Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

GRAD WORKSHOP - Establishing the Pillars of Identity: Between Metaphysics and Activism

Wednesday, November 16, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Hybrid: In-person and online.
Link and papers sent to registered attendees.

Ontology, Pragmatism and Politics

Yosef Washington (Philosophy, Penn)

RECENT POLITICAL DISCOURSE HAS YET AGAIN BROUGHT FORTH DEBATES over the utility and legitimacy of “identity politics.” Often missing from these debates is a robust analysis of the social metaphysics that underpin identity categories. Rather than view this kind of analysis as “irrelevant” or “orthogonal” to pragmatic political aims, YOSEF WASHINGTON argues that a deeper understanding of the social metaphysics of identity categories has important implications for both policy application and analysis as well as your political theorizing. Washington puts forward the social metaphysics of “racial” and “ethnic” categories as paradigmatic cases of social metaphysics making a substantive material difference in how we examine the utility of “identity "political projects. More specifically, he looks at the asymmetries between personal/self identification and group-identification qua racial/ethnic categories to better inform our understanding of racial politics and policy interventions/analysis relevant to its political aims.

Targeting the Monumental: Race and the Democratic Aesthetics of Memory Activism

Matt Frierdich (Politics, UVA)

THE RECENT WAVE OF DECOMMEMORATIONS OF PUBLIC FIGURES connected with slavery, colonialism, and otherwise “difficult pasts,” such as Richmond’s Monument Avenue or New York’s American Museum of Natural History, raises questions about how contemporary challenges to “forgotten pasts” might dislodge long-standing impediments to democratic inclusion. But this does not give an adequate account of an essential set of illustrations used by those demanding removal: the portrayal of institutions – like racialized violence enforced through policing, housing policy, or education – as monumental. To emphasize the significance of establishing larger struggles against racial hierarchy and dispossession as monumental, MATT FRIERDICH centers the voices, protests, and materials produced by activists in two interrelated movements, Take ‘Em Down New Orleans and #RhodesMustFall in South Africa. Rather than treating these as “originary” movements for a decommemorative turn in memory activism, the paper explores how these particular Black-led movements deployed monument removal as a visual language for centering their recollections of Black resistance to hegemonic violence.