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My research is at the intersections of social philosophy, epistemology, and philosophy of race and gender. My dissertation concerns systemic ignorance, or the variety of ways in which oppressive social structures promote oppression-sustaining ignorance. Currently, my main focus is on developing an account of what I call obliviousness, but I also have live projects on social structures, ideology, white ignorance, and epistemic injustice.


What is

White Ignorance?

Abstract: Rick has never witnessed excessive policing; Rebecca has never heard of redlining; Dr. Kritz lacks information about whether the drug tamoxifen will harm her Afro-Latina patient. Each of these characters lacks knowledge about some important matter relating to race or racial inequality. They are each, we might say, white ignorant. But what is white ignorance? 

In this paper, I present three alternative accounts of white ignorance— the Willful Ignorance View, on which white ignorance is a matter of white individuals’ willful ignorance about race and racial injustice; the Cognitivist View, on which white ignorance refers to ignorance that results from social practices that distribute faulty cognitive resources (e.g. bad concepts, false premises, and defective “norms”); and the Structuralist View, on which white ignorance refers to ignorance that (1) results as part of a social process that systematically gives rise to racial injustice and ignorance of this kind, and (2) is an active, systematic player in the process. I argue that the Structuralist View is to be preferred because, by virtue of appealing to general social-structural processes, the view is more powerful and flexible than the alternatives. This, in turn, makes it better able to fulfill the explanatory role of white ignorance— namely, to elucidate the ways in which our social practices give rise to robust patterns of ignorance that play an important role in racial injustice. 

Internalized Social Structure

Abstract: The recent focus on implicit bias has generated debate about whether implicit biases or social structures are more important when it comes to explaining and combatting persisting social inequality. I defend a view on which this debate is confused: implicit bias helps constitute a kind of social structure, and so it is mistaken to pit the two against each other. Specifically, I introduce a novel distinction between two kinds of social structure— external structure and internalized structure— and develop a detailed account of internalized structure. Whereas external structure consists of formal institutions and institutional policies, internalized structure consists primarily of psychological phenomena (e.g. concepts, schemas, beliefs, affective dispositions, and implicit biases). These psychological phenomena result from systematic processes of socialization, and they give rise to patterns of shared psychology and behavior within a cultural group. By coordinating individual behaviors and dispositions, internalized structure gives rise to social norms, roles, identities, and practices. The distinction between internalized and external structure allows for a finer-grained understanding of oppression. In so doing, it facilitates the recognition of new or previously unrecognized forms of oppression, while also offering new, practical suggestions for combatting systemic inequality. 

New York University

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