I primarily work on the metaphysics and epistemology of oppression from an intersectional and critical theoretical perspective. Within epistemology, I am interested in the ways that oppressive social structures shape our information, reasoning, and attention, especially in ways that reinforce oppression. Within metaphysics, I am interested in what oppression is, how we explain oppression, and how we should understand oppression through the lens of intersectionality.
You can find a more detailed overview of my work, including links to papers, below. Drafts not linked to here may be available upon request.
Abstract: Feminist philosophers have long worried that intersectionality undermines the viability of the concept and category of woman, thereby undermining feminist theory and politics. Some have responded to this problem by abandoning intersectionality; others have attempted to find some suitably inclusive way of reconceptualizing woman. I provide a novel solution that focuses on conceptualizing oppression in light of intersectionality, rather than trying to provide an account of what it is to be a woman. By enabling us to understand feminism as responding to gender oppression, this account shows that intersectionality does not conceptually undermine and fragment feminism. Feminism should be intersectional.
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 identify a theoretical and political role for ‘white ignorance’, present three alternative accounts of white ignorance, and assess how well each fulfils this role. On the Willful Ignorance View, white ignorance refers to white individuals’ willful ignorance about racial injustice. On the Cognitivist View, white ignorance refers to ignorance resulting from social practices that distribute faulty cognitive resources. On the Structuralist View, white ignorance refers to ignorance that (1) results as part of a social process that systematically gives rise to racial injustice, and (2) is an active player in the process. I argue that, because of its greater power and flexibility, the Structuralist View better explains the patterns of ignorance that we observe, better illuminates the connection to white racial domination, and is overall better suited to the project of ameliorating racial injustice. As such, the Structuralist View should be preferred.
Rejecting the Group-Based View of Oppression
Draft available here
Abstract: The standard view of oppression is that it is group-based. Groups are standardly taken to be the primary subjects of oppression, and it is thought that individuals are only oppressed by virtue of their membership in an oppressed group. While this view is so standard as to frequently be taken to be definitional of oppression, not much has been said to actually elaborate or defend it. In this paper I consider the group-based view in more detail and argue that we should reject it. My argument is on two main grounds: that the group-based view presents an additive and falsely universalizing picture of oppression, and thereby fails to accommodate important intersectional insights; and that appealing to membership in certain groups does not explain oppressive treatment. I suggest that we should instead opt for a positional view of oppression and give greater attention to the ways in which an individual’s holistic, complex social positioning interfaces with institutional and ideological mechanisms to generate experiences of oppression and privilege.
Draft available here
Abstract: Suppose you’re on the train home after a long day. You exit at your station, preoccupied with thoughts about work. A few minutes later, you stop— something isn’t right. It takes you a moment to realize that you missed a turn and obliviously walked several blocks in the wrong direction. Despite its everyday familiarity, there has been no extended treatment of obliviousness within philosophy. In this paper I provide an account of obliviousness and show that this is a phenomenon worthy of sustained philosophical attention. On my account, an agent is oblivious of p at t when they non-deliberately fail to take a rational route to the belief that p that is immediately available to them at t. This account raises further questions, such as when agents should take rational routes to belief that are immediately available to them, what kind of failure obliviousness involves, and what explains cases of obliviousness. In answer to these questions, I suggest that agents should take those rational routes that are directly relevant to pursuing some aim that that they are or should be actively pursuing at t; that obliviousness involves both an epistemic failure and a practical failure; and that a number of different kinds of errors might underlie obliviousness, including failures of salience, failures of interpretation, failures to consider certain possibilities, and failures to raise or properly settle certain questions. In developing the account and answering some of the questions it raises, I draw connections to ongoing discussions in different areas of philosophy, including about the nature of epistemic normativity, inquiry, salience and norms of attention, non-ideal vs. ideal epistemology, claims that an agent should have known, moral evaluations of ignorance, and the insidiousness of oppressive social conditions.
Explaining Oppression: An Argument Against Individualism
Draft available upon request
Abstract: The recent, widespread focus on implicit bias has sparked a debate about the role of bias in causal explanations of persistent, systematic injustice. “Structural prioritizers” argue that structural causes are more important than individual causes, while “equal prioritizers” insist on the equal importance of individualistic and structural factors. In this paper, I make two interventions on this debate. First, I suggest that the debate is better framed in terms of explaining oppression. This is because there are multiple phenomena that are closely related to the forms of persistent, systematic injustice at the core of this debate. Using the language of oppression helps to clearly fix the explanatory target, distinguish it from closely related phenomena, and elucidate the explanatory demands that are relevant in the context of this debate. Second, I argue that both sides are mistaken in accepting that both individualistic and structural factors are necessary for explaining oppression. Explaining oppression, I argue, requires accounting for the various ways in which oppression is persistent and systematic, and explanations that appeal to individualistic factors fail to do this. As such, I argue that we should go in for a form of pure explanatory structuralism about oppression.
Connecting Micro and Macro Levels of Analysis Within Intersectionality
Draft available upon request
Abstract: Does intersectionality operate at the micro level of individuals’ lived experiences, or is intersectionality about systems of oppression, thereby operating at the macro level? Moreover, how should we understand the relationship between these levels— that is, between systems of oppression and the identities and lived experiences of individuals— on an intersectional picture? I answer these questions by providing an account of the connections between individuals' lived experiences, oppression, and social structures within an intersectional framework. In brief, the account I am proposing starts with patterns of injustice that result from structural processes. These structural mechanisms are causally and constitutively inter-related to constitute a social system, and collections of these patterns of injustice (when they have certain properties) constitute oppression. Thus on this picture, structural mechanisms explain patterns of experiences that individuals have, thereby connecting social structures to individuals’ lived experiences. At the same time, these micro-level processes help constitute the macro-level phenomena, thereby elucidating the relations between structures, systems, lived experiences, and oppression. In this way, I ultimately argue that intersectionality spans across the micro and macro levels.
How is Oppression Structural? Let Me Count the Ways
Handout available here
Abstract: The idea that oppression is a structural phenomenon is now widely accepted. It has become common to hear references to structural injustice and structural inequality, and to hear claims that racism, sexism, classism, and other such "-ism"s are structural. But what exactly does the claim that oppression is structural amount to? In this paper I distinguish between four main senses in which oppression can and has been thought to be structural, and suggest that each captures an important dimension of the nature of oppression. Identifying these distinct senses of structuralism allows us to clarify claims and arguments surrounding the structural nature of oppression, and also enables a better understanding of the phenomenon. In particular, I identify four main kinds of structuralism about oppression: (1) causal structuralism, which concerns the causal explanation oppression; (2) normative source structuralism, which is about where we locate the source of the harm or injustice done by oppression; (3) effects structuralism, which concerns structures that are brought about by oppressive processes; and (4) constitutive structuralism, which is about the conditions that make something oppressive, or make it such that some group counts as oppressed.