Missing in action : agency, race, & recognition

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In an 1883 address, Frederick Douglass outlined how the escalating criminalization of black people had become a key process for sustaining a racial caste system post-slavery, acutely observing the "general disposition in this country to impute crime to color." In this dissertation, I argue that the ongoing development of the "crime to color" relationship that Douglass emphasized raises important philosophical challenges for our understanding of how intentional action unfolds in the social sphere. Contending that philosophical accounts of human agency must incorporate an analysis of sociality and power, Missing in Action: Agency, Race, & Recognition proposes two interventions. First, I argue that the conceptual relationship between "criminality" and "blackness" is more than a problem of racist concept associations, and has instead become conflated and embedded in dominant U.S. discourses and understandings. I introduce "racial conflation" as a frame through which we can analyze the persistent yoking of the concepts, "blackness" and "criminality." Racial conflation triggers others' reconstruction of black action into criminal action, and conjures fictive intentions to rationalize those reconstructions. The problem of racial conflation does not merely reflect unjust, unfair, or untrue characterizations of black people, but is instead a matter of the structure of concepts themselves, making the relationship a foundational theoretical problem for philosophy of action. Second, I build on Hegel's theory of the sociality of intention and Maria Lugones' analysis of power and agency to propose a framework for intentional action that can account for racial conflation. I argue that the intentions of black agents are vacated by others and replaced with what I describe as "phantom intentions, " or explanations constructed through the logic of racial conflation. With a specific focus on cases of black women's agentic strategies, I enlist feminist of color theory and feminist epistemology to propose a methodological framework to more effectively theorize intentional action, arguing that we must not only ask "how much" agency are subjects granted in conditions of oppression, but also "what kind" of agencies are projected onto subjects so that these conditions of oppression are rendered legitimate?.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2018
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Bierria, Alisa Marie
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Philosophy.
Primary advisor Longino, Helen E
Thesis advisor Longino, Helen E
Thesis advisor Bidadanure, Juliana
Thesis advisor Chatterji, Angana P
Thesis advisor Moya, Paula M. L
Advisor Bidadanure, Juliana
Advisor Chatterji, Angana P
Advisor Moya, Paula M. L


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Alisa Marie Bierria.
Note Submitted to the Department of Philosophy.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2018.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2018 by Alisa Marie Bierria
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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