Dr. Claude Vishnu Spaak: Ethics of Tolerance: Phenomenological and Sociological Perspectives

Project summary

In the context of the closing of the Year of Tolerance in the UAE, this project seeks to explore new ways of construing and testing the concept of tolerance as a central ethical norm, instrumental to the shaping of multicultural societies in the midst of a globalized world, with a special emphasis on the particular sociological context in the UAE. There will be two stages to the research.
First, a theoretical approach aims at shaping a conceptual understanding of what tolerance is as an ethical notion, and what accounts for the development of tolerant attitudes. This phase relies on the phenomenological methodology (the Lead Investigator’s area of specialization in philosophy). This method is advocated by some of the leading figures of 20th century continental philosophy (Husserl, Scheler, Sartre, Levinas, Derrida). The aim here is to reach an understanding of the nature and limits of tolerant attitudes amongst subjects in society, based on the description of lived experiences and concrete mental processes (cognitive, emotional, evaluative) at work in the development of such attitudes.
In a second field-oriented phase, the project will use sociological tools and methods (qualitative and quantitative) in order to measure tolerant attitudes within various population groups in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The research will employ three undergraduate students. They are well prepared for fieldwork since they presented in 2019, at Abu Dhabi University’s 7th Undergraduate Research Competition, an excellent project on “Indexing tolerance”, based on a pilot study that they conducted at SUAD, which targeted students on campus with a questionnaire designed to quantify their receptivity to the values of tolerance. In this phase, the project will also rely on collaborative integration, with Dr. Maxim Jaffre (assistant professor, UAEU) as co-PI. Dr. Jaffre obtained a start-up research grant in 2019 (250000 AED) at UAEU on the project “Tolerance and Multiculturalism in the UAE”.
The general aim is to provide the UAE policy makers and public actors, especially the Ministry of Tolerance and Ministry of Education, with useful material on tolerance (conceptual and in terms of data collection). By making sense of how different populations in the UAE perceive tolerance and are able to develop tolerant attitudes, the research seeks to be instrumental to the promotion of respect between communities in the face of an ongoing economic and demographic growth in the UAE.

Project dates

2020 – ongoing




Abu Dhabi Young Investigator Award (AYIA-2019)