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Paradoxes of Resistance: Maria Stewart and the Politics of the Public Sphere

Friday, March 15, 2024
4:15 pm
Hall Auditorium 103

This talk offers some reflections on the task of incorporating black feminist thinkers into our contemporary philosophical and political discourses. The talk will focus on the political thought of 19th century black feminist abolitionist, Maria W. Stewart. In her brief, public political career (from 1831-1833), Stewart advanced a cross-genre political manifesto depicting her approach to the abolition and complete liberation of the descendants of Africa in America. With a special focus on the plight of black women, Stewart’s body of work advances several seemingly opposed theoretical and activist trajectories, including, insurrectionism and black nationalism on the one hand, and moral suasion and a politics of respectability on the other. In the talk, I attend to the question of how to read Stewart without abstracting away from apparent contradictions in her politics. I examine the tensions that arise in Stewart’s work at the intersections of her philosophical theorizing, political resistance, and her public mobilization of heterogeneous audiences. In doing so, I illuminate Stewart’s own efforts to identify and resolve these challenges in the public sphere.

Emmalon Davis is an assistant professor in the philosophy department at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her work largely concerns the social processes through which knowledge is collectively developed and disseminated within (and across) communities, with a special focus on the epistemic exclusion of diverse practitioners in philosophical inquiry. Much of her past work has contributed to the development of a social and political epistemology of our contemporary academic practices, analyzing the epistemic dimensions of our interpersonal exchanges, disciplinary norms and expectations, and methodological choices. Her current research examines similar themes of methodology, social norms, and audience in the context of abolitionist and early civil rights movements, as reflected in the work of 19th and early 20th century black political thinkers such as Frederick Douglass, Maria W. Stewart, Ida B.Wells, and W.E.B Du Bois. Her work has been published in peer- reviewed journals including Ethics, Hypatia, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, and Journal of the American Philosophical Association.

Co-sponsored by the Philosophy Department and the Humanities Center

Emmalon Davis
Emmalon Davis
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan