not at odds with also pleasure and learning and discovery and other things that are beneficial for everyone.”

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