Embodiment and Oppression: Reflections on Haslanger, Gender, and Race

In Brock Bahler (ed.), The Logic of Racial Practice: Explorations in the Habituation of Racism. Lexington Books. pp. 121-142 (2021)
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Abstract

This chapter is an extended version (almost 2x in length) of an essay first published in Australasian Philosophical Review. Abstract: In On Female Body Experience, Iris Marion Young argues that a central aim of feminist and queer theory is social criticism. The goal is to understand oppression and how it functions: know thy enemy, so as to better resist. Much of Sally Haslanger’s work shares this goal, and her newest article, “Cognition as a Social Skill,” is no exception. In this essay, I will specify what I believe is special and insightful about Haslanger’s theory of oppression and her most recent addition to it. However, I also explore what it is missing, namely, an account of what Young calls “individual [embodied] experience, subjectivity, and identity.” Echoing a chorus of critical voices, I argue that this omission undermines Haslanger’s ability to effectively theorize group oppression and how to resist it. The core problem is this. Haslanger privileges a third-person methodology that prioritizes social structures over all else. I conclude by amplifying a collective call to action: any adequate theory of oppression must attend to both the lived experiences of individuals and to social structures, that is, to the broad institutional and cultural underpinnings of oppression. A theory that does only one, or the other, will fail. Through this analysis, the chapter contributes to an overall aim of this volume, namely, to advance our understanding of racial and gender-based group oppressions by paying closer attention to facts about embodiment.

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Erin Beeghly
University of Utah

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References found in this work

What is a (social) structural explanation?Sally Haslanger - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):113-130.
Racism, Ideology, and Social Movements.Sally Haslanger - 2017 - Res Philosophica 94 (1):1-22.
Cognition as a Social Skill.Sally Haslanger - 2019 - Tandf: Australasian Philosophical Review 3 (1):5-25.

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