Another World is Possible: Disruptive Protests as Transformative Experience
Rebecca E. Harrison (State University of New York at Binghamton)

June 11, 2024, 3:00pm - 4:30pm
Philosophy Department, University of Melbourne

Room 556
Arts West Building North Wing (148A)
Melbourne 3010


University of Melbourne

Topic areas


Oppressive ideologies present prevailing forms of social order as natural, inevitable, and unchangeable. Given this, an important question for moral epistemologists is: what kinds of experiences or practices can undermine the influence of oppressive ideologies and facilitate the moral learning of the oppressed? Using the 1936 Flint sit-down strike as a case study, I argue that disruptive protests are an important form of collective action which can provide members of oppressed and exploited groups with an “experiential break” (Haslanger 2017) through which they can come to recognize the extent of their own power and agency. The Flint sit-down strikers’ experiences of self-organization, egalitarian decision-making procedures, and the temporary reversal of pre-existing power arrangements are features of many disruptive protests which can give participants epistemically and morally transformative insights into how things could be. I end by considering whose moral learning disruptive protests ought to be oriented towards. Some accounts of the value of protest (Anderson 2014) suggest that disruptive protests are important because they challenge the moral biases of members of dominant social groups. I argue that disruptive protests can generate important forms of moral learning in contexts where dominant groups are resistant to acknowledging the moral worth of the oppressed.

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