Social Visibility: An Interdisciplinary Workshop on Critique and Social Justice

April 12, 2019 - April 13, 2019
Philosophy Department, Vanderbilt University

111 21st Ave S.
Nashville 37240
United States

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

All speakers:

Tufts University
Vanderbilt University
The New School
Columbia University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
CUNY Graduate Center
Yale University
Dartmouth College
University of Chicago


Vanderbilt University
The New School

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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 disability studies, Critical Theory, Anglo-American ethics and philosophy of social science, and moral psychology) that provocatively advance the philosophical understanding of social critique and practice.

We are committed to making this workshop as accessible and inclusive as possible. The workshop venue and hotels will be wheelchair accessible. Vegan meals and snacks will be available. We recognize that individual needs for accommodation vary, and we warmly invite you to contact us with specific questions and concerns regarding accommodations.

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

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