My research examines problems of oppressive institutions, affects, and social relations despite widespread formal commitments to end oppression. I am interested in the structural dynamics underlying ongoing oppressions.
My doctoral thesis, Guilt, Blame, and Oppression: A Feminist Philosophy of Scapegoating, is a work of social and political philosophy, with focus on social epistemology, ethics, feminist theory, and critical philosophy of race. My thesis develops a philosophical theory of scapegoating that explains the role of blame-shifting and guilt avoidance in the endurance of oppression. I argue that scapegoating, a concept as old as the Bible, offers potential insight into the means through which we shift blame onto marginalized groups and away from systems of oppression and those who benefit from them. I propose an ameliorative theory of scapegoating that accounts for deficiencies in prevailing theories of both oppression and scapegoating. On my account, scapegoating is made up of three sub-mechanisms: essentialization of marginalized groups as blameworthy, collective interest in protection against a threat, and social exclusion of the blamed. These sub-mechanisms work together to construct certain groups as scapegoats and encourage us to treat them accordingly through various structural and interpersonal means. In my final chapter I elaborate the epistemic dimensions of my theory of scapegoating to argue that scapegoating functions within our social imaginaries and structural epistemic practices.
My current FRQSC-funded research project, Blame and Shame on the Internet: Between Accountability and Exclusion, examines the internet as a shared social space that is rife with accusations, public shaming, and social exclusion. I believe that we have good reason to learn to recognize when (and if) we are weaponizing shame for good, and when we are acting unjustly. The public politics of accountability have brought about meaningful conversations (e.g., the #MeToo movement) and have allowed for groups that are traditionally marginalized to organize resistance against abuse and oppression. The use of blame and shame online is complicated by its usage as an activist strategy of moral reform by groups that have previously struggled to find a foothold of power. Ultimately, online practices of accountability, public blaming, or even ‘cancel culture’ are much more complicated than simply helpful or harmful. They require nuance, context, and historicity in order to be understood and harnessed for social good. My project involves an analysis of the intersections between the ethical and political impacts of blaming and shaming, with attention to a historical context of scapegoating and contemporary calls for accountability.
Current papers I'm working on:
The scapegoat logic behind anti-transgender legislation
Diagnosing ethical distance online
The ethical ambiguity of anonymous accountability enforcement online