Social Visibility: An Interdisciplinary Workshop on Critique and Social Justice, Vanderbilt University, Apr. 12-13, 2019

Conference Description:

If we are to register and respond rightly to conditions of suffering and injustice, these conditions must be visible. Unjust circumstances, and those harmed by them, must appear worthy of attention and practical response, so that they are taken to issue in intelligible and authoritative calls to action. Yet we inhabit a world in which the field of social visibility is shaped by structures of domination, and in which individuals’ capacities for ethical perception and judgment are often substantially compromised. Where we are confronted with structural racism, many see a properly functioning justice system; where we are confronted with appalling levels of economic inequality and exploitation, many see free and fair exchange; where we are confronted with environmentally unsustainable ‘farming’ industries that inflict great suffering on nonhuman animals, many see reasonable institutions for feeding human beings. How do these perceptual distortions arise and how might we challenge them? What forms of social critique are available for exposing their falsity? And how might the domain of social visibility be ruptured so that we come to see conditions of suffering and injustice more accurately?

Social Visibility will showcase new work on ideology and social critique that focuses upon theoretical and practical issues surrounding the visibility of oppression. At issue is work that challenges received conceptions of social critique and expands the range of rational resources for making conditions of suffering and injustice visible. These expanded resources include, among others, perspectives of grassroots social movements, personal voices of survivor narratives and stories of trauma, aesthetic experiences, including engagement with works of art and literature, conceptual resources generated by counter-publics, insights gleaned from new versions of standpoint theory, and illumination cast by revived attention to classical critical concepts such as ideology and immanent critique. The workshop will bring together scholars representing a range of traditions of critical social thought (e.g., feminist theory, critical race theory, decolonial theory, Critical Theory, Anglo-American ethics and philosophy of social science, and moral psychology) that provocatively advance the philosophical understanding of social critique and practice.

Speakers: Nancy Bauer, Matthew Congdon, Robert Gooding-Williams, Sally Haslanger, Rahel Jaeggi, Charles Mills, Jason Stanley, Shatema Threadcraft, Linda Zerilli

Conference blog:

Organizers: Matthew Congdon (Vanderbilt) and Alice Crary (Oxford)

Any questions can be addressed to either Matthew Congdon ( or Alice Crary (

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