In analyzing oppressive systems like racism, social theorists have articulated accounts of the dynamic interaction and mutual dependence between psychological components, such as individuals’ patterns of thought and action, and social components, such as formal institutions and informal interactions. We argue for the further inclusion of physical components, such as material artifacts and spatial environments. Drawing on socially situated and ecologically embedded approaches in the cognitive sciences, we argue that physical components of racism are not only shaped by, but also (...) shape psychological and social components of racism. Indeed, while our initial focus is on racism and racist things, we contend that our framework is also applicable to other oppressive systems, including sexism, classism, and ableism. This is because racist things are part of a broader class of oppressive things, which are material artifacts and spatial environments that are in congruence with an oppressive system. (shrink)
Analyzing Oppression asks: why is oppression often sustained over many generations? The book explains how oppression coercively co-opts the oppressed to join their own oppression and argues that all persons have a moral responsibility to resist it. It finally explores the possibility of freedom in a world actively opposing oppression.
I here present two different models of oppressive speech. My interest is not in how speech can cause oppression, but in how speech can actually be an act of oppression. As we shall see, a particular type of speech act, the exercitive, enacts permissibility facts. Since oppressive speech enacts permissibility facts that oppress, speech must be exercitive in order for it to be an act of oppression. In what follows, I distinguish between two sorts of exercitive speech (...) acts (the standard exercitive and the covert exercitive) and I argue that each such exercitive affords a distinct model of oppressive speech. (shrink)
The dominant view in the philosophical literature contends that internalized oppression, especially that experienced in virtue of one's womanhood, reduces one's sense of agency. Here, I extend these arguments and suggest a more nuanced account. In particular, I argue that internalized oppression can cause a person to conceive of herself as a deviant agent as well as a reduced one. This self-conception is also damaging to one's moral identity and creates challenges that are not captured by merely analyzing (...) a reduced sense of agency. To help illustrate this claim, I consider experiences of people of color who internalize stereotypes regarding criminality and moral deviance. With these examples in mind, I show that internalized prejudices regarding criminality can cause people of color to view themselves as outlaws in the moral community, that is, as wrongdoers. This conclusion helps give voice to some of the challenges that women of color who experience multiple sorts of internalized prejudices often face. To conclude, I discuss one strategy for empowerment that women of color have used when confronted with multiple forms of internalized oppression. (shrink)
This paper aims to understand the relationship between ignorance and vulnerability by drawing on recent work on the epistemology of ignorance. After elaborating how we might understand the importance of human vulnerability, I develop the claim that ignorance of vulnerability is produced through the pursuit of an ideal of invulnerability that involves both ethical and epistemological closure. The ignorance of vulnerability that is a prerequisite for such invulnerability is, I contend, a pervasive form of ignorance that underlies and grounds other (...) oppressive forms of ignorance. Thus, undoing such forms of ignorance requires working toward a particular form of vulnerability: epistemic vulnerability. (shrink)
Combating homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and violence in our society requires more than just focusing on the overt acts of prejudiced and abusive individuals. The very intelligibility of such acts, in fact, depends upon a background of shared beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that together form the context of social practices in which these acts come to have the meaning they do. This book, inspired by Wittgenstein as well as feminist and critical race theory, shines a critical (...) light on this background in order to show that we all share more responsibility for the persistence of oppressive social practices than we commonly suppose—or than traditional moral theories that connect responsibility just with the actions, rights, and liberties of individuals would lead us to believe. First sketching a nonessentialist view of rationality, and emphasizing the role of power relations, Peg O’Connor then examines in subsequent chapters the relationship between a variety of "foreground" actions and "background" practices: burnings of African American churches, hate speech, child sexual abuse, coming out as a gay or lesbian teenager, and racial integration of public and private spaces. These examples serve to illuminate when our "language games" reinforce oppression and when they allow possibilities for resistance. Attending to the background, O’Connor argues, can give us insight into ways of transforming the nature and meaning of foreground actions. (shrink)
Marilyn Frye's first book, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory, presents nine philosophical lectures: four on women's subordination, four on resistance and rebellion, one on revolution. Its approach combines a lesbian perspective with analytical philosophy of language. The major contributions of the book are its analysis of oppression, highly suggestive discussions of the roles of attention in knowledge and ignorance and in arrogance and love, a defense of political separatism not based on female supremacism, and a development (...) of the idea of lesbian epistemology. Its proposal for resisting White racism will be controversial. Its treatment of gay rights is not balanced by an acknowledgement that drag queens, like "totaled women," are products of oppression, not simply of intolerance. The most philosophically problematic aspect of the book is its analysis of coercion and of the roles of coercion in women's subordination. This creates an unresolved tension with the positive message of the second half of the book. Despite this difficulty, these essays are an outstanding contribution to contemporary feminist theory. (shrink)
_Oppression and Liberty_ is one of Simone Weil's most important books on political theory.Here she discusses political and social oppression, its permanent causes, the way it works and its contemporary forms. Simone Weil's writings on oppression and liberty continue to be as valid and thought-provoking today as they were in her lifetime.
In this paper I argue that, in addition to having an obligation to resist the oppression of others, people have an obligation to themselves to resist their own oppression. This obligation to oneself, I argue, is grounded in a Kantian duty of self-respect.
In this paper, I present an outline of the oppression account of cultural appropriation and argue that it offers the best explanation for the wrongfulness of the varied and complex cases of appropriation to which people often object. I then compare the oppression account with the intimacy account defended by C. Thi Nguyen and Matt Strohl. Though I believe that Nguyen and Strohl’s account offers important insight into an essential dimension of the cultural appropriation debate, I argue that (...) justified objections to cultural appropriation must ultimately be grounded in considerations of oppression as opposed to group intimacy. I present three primary objections to the intimacy account. First, I suggest that in its effort to explain expressive appropriation claims (those that purportedly lack an independent ground), the intimacy account doubles down on the boundary problem. Second, I question whether group intimacy possess the kind of bare normativity that Nguyen and Strohl claim for it. Finally, I argue that these objections give us reason to accept the importance of group intimacy to the cultural appropriation debate, but question the source of its significance as identified by Nguyen and Strohl. (shrink)
This paper develops a notion of manipulative gaslighting, which is designed to capture something not captured by epistemic gaslighting, namely the intent to undermine women by denying their testimony about harms done to them by men. Manipulative gaslighting, I propose, consists in getting someone to doubt her testimony by challenging its credibility using two tactics: “sidestepping” and “displacing”. I explain how manipulative gaslighting is distinct from reasonable disagreement, with which it is sometimes confused. I also argue for three further claims: (...) that manipulative gaslighting is a method of enacting misogyny, that it is often a collective phenomenon, and, as collective, qualifies as a mode of psychological oppression. (shrink)
This article offers an argument of genocide denial as an injustice perpetrated not only against direct victims and survivors of genocide, but also against future members of the victim group. In particular, I argue that in cases of persistent and systematic denial, i.e. denialism, it perpetrates an epistemic injustice against them: testimonial oppression. First, I offer an account of testimonial oppression and introduce Kristie Dotson’s notion of testimonial smothering as one form of testimonial oppression, a mechanism of (...) coerced silencing particularly pertinent to genocide denialism. Secondly, I turn to the epistemology of genocide denialism and, using the example of Turkey’s denialism of the Armenian genocide, show how it presents what Linda Martín Alcoff calls a substantive practice of ignorance. Thirdly, I apply these considerations to individual practices of genocide denial and analyse the particular characteristics of testimony on genocide, the speaker vulnerabilities involved and the conditions under which hearers will reliably fail to meet the dependencies of a speaker testifying to genocide. Finally, I explore the harms that testimonial oppression perpetrates on members of the victim group, insofar as it systematically deprives them of epistemic recognition. (shrink)
Property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, does not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if there be wanting the correlative — the wage-worker, the other man who is compelled to sell himself of his own free-will.
Standard accounts of shame characterize shame as an emotion of global negative self-assessment, in which an individual necessarily accepts or assents to a global negative self-evaluation. According to non-standard accounts of shame, experiences of shame need not involve a global negative self-assessment. I argue here in favor of non-standard accounts of shame over standard accounts. First, I begin with a detailed discussion of standard accounts of shame, focusing primarily on Gabriele Taylor’s (1985) standard account. Second, I illustrate how Adrian Piper’s (...) ( 1996) experience of groundless shame can be portrayed as 1) both a rational and an irrational experience of shame, in accordance with Taylor’s account as a paradigm model of standard accounts of shame, and 2) as a rational experience of shame when taken in its own right as a legitimate, rational account of shame. Third, without denying that some experiences of shame either are or can be irrational experiences of shame, I elucidate how standard accounts of shame can act as mechanisms of epistemic injustice, and in doing so can transmute the righteous indignation of the marginalized by recasting them as shameful experiences (i.e., by recasting them as experiences of the righteous shame of the marginalized). -/- (This chapter was previously published in Hypatia, forthcoming, under the title "Rationality through the Eyes of Shame: Oppression and Liberation via Emotion"). (shrink)
This essay discusses a cluster of problems for feminist theory and practice which concern responsibility and choice under conditions of oppression. I characterize four major perspectives from which situations of oppression or victimization can be seen and questions about choice and responsibility answered: The Perspective of the Oppressor; The Perspective of the Victim; The Perspective of the Responsible Actor; and The Perspective of the Observer/Philosopher. I compare their strengths and weaknesses and discuss their compatibility.
This collection of new essays examines philosophical issues at the intersection of feminism and autonomy studies. Are autonomy and independence useful goals for women and subordinate persons? Is autonomy possible in contexts of social subordination? Is the pursuit of desires that issue from patriarchal norms consistent with autonomous agency? How do emotions and caring relate to autonomous deliberation? Contributors to this collection answer these questions and others, advancing central debates in autonomy theory by examining basic components, normative commitments, and applications (...) of conceptions of autonomy. Several chapters look at the conditions necessary for autonomous agency and at the role that values and norms -- such as independence, equality, inclusivity, self-respect, care and femininity -- play in feminist theories of autonomy. Whereas some contributing authors focus on dimensions of autonomy that are internal to the mind -- such as deliberative reflection, desires, cares, emotions, self-identities and feelings of self-worth -- several authors address social conditions and practices that support or stifle autonomous agency, often answering questions of practical import. These include such questions as: What type of gender socialization best supports autonomous agency and feminist goals? When does adapting to severely oppressive circumstances, such as those in human trafficking, turn into a loss of autonomy? How are ideals of autonomy affected by capitalism? and How do conceptions of autonomy inform issues in bioethics, such as end-of-life decisions, or rights to bodily self-determination? (shrink)
Does the black struggle for civil rights make common cause with the movement to foster queer community, protest anti-queer violence or discrimination, and demand respect for the rights and sensibilities of queer people? Confronting this emotionally charged question, Ladelle McWhorter reveals how a carefully structured campaign against abnormality in the late 19th and early 20th centuries encouraged white Americans to purge society of so-called biological contaminants, people who were poor, disabled, black, or queer. Building on a legacy of savage hate (...) crimes—such as the killings of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd—McWhorter shows that racism, sexual oppression, and discrimination against the disabled, the feeble, and the poor are all aspects of the same societal distemper, and that when the civil rights of one group are challenged, so are the rights of all. (shrink)
Epistemologies have power. They have the power not only to transform worlds, but to create them. And the worlds that they create can be better or worse. For many people, the worlds they create are predictably and reliably deadly. Epistemologies can turn sacred land into ‘resources’ to be bought, sold, exploited, and exhausted. They can turn people into ‘labor’ in much the same way. They can not only disappear acts of violence but render them unnamable and unrecognizable within their conceptual (...) architectures. Settler systems of epistemic and conceptual resources and the relations among them are constructed to preclude certain forms of knowledge. This is not an accident; it is a central goal of colonial violence. Colonization and land dispossession would not be possible without the violent disruption of Indigenous knowledge systems and ongoing organized attempts to disrupt their survival. Violently disrupting the relationships of people to land is as much an epistemic project as it is a material one, and these two projects are inherently linked. The task of theorizing epistemic oppression is not only about epistemic oppression. Epistemic oppression is a story that gives language to a phenomenon in order to get past it, to carry on with the maintaining and reviving the forms of Indigenous and diasporic knowledge that colonialism has worked tirelessly to corrupt and silence. (shrink)
I argue that Kant's ethical framework cannot countenance a certain kind of failure to respect oneself that can occur within oppressive social contexts. Kant's assumption that any person, qua rational being, has guaranteed epistemic access to the moral law as the standard of good action and the capacity to act upon this standard makes autonomy an achievement within the individual agent's power, but this is contrary to a feminist understanding of autonomy as a relational achievement that can be thwarted by (...) the systematic attack on autonomy that occurs within oppressive social conditions. Insofar as Kant's negative duty of self-respect is unable to accommodate the ways immersion in oppressive social environments can warp an individual's understanding of what she is owed and capable of as a moral agent, it perpetuates the cruelty of unjust social systems in the guise of respecting individual autonomy. I conclude by considering Carol Hay's argument that those who are oppressed have an obligation to themselves to resist their own oppression, in order to explore how this limitation in how Kant conceives of the duty to respect the self may reach expression in contemporary ethical theory inspired by Kant. (shrink)
Karen Warren’s work has helped to transform the landscape of environmental philosophy, contributing theoretical grounding for Western ecofeminism and opening the range of theoretical perspectives one can adopt when doing Western environmental ethics. Although her work is laudable, there are substantive worries about how potential subjects of oppression are characterized in her later work. Warren’s work and relevant secondary literature can be used as a foil to illuminate inadequate justification for the failure to include all living entities as potential (...) subjects of the harm of oppression. The failure to provide conceptual room to include all entities that can rightfully be the potential subjects of oppression limits our understanding of oppression and the multiple ways in which it functions. Additionally, failure to attend to all potential subjects of oppression limits practical opportunities for anti-oppressive solidarity in political action. If oppression is correctly described as the harm of particular group members by others, and the class of living entities can be subjected to harm, then nonhuman living entities can potentially be subjects of oppression. The aim here is to provide conceptual support for the possibility that nonhuman life can be oppressed. (shrink)
This book explores the nature, value, and role of hope in human life under conditions of oppression. Oppression is often a threat and damage to hope, yet many members of oppressed groups, including prominent activists pursuing a more just world, find hope valuable and even essential to their personal and political lives. This book offers a unique evaluative framework for hope that captures the intrinsic value of hope for many of us, the rationality and morality of hope, and (...) ultimately how we can hope well in the non-ideal world we share. It develops an account of the relationship between hope and anger about oppression and argues that anger tends to be accompanied by hopes for repair. When people’s hopes for repair are not realized, as is often the case for those who are oppressed, anger can evolve into bitterness: a form of unresolved anger involving a loss of hope that injustice will be sufficiently acknowledged and addressed. But even when all hope might seem lost or out of reach, faith can enable resilience in the face of oppression. Spiritual faith, faith in humanity, and moral faith are part of what motivates people to join in solidarity against injustice, through which hope can be recovered collectively. Joining with others who share one’s experiences or commitments for a better world, and uniting with them in collective action, can restore and strengthen hope for the future when hope might otherwise be lost. (shrink)
Oppression can be unjust from a luck egalitarian point of view even when it is the consequence of choices for which it is reasonable to hold persons responsible. This is for two reasons. First, people who have not been oppressed are unlikely to anticipate the ways in which their choices may lead them into oppressive conditions. Facts about systematic phenomena (like oppression) are often beyond the epistemic reach of persons who are not currently subject to such conditions, even (...) when they possess adequate information about the particular consequences of their choices. Second, people may be (much) less responsible for remaining in oppressive conditions, even if they are responsible for entering circumstances of oppression. Oppression that results from a person’s choice may cause or contribute to dramatic changes in that person, and these changes may be sufficient to undermine the person’s responsibility for the results of her earlier choice. (shrink)
Oppression is a form of injustice that occurs when one social group is subordinated while another is privileged, and oppression is maintained by a variety of different mechanisms including social norms, stereotypes, and institutional rules. A key feature of oppression is that it is perpetrated by and affects social groups. In this article I show that because of the central role that groups play in theories of oppression, those theories face significant, and heretofore mostly unrecognized, metaphysical (...) problems. I then identify resources from analytic metaphysics that can be used to address these problems. I show that, although we should not be pessimistic about the prospects for a viable theory of oppression, it will take serious metaphysical work to develop a plausible ontology of oppression, and existing theories have for the most part failed to respond to this challenge. (shrink)
Open Access: This article argues for an aesthetic approach to resisting oppression based on judgments of bodily unattractiveness. Philosophical theories have often suggested that appropriate aesthetic judgments should converge on sets of objects consensually found to be beautiful or ugly. The convergence of judgments about human bodies, however, is a significant source of injustice, because people judged to be unattractive pay substantial social and economic penalties in domains such as education, employment and criminal justice. The injustice is compounded by (...) the interaction between standards of attractiveness and gender, race, disability, and gender identity. -/- I argue that we should actively work to reduce our participation in standard aesthetic practices that involve attractiveness judgments. This does not mean refusing engagement with the embodiment of others; ignoring someone’s embodiment is often a way of dehumanizing them. Instead, I advocate a form of practice, aesthetic exploration, that involves seeking out positive experiences of the unique aesthetic affordances of all bodies, regardless of whether they are attractive in the standard sense. I argue that there are good ethical reasons to cultivate aesthetic exploration, and that it is psychologically plausible that doing so would help to alleviate the social injustice attending judgments of attractiveness. (shrink)
This article draws attention to a form of injustice in intimate relationships of care that is largely ignored in discussions about the legal rights and obligations of intimate partners. This form of injustice is connected to a feature of caregiving I call “flexibility,” in virtue of which caregiving requires “skills of flexibility.” I argue that the demands placed by these skills on caregivers create constraints that amount to “vulnerability to oppression.” To lift these constraints, caregivers are entitled to open-ended (...) responses to their work, responses that would enable them to pursue their own projects while providing care. Instead of protecting individual choice of intimate relationships, marriage law should protect these entitlements. (shrink)
Who should be recognized as a refugee? This article seeks to uncover the normative arguments at the core of legal and philosophical conceptions of refugeehood. It identifies three analytically distinct approaches grounding the right to refugee status and argues that all three are normatively inadequate. Refugee status should neither be grounded in individual persecution for specific reasons (classical approach) nor in individual persecution for any discriminatory reasons (human rights approach). It should also not be based solely on harm (humanitarian approach). (...) Rather, this article argues, it should be based on political oppression – on persons lacking public autonomy, formally expressed as a lack of legal–political status. The normative foundation for a claim to refugee status lies in the inability of a person to control, amend and seek recourse to the specific situation she faces. It lies in the lack of public autonomy expressed as a lack of legal–political rights. What matters for a claim to refugee status is thus the legal–political disenfranchisement of a person, ultimately leaving her with no recourse to the particular situation she faces other than flight. Refugees, then, are not only those who fear harm or persecution, but those who are politically oppressed. (shrink)
Gender, race, and sexuality are not just identities; they are also systems of social organization – i.e., systems of privilege and oppression. This article addresses two main ways privilege and oppression are relevant topics in and for philosophical aesthetics: the role of the aesthetic in privilege and oppression, and the role of philosophical aesthetics, as a discipline and a body of texts, in constructing and naturalizing relations of privilege and oppression . The first part addresses how (...) systems of privilege and oppression use the aesthetic. I will discuss various ways race, gender, and sexuality, as both embodied identities and broader social institutions, work with and through “the aesthetic”. The second part addresses racism and sexism in the discipline of aesthetics. Both in its history and its present practice aesthetics’apparent neutrality on questions of privilege and oppression is actually evidence of its investment in systems of privilege and oppression. (shrink)
Standpoint epistemology is committed to a cluster of views that pay special attention to the role of social identity in knowledge acquisition. Of particular interest here is the situated knowledge thesis. This thesis holds that for certain propositions p, whether an epistemic agent is in a position to know that p depends on some non-epistemic facts related to the epistemic agent’s social identity. In this paper, I examine two possible ways to interpret this thesis. My first goal here is to (...) clarify existing interpretations of this thesis that appear in the literature but that are undeveloped and often mistakenly conflated. In so doing, I aim to make clear the different versions of standpoint epistemology that one might accept and defend. -/- This project is of significance, I argue, because standpoint epistemology provides helpful tools for understanding a phenomenon of interest as of late - epistemic oppression. My second goal is to provide an analysis that makes clear how each of the readings I put forth can be used to illuminate forms of epistemic oppression. (shrink)
This paper argues for a conception of autonomy that takes social oppression seriously without sapping autonomy of its valuable focus on individual self-direction. Building on recent work in relational accounts of autonomy, the paper argues that current conceptions of autonomy from liberal, feminist and critical theorists do not adequately account for the social features of belief formation. The paper then develops an alternative conception of relational autonomy that focuses on how autonomy contains both individualistic and social epistemic features. Rather (...) than consider autonomy to reside in an impenetrable inner citadel, a place immune from external influences, the paper argues that we must acknowledge the hermeneutic relationship between individual and social processes of belief adjudication. Taking such an argument seriously results in the need to alter our conception of autonomy and the schooling needed to foster its growth. (shrink)
Wrongdoing is inescapable. We all do wrong and are wronged; and in response we often blame one another. But if blame is a defining feature of our social lives, so is ceasing to blame. We might excuse, justify, or forgive an offender; or simply let the offence go. Each mode of ceasing to blame is a social practice and each has characteristic norms that influence when and how we do it, as well as how it’s received. We argue that how (...) we relinquish blame, and how effective we are, depends on many circumstances only partially within our control. Like any norm-governed practice, one can do it well or poorly, appropriately or inappropriately, successfully or unsuccessfully. To successfully participate in a practice, one’s action must be done for the right reasons and secure uptake. We argue that social and material circumstances can compromise one’s ability to effectively cease to blame in the manner one prefers. But if one can fail, then one can lack access to particular ceasing to blame practices if one is regularly prevented from effectively relinquishing blame. However, uncooperative social and material circumstances do not only arise by chance. Our central argument is that circumstances of oppression can systematically compromise one’s ability and opportunities to effectively perform a variety of ceasing to blame practices. This deprivation is an insidious facet of oppression that is neglected both in theories of oppression and of forgiveness but which has significant implications for how we understand the power and purpose of forgiveness. (shrink)
I offer a working analysis of the concept of 'epistemic corruption', then explain how it can help us to understand the relations between epistemic vices and social oppression, and use this to motivate a style of vice epistemology, inspired by the work of Robin Dillon, that I call critical character epistemology.
Many contemporary forms of oppression are not primarily the result of formally organized collective action nor are they an unintended outcome of a combination of individual actions. This raises the question of collective responsibility. I argue that we can only determine who is responsible for oppression if we understand oppression as a matter of social practices that create obstacles for social change. This social practice view of oppression enables two insights: First, that there is an unproblematic (...) sense in which groups can bear irreducible collective responsibility for oppression. Second, that there are derived forms of individual responsibility for members of dominant groups. (shrink)
I argue that while moral exemplars are useful, we must be careful in our use of them. I first describe forgiveness exemplars that are often used to persuade victims to forgive such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus of Nazareth. I also explain how, for Kant, highlighting these figures as moral exemplars can be useful. I then explain two kinds of rhetorical strategies that are used when attempting to convince victims to forgive. Last, I explain (a la (...) Kant) how the use of exemplars does not empower but instead disempowers victims. My overall claim is that using exemplars to persuade victims to forgive is problematic. It is best if we rely on decisive reasons to forgive instead of focusing on people who have forgiven. (shrink)
Philosophers have had a lot to say about blame, much less about praise. In this paper, I follow some recent authors in arguing that this is a mistake. However, unlike these recent authors, the reasons I identify for scrutinising praise are to do with the ways in which praise is, systematically, unjustly apportioned. Specifically, drawing on testimony and findings from social psychology, I argue that praise is often apportioned in ways that reflect and entrench existing structures of oppression. Articulating (...) what is going wrong here helps us to see what to do about it. (shrink)