My research in social and political philosophy addresses the epistemic dimensions of emancipatory social movements. Combating oppressive institutions and ideologies requires, in part, changing how members of a political community understand their relations to other members of their community. My work in political epistemology— the study of the role of knowledge and understanding in political life— explores how emancipatory social movements characterize what it is to understand others as fellow members of one’s political community. I historically situate my work in the antebellum political thought of Black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany.
I'm also currently working on projects about citizenship and migration, the role humility in political life, and the connection between self-ownership and ownership of one’s labor in Locke’s political thought.
To Reforge the Nation: Emancipatory Politics and Antebellum Black Abolitionism
Emancipatory social movements seek, in part, to bring about more just and inclusive forms of political community. How a movement pursues transformative political change of this sort depends its account of how political actors understand others as fellow members of their community. Through an interpretation of the antebellum political thought of Black abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany, I defend a political epistemology of acknowledgement. I acknowledge you as a fellow member of my political community because you enact a commitment to the fundamental principles of the polity; enacting such a commitment is what makes you a member of the community. My acknowledgement itself consists in a responsiveness to the fact—independent of my own judgment— that you are a member of the community. This responsiveness manifests in how we comport ourselves in relation to one another in political life. This account of political membership and acknowledgement is well-equipped to combat varieties of ideology that aim to deprive people subject to oppression of political standing in a polity.
This article draws on the antebellum political thought of Black abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany in critically assessing the efficacy of reasonableness in advancing the aims of emancipatory politics in political discourse. I argue, through a reading of Douglass and Delany, that comporting oneself reasonably in the face of oppressive ideology can be counterproductive, if one's aim is to undermine such ideology and the institutions it supports. Douglass and Delany, I argue, also provide us with a framework for evaluating alternative discursive strategies we might wish to employ in light of the limited value of reasonableness for emancipatory politics.