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Ontology and Oppression: Race, Gender, and Social Reality

Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 3:40 pm – 5:20 pm

This colloquium talk is planned as an in-person event with the speaker joining online. Registration is only required for non-CEU members. 


This talk draws on the rich history of accounts of race and gender kinds that position these kinds as the products of histories of oppression. I will consider how we should understand the precise ontological and normative status of race and gender kinds in the spirit of these accounts whilst also taking into consideration the fact that many people value membership in race and gender kinds. I defend a pluralist account of race and gender kinds, introducing a framework for pluralism, the ‘Constraints and Enablements Framework’, based on using constraints and enablements as a common denominator for different varieties of kinds. I then assess the normative status of these kinds using the concept of ‘ontic injustice’, which captures the way in which being made into a member of a social kind can itself be wrongful. My conclusion will be that some race and gender kinds are ontically unjust, others are not, and some are actively emancipatory – even for a given gender or racial designation. When people value membership in race and gender kinds we can plausibly take them to be valuing membership in the harmless or emancipatory kinds, at least some of the time.


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