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The 1st International Conference on Aporophobia Lays the Groundwork for a United Front to End the Rejection of the Poor

Chair of Ethics Events 10 November 2023

Adela Cortina, a tenured professor of Ethics at the University of Valencia, participated in the 1st International Conference on Aporophobia, the first ever conference on aporophobia held at IQS – URL on 30 and 31 October.

Aporophobia is a newly-coined term that defines a reality that had not been named until recently: rejection, aversion, fear, and disdain of poor people. This relatively recent concept – in Spain it entered the RAE dictionary in 2017 – was coined and driven by the philosopher Adela Cortina in 1995. Cortina, a tenured professor of Ethics at the University of Valencia, participated in the 1st International Conference on Aporophobia, the first ever conference on aporophobia held at IQS – URL on 30 and 31 October. During the event, she highlighted education as a key to end the rejection of the poor, stating “we are all aporophobic,” during the opening lecture at the conference. According to the expert, an international leader on the subject, our brains “have a dissociative tendency that naturally leads to marginalizing or pushing aside anything that is bothersome, uncomfortable, or not very pleasant.”

The good news, explained Dr Cortina, is that this is only a predisposition and it is not determining. This is the reason why she supports education to “appreciate the dignity and value of all human beings in themselves, not due to what they have or their wealth.” Because what happens when there are people who don’t have anything interesting to give in exchange? “Our duty is to uphold a culture of compassion, and compassion is the most committed form of empathy to help those who are suffering to get beyond their situation,” she stated.

The lecture by Dr Cortina opened the conference’s first session, which began with a welcome address and speech by Dr Josep A. Rom, rector of Ramon Llull University (URL), Fr. Enric Puig, president of the IQS Foundation, and Marc Simón, deputy director general of the ”la Caixa” Foundation. The three representatives expressed their thanks to the participants who made the conference possible, led by IQS-URL and jointly organized by the Pere Tarrés-URL Foundation, Cáritas, Assís, the Arrels Foundation, Christianity and Justice, the URL Borja Bioethics Institute, the Vidal i Barraquer-URL Foundation, ESADE-URL, ESDI-URL, the Blanquerna-URL Observatory, and La Salle-URL, in addition to collaboration from the ”la Caixa” Foundation.

During the inaugural conference, Cortina also reminded participants of the twofold objective of this first conference: to reflect on aporophobia around the world and to find solutions to combat it. She highlighted the opportunity this conference provided in terms of sharing and exploring various issues related to aporophobia from different perspectives and academic fields to “discover the roots of aporophobia, identify the different types of poverty beyond mere financial struggles, and how to end the scourge that represents an attack against people’s dignity.”

Other exceptional speakers at this conference included Dr Gustavo Pereira, tenured professor at the Universidad de la República (Uruguay). Pereira defined stigmatization as a “sort of sister that walks alongside aporophobia towards injustice and undermines dignity.” The expert said this entails two relationships of distorted recognition or disdain, which are distinguished by how they impact the identity of whoever is subject to them. In his speech, Pereira presented certain cognitive mechanisms that segment humanity and attribute characteristics that lead towards the rejection of the poor and also lead to understanding aporophobia and stigmatization as a pathology of the social sphere and the imagination: narcissism and disgust, strengthened by pressure from others and obedience to authority. Faced with this situation, the solution entails overcoming these phenomena to restore conditions of equality and reunite a divided world in such a way that “institutional measures are aimed at these objectives,” he explained.


Interdisciplinary and international

During the two days of the conference, many experts came to IQS from a wide variety of fields (philosophy, economics, sociology, political science, business, health, education, history, criminology, and more), who explained and shared knowledge, opinions, and various points of view on the subject.

In addition to the conference itself, the schedule for this first edition was rounded out by nine parallel sessions, two of which, entitled Aporophobia: Barcelona, Empirical Evidence on Poverty and Aporophobia I and II, were aimed at analysing the clear examples of the rejection of the poor in the city, the host to this first international conference. Other sessions focused on the fundamentals and the concept of aporophobia and relied on participation from experts such as Dr Flavio Comim, dean of the IQS School of Management and one of the biggest supporters of this first conference on aporophobia. Among other activities, the expert presented his lecture A theory of aporophobia, which entailed research into people’s motivations in terms of supporting discrimination against the poor and the main implications regarding welfare systems, taxation, and fiscal policies.

The first international conference on this topic also hosted various workshops, such as the one that brought together the Arrels Foundation, Assís, and Cáritas.


Manifesto against aporophobia

Within the next few days, a “Manifesto against aporophobia,” drafted by the main organizing institutions, will put the finishing touch on this 1st International Conference on Aporophobia, which has laid the groundwork to continue working together towards shedding light on and putting an end to the rejection of the poor. This is a real problem that affects the dignity of the most vulnerable people in society and makes their lives more difficult. Moreover, this problem stigmatizes those who suffer from poverty and aggravates other types of discrimination such as racial or sex discrimination.