2023 Social Justice and Oppression Workshop

Friday, April 28th

9:50am – Opening remarks
10:00am-11:20am – Luvell Anderson, Syracuse University (Keynote)
11:30am-12:30pm – Javiera M. Perez Gomez, Marquette University

2:00pm-3:00pm – David Spewak, Marion Military Institute
3:10pm-4:10pm – Susan Erck, Mississippi State University
4:20pm-5:40pm – Laurie Shrage, Florida International University (Keynote)


Saturday, April 29th 

9:20am-10:20am – Saba Fatima, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
10:30am-11:30am – Keshav Singh, University of Alabama, Birmingham
11:40am-1:00pm – Myisha Cherry, University of California, Riverside (Keynote)

Location: Woods Hall 115, The University of Alabama

Registration: If you plan on attending, please register by Thursday, April 20th by sending an email to Rekha Nath ( or Lesley Perkins ( Registration is free, but it will be helpful for us to have a sense of how many attendees there will be. If you need to park on campus, let us know and we will send you instructions on free campus parking during the workshop.



Luvell Anderson, “Racial Realities”

Controversies over gender, race, and immigration take place in legislatures and social media. For example, there has been a sustained campaign in the United States by media figures like Chris Rufo to rile people up over “Critical Race Theory” by stoking fears about radical indoctrination in k-12 public schools. The controversies reveal a clash of worlds—different value systems, sets of interests, social orders for which language is a significant battlefront; we are engrossed in a war of words. According to James Baldwin, language is a means and tool of power, each describing a different reality. What is the nature of these realities? Do they create worlds so distinct that genuine communication becomes impossible? And what does this mean for things like achieving racial justice?


Myisha Cherry, “The Misuses of Anger: Audre Lorde, Self-Hatred, and the Anger it Fuels”

Feminist thinker Audre Lorde’s “Uses of Anger” is a canonical text in feminist philosophy. In the essay, first given as a speech in 1981, Lorde defends anger’s role in the fight against racism. Two years later, however, she criticizes anger in a less popular essay, “Eye to Eye.” What are we to make of this move? In this talk I argue that Lorde’s criticisms of anger are consistent with her defense of it. Indeed, her criticisms reveal an anger that is neither intrinsically or instrumentally valuable due to its relationship to self-hatred. I show that Lorde helps the oppressed who are often the target of hate understand the importance of addressing and combatting this kind of anger as a vital first step for then fully reclaiming the anti-racist kind. Instead of viewing Lorde’s solution as anger management, I read it as a form of self-empowerment that is a politically efficacious tool rather than an individualized self-help solution. Overall, I hope to demonstrate that Lorde offers increasing insights for thinking about the affective ways that oppression works and provides various affective resources to resist such oppression so that agents can thrive on their own terms.


Susan Erck, “Etiology of Oppression: The Four Basic Kinds”

What ought to be done to correct existing social regimes of oppression? Answering this question involves both practical and theoretical considerations. Practically, agents of change must consider what would be feasible for them to achieve, take stock of the means of social transformation available to them, and attempt to anticipate what measures would be most strategically effective. Theoretically, moral and political thinkers offer guidance on the formulation of plans of remedial action in several ways: 1) they provide conceptions of what constitutes oppression, e.g., Iris Marion Young’s Five Faces; 2) they give normative accounts of why various forms and instances of oppression are morally wrong and/or unjust and delineate the scope the problem; and 3) they explain the causes of oppression. This talk will focus on this third form of theoretical contribution. I argue that possessing accurate and sophisticated understandings of the causes of social problems is crucial to formulating effective plans of corrective action that implement suitably lasting solutions. After offering a conceptual framework of etiology of oppression in general, I will discuss the major etiologies of oppression that have been theorized to date. It appears thinkers have come up with four basic kinds: 1) Extractive Etiology, 2) Psychological Etiology, 3) Social Ontological Etiology, and 4) Epistemological Etiology.


Saba Fatima, “Reflections on Suffering and Self-Care in Imperialist White-Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy”

This talk looks at the legacy of bell hooks and what it means for self-care in an imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. The narrative explores how the most vulnerable in our society barely manage to survive, while others who are slightly better off, buy self-care at the expense of the most vulnerable. Ultimately, the paper lays bare some of the nuances of communal care and the ways that it necessitates connections within communities for any meaningful chance at self-care in an imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.


Javiera Perez Gomez, “On Modern Alienation”

Alienation has long been understood as a problematic separation between two objects that properly belong together. On the classic view, this separation is problematic because it is caused by wicked social conditions (e.g., a capitalist political system) and because it (thereby) undermines one’s creativity and agency. Fortunately, alienation can, on this view, be remedied by making the appropriate changes in the world. The classic view is appealing for a number of reasons, but, as I argue in this paper, it cannot account for what I call modern alienation: the type of alienation that occurs when we find an unexpected lack of common ground with another person or group of people regarding a deeply held belief or judgment, and we realize that there is little to no prospect of finding a common ground. On the modern view I defend, alienation is constituted by this reflective state and can thus occur even if the world is not wicked. Moreover, it need not undermine one’s agency; it can strengthen one’s agency instead. Still, modern alienation does sometimes raise important moral concerns: for example, if it is so pernicious that it undermines reason, or if it originates in injustice.


Laurie Shrage, “Rebuilding the Movement for Reproductive Rights and Justice”

This talk will critically assess the goals and strategies of the “pro-choice” movement of the past 60 years. I will propose that the movement for abortion access should reposition itself into a broader movement for the reproductive autonomy of all persons, regardless of their sex, gender, age, disability, fertility, or marital status. A broader movement can refocus public debate on the larger question of the state’s role in deciding who will become a parent, biologically or legally. I will explore Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s inclusive approach to legal gender equality in order to frame a post-Roe approach to reproductive rights and justice.


Keshav Singh, “The Injustices of Course-Grained Racial Categories”

Across a variety of social and political contexts, Americans use highly course-grained categories to divide people into racial groups. For example, the Office of Management and Budget requires the recognition of only five racial groups by the Census Bureau: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. In this paper, I argue that the widespread use of such course-grained categories effects multiple injustices. First, I argue that the use of course-grained racial categories effects distributive injustice in that these categories fail to adequately track patterns of oppression or marginalization responsible for inequalities, which hampers efforts at correcting such inequalities, and even worsens them in some cases. Second, I argue that the use of course-grained racial categories effects hermeneutical injustice by erasing certain groups from social discourse, thereby preventing members of these groups from understanding and articulating important aspects of their experiences. Finally, I show how these two injustices compound each other, creating a situation in which members of erased groups are not only further marginalized, but prevented from effectively advocating against their marginalization. The overall conclusion of the paper is that we must seriously reevaluate the ways in which we employ racial categories in American society.


David C. Spewak Jr., “Group Silencing: What’s the Harm?”

Groups play an explanatory role when analyzing oppression. Appealing to groups can reveal the patterns, causes, and consequences of oppression in ways that appealing to individuals alone cannot. Individuals, however, are the units of normative concern in theories of oppression, and most theorists go out of their way to say that groups themselves do not experience oppression. Recently, Leo Townsend, alone, and with Dina Townsend, has argued that groups can experience silencing, discursive injustice, and epistemic injustice. In this paper, I consider whether Townsend’s examples mean we must rethink how groups relate to oppression and whether groups can experience harms that do not distribute among group members. In particular, I focus on what harm a group might experience if silenced.



This event is sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, the Department of Gender & Race Studies, and the Department of Philosophy