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Welcome to a conference on Literacy, empathy and social sustainability!

The conference will be held at Halmstad University, September 7–8, 2017.

Does fiction have any meaning for workplace behaviours? What role can fiction play in enhancing readers’ interpersonal competencies in social interaction?

At this conference we will be exploring the relationship between empathy and fiction, and the function of fiction in relation to real-world empathy and social sustainability.

The conference is open to scholars in nursing, literature, education and library science. It is also open to nurses, librarians, teachers and those working in the public center with an interest in the relationship between empathy and fiction.

Böcker och händer vid ett bord

What role can reading fiction play in social literacy? This conference is a health and humanities conference and networking event for the public service professions. Within nursing education and schools the reading of fiction is part of the curriculum but voices can be heard asking if it is really that necessary and how it is useful. Librarians deal with literature every day. A perspective that these three share is that fiction can be a bridge in helping us understand different experiences and cultures.

In public service we are supposed to be empathic. We are supposed to communicate in ways that make our students/clients/patients feel understood. Yet, even in health care where the need for empathy is made explicit in education and clinical practice, empathy itself, as an experience, is often left unexplored. This conference seeks to explore what it means to respond empathically to fiction and the relationship of that response to real-world empathy.

There is research that affirms that reading literature promotes understanding of different perspectives and the existence of a variety of often contradictory ways of experiencing and interpreting the world. There is research that concludes that reading literature promotes actual empathy in real life situations and there is research that looks at the social skills promoted by reading. There is research that looks at the role of narratives and reading in making sense of the world among different groups (e.g. young girls, young boys, refugees, LGBTs, patients). There is also, importantly, research that questions the relationship between the empathic responses produced in reading fiction and altruism. There is research on how the empathic response of readers is manipulated and on negative affect as part of the response to narrative. There is even research on the role negative affect can have post-reading, and studies that questions the general efficacy of post-reading seminars or discussion groups on fiction reading.

If social literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to successfully and deliberately mediate their world as not only individuals and family members, but also in their chosen profession, what role can reading literature play? Must the response engendered by narrative be positive? What is the role of discussions about literature and what discussions strategies are most useful for promoting not only personal enrichment and understanding of the other, but an understanding of the complexities of the empathic response?

Logos Region Halland and Halmstad University

Welcome to an exciting conference and an opportunity to both share your work and meet with international researchers in the field!


Early registration is open. Last day to register: September 4, 2017. Last day for payment: September 7, 2017. If you have practical questions, contact Register via the registration form below.

Registration fee:

  • SEK 476 excl VAT (public authority)
  • SEK 595 incl VAT (others)

If you are not a speaker and want to participate in the buffet lunches, the cost is:

  • SEK 156 excl VAT (public authority)
  • SEK 195 incl VAT (others)

If you are not a speaker and want to participate in the conference dinner on September 7, the cost is:

  • SEK 260 excl VAT (public authority)
  • SEK 325 incl VAT (others)

Payment information: bankgiro 5328-2414, Halmstad University

Write the following code: 980069 and your name in the message space (alt. to OCR).

For any questions regarding payment and bank information, please contact Susanne Ekstrand, phone 035-16 73 24,


September 4

Last day to register

The speakers:
Matthijs Bal (University of Lincoln)
Olivia Fialho (Utrecht University)
Allison Skerrett (University of Texas at Austin)
Frank Hakemulder (Utrecht University)
David Peplow (Sheffield Hallam University)
Anne Mangen & Karin Kukkonen (University of Stavanger)
Cecilia Pettersson (Göteborg University)
Maria Wennerström & Johan Wickström (Uppsala University)
Lotta Bergman (Malmö University)
Cecilia Björken-Nyberg (Halmstad University)
Anna Fåhraeus (Halmstad University)
Jonas Asklund (Halmstad University)
Elisabeth Skog (Halmstad Public Library)


  • Swedish Research Council
  • Region Halland
  • The Swedish Centre for Applied Cultural Analysis (SCACA)

Empathy room

You are welcome to visit our empathy coaches for a one-on-one conversation where you can explore a theme that is important to you in your life right now. A conversation that is based on empathic listening, open questions and a coaching approach that will help you find your own answers. You will also experience what it is like to be met with empathy and the role that empathy can play in a conversation.

Zencoaching is a coaching method that is based on empathy, compassion and connection; a connection to needs and strengths, mindfulness and the use of non-violent communication.

Roger Marklund and Kavina Thorslund are experienced coaches and teachers of Zencoaching. Their work is characterized by warmth, clarity and authenticity.

Contact details:
Roger Marklund,

Kavina Thorslund,

Updated 2017-09-04