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MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

Excerpts from Resisting Reality
by MIT Philosopher Sally Haslanger   

 

 

Excerpts

"The supposed line between the 'natural' and the 'social' is of crucial importance for theories of justice: the 'natural' is not as fixed as we might think, and the 'social' can be much more fixed than we imagined. Some differences between us must be respected, and others should be overcome — but which are which?" 


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Neither race nor gender is an intrinsic feature of bodies, even though the markers of gender and race typically are. To have a race is not to have a certain appearance or ancestry, and to have a gender is not to have a certain reproductive anatomy. . . . Sex and “color” have social meaning to the extent that the interpretation of someone as male or female, white or asian, has implications for their social position: the roles they are expected to play in the social context, the norms in terms of which they will be evaluated, the identities they are expected to have, and the like. Such implications are easily demonstrated, hence, on my view, gender and race are real. However, their reality in the contemporary context is the product of unjust social structures, and so should be resisted.


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I argue that in some ways race is parallel to gender: races are (roughly) those groups that are situated hierarchically due to the interpretation of their physical features as evidence of their ancestral links to a particular geographical region. As with gender, the social relations that constitute race vary cross-culturally and transhistorically, but there are structural parallels across these different contexts. Although I am in favor of cultural diversity, we should aim to eliminate these “color” hierarchies; on my view, to eliminate “color” hierarchy is to eliminate race.

 

Interview with Sally Haslanger | What is 'natural' and what is 'social'?

  




          



Sally Haslanger's books include

Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (Oxford University Press), 2012

Persistence, with Roxanne Marie Kurtz (MIT Press, 2006)

Theorizing Feminisms, with Elizabeth Hackett, (Oxford University Press, 2005) 

Adoption Matters, co-edited with Charlotte Witt (Cornell University Press, 2005)


 


 

Suggested Links

MIT Philosophy

Sally Haslanger, Professor of Philosophy, Biographical Note


Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique
(Oxford University Press, 2012) 

Haslanger receives two major philosophy awards
2010 Distinguished Woman Philosopher; 2011 Carus Lecturer

Haslanger receives tribute for research and community service