"Environmental Ethics and Structural Oppression"

Keynote speakers: Chris Cuomo (University of Georgia) and Kyle Whyte (Michigan State University)
Date and location: March 24-25, 2017 (University of Memphis)
Poster: pdf
Program: pdf

Call for Papers

The University of Memphis PGSA is honored to host a conference on environmental ethics and structural oppression from March 24-25, 2017. Our goal for this conference is to attend to the general lack of philosophical analysis concerning oppression, climate change, and environmental destruction. Much of the contemporary literature in environmental ethics is primarily concerned with the obligations that individuals or nation-states might have to curb or mitigate the effects of climate change. However, we are concerned with questions of injustice and obligation as they overlap with the intersection of environmental destruction and forms of oppression. We are interested in exploring the ways in which differently situated agents can have different sorts of obligations in terms of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and mitigation. Who is justified in their environmental stewardship? What is the relationship between the vulnerability of oppression and the vulnerability to ecological destruction? Much of the literature in environmental ethics fails to provide a strong intersectional analysis between environmental destruction and social-political oppression. The failure to consider this link has resulted in serious concerns about an impoverishment of environmental ethics. Historically, eco-feminism has been at the forefront of this discussion, challenging androcentric assumptions about the relationship between humans and the environment. However, eco-feminism is only the beginning of this discussion. Many legitimate concerns regarding historical and contemporary oppression still remain largely unaddressed. For our conference, we aim at work that critically examines the relationship between oppression, obligation and value in environmental ethics in new and developing areas.

There are three broad ways of understanding this critical examination: historical considerations, contemporary concerns, and problems about the future and future generations. A sample of specific questions includes:

  • What connections between historical injustice and current climate injustice ought we consider in developing an environmental ethic?
  • What is the relationship between historical injustices, such as the colonization and pillaging of resources by the Global North, and the moral demands on socially-situated individuals today?
  • How might differently situated individuals and nation-states differ in their moral obligations?
  • How do discussions of sustainability contribute to structural racism, sexism, and contemporary forms of colonialism?
  • Who is most vulnerable in engaging in eco-activism, and how is this vulnerability connected to both historical injustices and claims about future stewardship of the environment?
  • Who is justified in their environmental stewardship?
  • Whose interests are not included in discussions of long-term environmental sustainability?

Submission Information

Papers are welcome from any area of philosophy (historical, analytic, continental, comparative, etc.). The program committee will prioritize submissions that theorize from the author’s own social, political, or identity location. Submissions are expected in the form of a long abstract (750-1000 words) and must be prepared for anonymous review. Please include a cover sheet with your name, paper title, institutional affiliation, and email address. The deadline is December 31, 2016. The committee will notify people by mid-January. Submissions should be sent to pgsamemphis@gmail.com with the subject heading “PGSA Conference Submission.” Any additional questions about paper submissions or the conference should be directed to Christina Friedlaender.