Embodiment and Oppression: Reflections on Haslanger

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In On Female Body Experience, Iris Marion Young argues that a central aim of feminist and queer theory is social criticism. The task is to understand oppression and how it functions. Know thy enemy, so as to better resist. Much of Sally Haslanger’s work fits Young’s description of feminist and queer theory, and her newest article, “Cognition as a Social Skill,” is no exception. In it, Haslanger theorizes mechanisms of social oppression. My aim in this essay is to specify what I believe is special and insightful about Haslanger’s new work. However, I will also explore what is missing from it, namely, an account of what Young calls “individual [embodied] experience, subjectivity, and identity.” This omission constitutes a serious problem and one that has been noticed frequently by philosophers engaged with her recent work. This essay begins to document the problem and why it matters, both for theory (specifically, for the task of theorizing oppression) and practice (specifically, for the task of identifying ameliorative interventions).
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Archival date: 2019-11-06
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