Date: Jun 4 | Time: 03:15pm to 04:45pm | Location: SCRF 1022
Chair/Président/Présidente : Fiona MacDonald (University of the Fraser Valley)
Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Fiona MacDonald (University of the Fraser Valley)
Black Solidarity and the Denigration of Black Labor: Mara Marin (University of Victoria) Abstract: How should we understand the injustices suffered by black American men and women and the type of solidarity necessary to redress them? I argue that we should find the sources of this solidarity in the social reality of oppression, in particular in the denigration of black bodies. Starting from the debate between Shatema Threadcraft and Tommie Shelby, I argue that while Threadcraft is right to criticize Shelby for his exclusive focus on economic and political justice that leaves out intimate justice, her own understanding of intimate relationships as a separate sphere comes at the cost of making the connections created by racial oppression invisible. Instead of focusing on the relations between men and women as agents in our understanding of oppression, I defend an account of racial injustice as the denigration of black labor. I argue that the injustices highlighted by Shelby in his discussion of the ghetto poor and by Threadcraft in her discussion of the plight of black women should be understood as forms of social denigration of the labor that black bodies are constrained into doing. While the mechanisms of denigration and constraint are different for different bodies, they similarly result in the denigration of the labor performed by those in positions of subordination. This understanding of injustice connects apparently unconnected phenomena, such as street harassment, labor market discrimination and police brutality. It also draws our attention to the sources of solidary transformative anti-racist action.
Self-Possession and Propriety in Black Feminist Thought: Torrey Shanks (University of Toronto) Abstract: This paper explores the language of ownership and possession within black feminist theory. A number of feminist theorists reject self-ownership because it rests on notions of possessive individualism, but critical legal theorist Patricia Williams has taken a different approach, which reworks self-ownership, including property in the self, self-possession, and self-propriety. Working in traditions of African American political thought and history, critical legal studies, and feminist analysis, Williams sees the relationships between property and personhood as too important to simply reject. This claim, in my view, presents an important project that has not yet been realized in theorizing the meaning of self-ownership and its related terms as they are transformed in struggles for liberation and political voice in the legacy of slavery. The paradoxes and contradictions of self-ownership under these conditions have been occasionally noted by critical race theorists, but have not been brought to bear on the concept itself. My paper considers the unexpected implications of invoking idioms of property and possession for those historically deprived of personhood, drawing particularly on the work of feminist theorist Hortense Spillers.
Charles Taylor, Multiple Modernities, and the Reconciliation of Liberal Modernity and Cultural Diversity: Timothy Berk (University of Toronto) Abstract: In recent years liberal multiculturalism has been put on the defensive from critics on both the far right and the postcolonial left. Critics charge that the structures of modernity, including scientific rationalism, industrial or post-industrial economies, religious secularization, and political liberalism, narrow the scope of possible differences in ways of life, as well as structures of thought and belief, between various societies. In response, radical right-wing movements have promoted illiberal policies and anti-modern ideologies in order to preserve a space for ‘difference’ among nations and states, rather than within nation-states, while postcolonial thinkers have deconstructed the colonial ambitions underlying liberal theories of development and multiculturalism. Thus despite liberalism’s normative affirmation of tolerance and diversity, the identification of liberalism with the allegedly homogenizing forces of modernization has rendered it vulnerable to radical critiques in the name of diversity.
How might defenders of liberal multiculturalism respond to this challenge? This paper will consider Charles Taylor’s attempt to reconcile commitments to both modernity and cultural diversity through his adoption of the ‘multiple modernities’ framework. The theory, which Taylor borrows from sociology (Eisenstadt 2000) posits that modernity does not entail the imposition of a homogenizing way of life. Instead, it pluralizes modernity to accommodate the fact that various ‘non-Western’ cultures will adapt and respond to the process of ‘modernization’ in different ways, reflecting each region’s unique historical and cultural background. This paper will proceed by following Taylor’s examination of the ways in which ‘modernity’ is refracted through a people’s language, religion, and political culture.