Dissertation Defense Announcement
College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Dissertation Defense of
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
March 25, 2020 at 03:00 PM, Clement Hall
Advisor: Deborah Tollefsen
Shared Agency and Structural Oppression: The Ethics of Social Reality Management
ABSTRACT: My dissertation offers a methodological, ideological, and ethical critique of literature on shared agency through the lens of oppression theory. Oppression theory starts from the claim that structural forms of oppression play a significant role in shaping our social world, including our identities, epistemic standpoints, values, and metaphysical worldviews. Connecting Hans Vaihinger's work on methodology to the tradition of feminist philosophy of science, I argue that we develop models of shared agency not merely for the purpose of understanding but also to better manage how we undertake actions together. Given that shared agency is the primary way by which we shape and navigate our social world, we develop models of shared agency, in part, to manage how we engage in this practice. These models are thus a second-order form of social reality management because their purpose is to manage the conditions by which we create social reality together. For this reason, we ought to be concerned with both the ideological nature of these models and the ethics of this second-order management. Contra universal or singular models, I argue that shared agency manifests differently across conceptual schemas and through non-ideal conditions, drawing in particular on decolonial feminist theory. Thus, we ought to strive for a multiplicity of models, particularly in order to narrow (or close) the gap between a model and those whose agency is managed by that model. By starting from localized, bottom-up models, research on shared agency also operates as a site of radical possibility allowing us to democratically explore what new forms of shared agency could be.