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A Correspondence Between Myself and a Classmate

Harding Correspondence Paper - Them

For Harding, it appears that to have a standpoint, one must be informed by a
material reality that is different from that of the norm. In other words, one
must simply go through a different set of experiences to draw upon (Harding 54).
Even if someone in the dominant group were to have those same experiences, they
would still have a different set of interpretative tools that would inform their
standpoint. This perspective on how to construct a standpoint seems too broad.
It seems that an incredibly small quantity of people would have all of their
many identities fall into the normative category, and as such, nearly everyone
would be able to have a standpoint. But what if one person fits the norm in all
of their identities except one, and in that one they are disadvantaged.
According to Harding, they would have a standpoint due to the different
experiences that they have had with that one identity (Harding 54). However,
that one identity is intersectional with all of that person's other identities,
especially those which are in the norm so they would still have a standpoint.
Does this mean then that this person's knowledge in areas of scientific inquiry
that involve their 'normal' identities, and may serve to be oppressive to the
disadvantaged, is also valid knowledge because they too have a standpoint due to
their one disadvantaged identity?

Response - Me

Harding makes it clear on pages 53-55 that the perspective for knowledge
creation starting from that of a disadvantaged person in the group is ideal for
unique questions and research. Harding says that "for standpoint theories, the
grounds for knowledge are fully saturated with history and social life rather
than abstracted from it" (57). The experiences that people have feed into their
particular standpoint, and the more marginalized groups have the perspective
that enables them to ask questions that those in the dominant group cannot think
to ask (54). It seems to be the case, then, that for a person who only has a
singularly disadvantaging identity across all of their identities will generate
illuminating knowledge or ask critical, important questions only if it is the
case that these questions arise from their marginalized position in society
(56). If their knowledge claims, research motivations, or questions arise from
positions not stemming from their disadvantaged standpoint, these questions
could possibly be regarded as less useful for maximizing objective results. 

Collins Correspondence Paper - Me

In class we discussed the idea that a major consequence of Collins' position was
that one must be a black woman in order to produce black feminist thought.
Indeed, Collins says that "living life as Black women requires wisdom since
knowledge about the dynamics of race, gender, and class subordination has been
essential to Black women's survival" (Collins, 758), and that "for ordinary
African-American women, those individuals who have lived through the experiences
about which they claim to be experts are more believable and credible than those
who have merely read or thought about such experiences" (759). I feel compelled
to agree with Collins. As a white (gender expressing) male, I find it hard to
fathom the experiences of my black male friends, let alone the experiences had
by those who are black _and_ women. Thus, I don't feel comfortable (or
justified) in espousing knowledge (wisdom) of the black woman's experience. My
primary concern is how this experience could be communicated with people like
me, or even vice-versa. Certainly I could not generate new knowledge about what
it might mean to be a black woman, but can I collaborate with black feminists on
projects to see if we can come up with something new together on Collins' view?
Or, in the other direction, could a black woman be justified in claiming to have
generated knowledge (wisdom) on the white male experience? Would they even be
concerned with doing this kind of work? 

Response - Them

In response to the question of if a black woman's standpoint could be conveyed
to a white male, I think that Collins would say that it is not necessary for
black women's knowledge to be understood by a white gender-expressing male. I
think that she would call for an understanding _that_ black women have valid
knowledge, and valid ways of producing knowledge. Because Collins would say that
a white male cannot understand this perspective (Collins 748), because they do
not share in the experiences or interpretative tools of a black woman, she would
merely call for a white male to comprehend THAT their perspective produces valid
knowledge as a way to advance the position of black women in society.

Additionally, Collins might assert that a black woman could generate knowledge
on the white male experience.  Because of her social situation as disadvantaged,
a black woman would be required to have knowledge to navigate life in
institutions that are white male spaces (Collins 758). In order to survive,
knowledge on the white male experience would be required. As such, not only
would they be concerned with this kind of work, it would be a necessity for them
(Collins 758).

Bar On Correspondence Paper - Me

Bar On discusses throughout her essay how "epistemic privilege" is not a
"feminist innovation" (Bar On, 85). We discussed in class that none of the
Standpoint Theorists we were covering mentioned anything relating to epistemic
privilege, but instead were mainly concerned with epistemic disablement. Thus,
Bar On's criticism of Standpoint Theory in terms of epistemic privilege does not
really apply as an actual criticism (or strong criticism) of Standpoint Theory.
However, one of the primary components of any Standpoint Theory is a stance on
epistemic disablement (as seen in Wiley, Collins, and Harding). Bar On points
out that "[second-wave feminists] continued to believe that subjects located at
the social margins have an epistemic advantage over those located in the social
center" (85). While Marx's conception of epistemic privilege is more heavily
related to those not invested in the system itself (the proletariat with respect
to capitalism) (86), the way that Standpoint Theorists' discuss epistemic
disablement makes it seem like their distance from the norm itself is what frees
them from being epistemically disabled in the first place with respect to
certain domains (for Wylie, academic institutions, for Collins, oppression). If
it is the case that being epistemically disabled is a disadvantage for
perceiving oppression or injustice in those particular domains, would we not be
justified in saying that those located outside of the norm are epistemically
'privileged' in that they are generators of knowledge that cannot be accessed
from inside of these norms?  If we were to try and argue that these individuals
located outside of the norm are not epistemically privileged, it isn't clear
what would be gained by their working together with those located within the
normal to solve these problems (for Harding's view) or how these
marginalized/oppressed persons could claim to have more knowledge about the
production of food or clothing outside of saying 'the fairies did it' like those
in the normal class (on Collins' view). These marginalized groups seem to have
some sort of privilege with respect to the norm; the position of epistemic
disablement seems to only have one antithesis: that of epistemic privilege. 

Response - Them

In this case it does not follow that a lack of epistemic disablement constitutes
epistemic privilege. There is a critical distinction between bad knowledge,
produced by the epistemically disabled, good knowledge, produced by a knower who
is able to see beyond the blinders of norms due to their social stiuatedness,
and superior knowledge, which would be produced by the epistemically privileged
in that it would have to be objective and truly removed from the biases of
situatedness to be the best or most true knowledge. However, because a knower
cannot be removed from their social position, epistemic privilege would not be
possible (Harding 63-64). Instead, standpoint theory then advocates for the best
_possible_ knowledge. This is knowledge that is better than what is produced
from a disabled perspective: knowledge produced by someone who, for Wylie, has
critical distance, for Harding, has a set of experiences different from the
norm, and for Collins both a different set of experiences, and a different set
of interpretative tools. As such, Bar On's criticism of epistemic privilege does
not apply because standpoint theory would deny that a privileged perspective is
actually possible. 

Wylie Correspondence Paper - Them

According to Wylie, in order to have a standpoint one must already be a part of
a system, which for Wylie is Academic Institutions, and believe in the system
(Wylie 163). One must then have a moment of realization in which they comprehend
that the system that they are in is not what they though it was, and that they
are oppressed within it (Wylie 163). This standard for a standpoint seems very
specific, but I do not understand how it is not broad. Although most of my
identities are privileged, why can I not develop a standpoint given these
criteria? In terms of both academia and other institutions, I have bought into
as being correct and non-oppressive systems. However, at different points in my
life I have discovered suddenly and jarringly that the system is not set up to
be advantageous to me, and instead puts me at a disadvantage. Do I then not have
a standpoint on these institutions? Or is it that one must have a specific
experience within the institution that shows them that the system is unjust, or
can I just critically examine a system, then jarringly realize that its unjust,
even when I was a part of it and formerly believed in it? Additionally, must the
injustice hinder my ability to be successful within the institution, or can I
suddenly realize that it is unjust for others either through a jarring
experience or through critical analysis? I do not think Wylie is clear enough
here, and I am a bit confused as to what her qualifications for developing a
standpoint really are.

Response - Me

Notice how Wylie describes a "chilly climate" for the women entering academic
fields (165-167). These women at MIT discovered that, much to their amazement,
"that problems they had assumed to be idiosyncratic - to their personal
situation, the peculiarities of their colleagues, the culture of their
institutions or disciplinary subfield - were, in fact, widely shared" (166).
This revelation - that not only yourself, but your entire social group - is
being marginalized in much the same way across the board in a field you are
qualified to be in and comparable to your male counterparts to, might be the
requirement to achieve critical distance and recognize your position as an
outsider within. So while it may be the case that you experience kinds of
oppressive acts, their might be some kind of requirement that it be not just
with respect to you, but also with respect to a group of people of which you are
a member. Notice Wylie's reference to power dynamics and evidence on page 164:
the subdominant group becomes acutely aware of their suffering at the hands of
the dominant group. This would further seem to support that you would need to be
a member of a subdominant group and that your group as a whole is treated more
negatively than the one in a position of power. In terms of injustice as how it
relates to success, it seems to be necessary that this justice _does_ act to
hinder your success. If women in academia are less likely to be paid well or
have tenure track positions, this would seem to directly impact one's ability to
perform more 'controversial' research that one could not do without tenure
protection. I'm not sure if she speaks to this point specifically, but she
offers examples about how it has hindered the safety/security and efficacy of
women doing research. 

Longino Correspondence Paper - Me

Longino provides an alternative conception of scientific knowledge as that of a
consensus by offering a semantic model. She suggests that the semantic view is
"a theory as a specification of a set of relations among objects or processes
characterized in a fairly abstract way [by a structure]" (114), and that "the
structure as specified is neither true nor false; it is just a structure" (114).
These models are adequate if we can map some part of them onto the world (115).
What's important about these models is that "the relations it picks out are ones
in which we are interested" (115). These models then can be judged with respect
to our aims or theoretical goals, along with what we want to be able to model
(the real world, as it were). My question in similar to Intemann's. Longino says
that we can avoid the dilemma of pluralism if we accept that we do not need
consensus about our theories from the entire scientific community (114). But if
we want to make judgments about someone's theory that we do not agree with, can
they not simply escape their criticism by claiming that we have a broad enough
consensus with the scientific community we are concerned about as scientists
attempting to explain the world?  If we don't need consensus from everyone but
enough to justify our models with most of the community we participate in, it
seems that it is hard to make judgments about theories we do not find to be
'good science' and make those criticisms stick. That is to say, Longino's
position on the semantic model and it's ability to divorce consensus from
scientific knowledge only seems to make her suggestion even _less_ feminist than
it might have been before; androcentric and nonfeminist dominated scientific
cultures and communities would simply reply to feminist criticism by saying that
their model generates an adequate amount of consensus, properly explains the
phenomena they wish to model, and that feminist concerns and aims are not ones
their model seeks to supply answers to. 

Response - Them

Initially it seems correct to me to say that it is correct that Longino's doing
away with a need for consensus is problematic because it allows for an escape
from accountability.  Longino puts forth no criteria for how much consensus is
needed for an idea to be accepted, so it appears as though one could claim, as
you do, that we can arbitrarily claim that we do have enough consensus to accept
a theory. However, I do not think that this is the idea that Longino is
attempting to get across.  Instead, Longino detaches scientific knowledge from
consensus in an attempt to avoid an illusion of objectivity (114). Longino
intends for a theory to be accepted tentatively, so that if consensus is reached
at any point, this does not mean that an ultimate truth has been reached,
because a dissenting view could be raised at any point that must be addressed by
the community (112,114).  As such, Longino's rejection of a need for consensus
is not a cop-out, but rather a necessity to ensure that a theory is always
subject to change as new information and perspectives are considered (112).

Rolin Correspondence Paper - Them

 In Kristina Rolin's essay, 'Contextualism in Feminist Epistemology and
Philosophy of Science', Rolin defends the work of Helen Longino. In doing so,
she responds to Kristen Intemann, who argues that Longino's social objectivity
is relative to the values of a society, and as such, Longino's theory does not
necessarily promote feminist views, but rather merely favors diversity (Rolin
25, 32). Rolin responds saying, "Longino's thesis of social objectivity is not
as even handed as Intemann and Kourany take it to be" (Rolin 33). Rolin provides
little defense to this claim, instead referencing that Intemann calls for a
normative feminist theory, thereby implying that Longino does not intend to
conform to the standards that Intemann calls for. Instead, this disparity is not
a result of a flaw in Longino's theory, but rather a result of the fact that
Intemann calls for a normative theory while Longino is attempting to put forth
an ideal theory of science (Rolin 33). Regardless, Rolin seems to overlook the
observation that diversity is not enough to create change, and that Longino's
theory then functions only in isolation of the real world. It appears, then,
that since we cannot do good science (because we cannot adhere to Longino's
standards given the current social atmosphere) that we cannot reach this utopia
that Longino calls for, in order for there to be a good process of knowledge
production. As such, what is the point in defending an ideal theory that can
never be used as Rolin does? 

Response - Me

I think that Rolin is taking Intemann's criticism of Longino's thesis very
seriously here. While it is indeed the case that Longino is constructing an
ideal theory, it seems that Rolin considers this theory to give us at least some
proper tools by which we can measure the efficacy of our science She says that
"Longino challenges this view by arguing that no method of scientific inquiry
can guarantee that an accepted hypothesis or theory is fully value-free. Instead
of embracing an unfeasible ideal, philosophers of science should acknowledge
that the influence of moral and social values on scientists' choice of
background assumptions is not necessarily a sign of bad science" (Rolin, 26). In
other words, Longino's thesis provides a kind of solution to the criticism being
levied against mainstream and usual scientific practices. It seems that to
bridge the gap from this older way of doing it to what Longino is proposing we
would need to spell out exactly what it is that these scientists are valuing and
how it is impacting their practices. In addition to this, we would need to
develop an understanding of how to progress from that point, or how to change
these practices to fall in line with this ideal theory. This is where
Rolin’s notion of a defense commitment and default entitlements come into
play (38).  This analysis of what an epistemic justification looks like for
certain baseline entitlements (moral and social values, as Rolin might put it)
allows us to get from where we currently are to where we need to be in terms of
our practices.  Longino does not explicitly tell us how we can enforce or begin
to use her ideal theory’s epistemic practices, but Rolin provides an account
of how exactly these communities are supposed to function and what these forms
of criticism and review would look like - questioning and examining kinds of
basic values and beliefs scientists hold and seeing whether they are impacting
the science being produced.

Nelson Correspondence Paper

Nelson opens her paper about Epistemic Communities with a quote from Glashow.
She uses this quote to establish a view on evidence to contrast her own position
with (131). Nelson says that that Glashow has an implicit assumption in his
account: "there is one (and only one) true account of the world" (133). She then
says that there are "indefinitely many theories that would enable us to
successfully explain and predict experience, and that no single system would be
better than all others" (133-134). She then goes on to say that "it is
commensurate with what we know and have experienced that an alternative theory
of nature...  might equally well explain and predict what we experience" (134).
I find this position convincing at first, but after thinking about it I find
myself unconvinced that this is actually true. These theories would have the
same consequences; that is to say, these theories allow us to infer similar
experiences that accords with the evidence we gather, and we would not be able
to distinguish one theory from the other. But if these theories all have the
same consequences, and these theories are inferred from the same set of premises
(empirical data, theoretical models, etc.), then it would seem to be the case
that these theories have similar links. That is to say, what they're about is
the same. Thus, all of these theories are true accounts of the world (at least
with regards to the evidence we currently have). But if they all have the same
consequence and they are all derived from the same information, wouldn't it then
be the case that these are all really just the same theory?  It seems that if I
can swap one theory out for another and arrive at the same conclusions, they
were indeed equivalent in such a way that they were actually identical in some
deeper way. It seems to me to be the case that, in fact, these theories are all
actually the same theory; thus, there is only 'one theory' (Glashow's point),
the only difference between them being in their names.

Response - Them

Nelson also rejects Glashows three assumptions in her article of faith. It
appears that you have established another reason that we should reject Glashow's
third assumption that "scientific investigation is such that, at some finite
point, the evidence that we acquire for a view finally and decisively rules out
all alternative views" (Nelson 131). Glashow's theory seems self affirming
because if we all do have the same experiences, and arrive at the same
conclusions, then it must be true that all of our theories about the world are
simply different articulations of the same understanding. And because there is
only one truth, then there can be only one true theory to describe it, which
people are merely describing in different ways.

However, Nelson thinks that it is not even necessary to object to Glashow on
this point, because the third assumption is dependent upon the second; "Our
sensory organs are sufficiently refined to discriminate that truth from other
candidates for truth" (132) This stems from an assumption that everyone is
having the same experiences from which to draw knowledge. Even if this were
possible, due to our situatedness, we would have different interpretative tools
to unpack these experiences, meaning that we would inevitably arrive at
different true pieces of the "one full and unique truth about the world" (132).
It is from this objection that Nelson launches her theory that individuals are
not the knowers, but that rather, communities are (142).

Tuana Correspondence Paper - Them

 In her section on Willful ignorance, Tuana outlines the problem with a
defeatist epistemology, that is, an epistemology that is meant to counter
another way of acquiring knowledge. In the case of an epistemology that backs up
ignorance to some knowledge, it simply would not be possible for this ignorance
to be overcome, even when contrary information is available and knowable to
someone (Tuana 10-11). Because their way of knowing does not allow them to come
to know some things, they actively choose to ignore the knowledge that is
presented to them, because their epistemology does not allow them to see it as
valid knowledge. As such, it would be necessary to change one's entire
epistemology for them to be able to shed this ignorance (Tuana 10-11). But
because they are not receptive to the knowledge that would motivate them to
change their epistemology, it appears as though they would be trapped. In this
way, how would it be possible to break the cycle of willful ignorance? How can
someone be motivated to change their entire epistemology to realize their
willful ignorance? 

Response - Me

This brings up two very important questions: how do we break the cycle and what
are the motivations for this. Both seem intimately related to each other. Tuana
says that "willful ignorance is a deception that we impose upon ourselves, but
it is not an isolated lie we consciously tell ourselves, a belief we know to be
false but insist on repeating. Rather, willful ignorance is a systematic process
of self-deception, a willful embrace of ignorance that infects those who are in
positions of privilege, an active ignoring of the oppression of others and one's
role in that exploitation" (Tuana, 11). It seems that it is a requirement on
this account of willful ignorance that there be some kind of revelation to the
individual that they are being deceived. Tuana doesn't explicitly give us any
sort of tools by which we can cause this revelation to occur or how exactly we
are to dismantle the structure that is causing us to deceive ourselves. She does
say, pulling from Spelman, that "a desire to have the facts... be false, coupled
by a fear that they are not, but where the consequences of their being true are
so high, it is better to cultivate ignorance" (11). It seems that the only real
way to motivate this kind of change is to demonstrate that these facts are true
and that their fear is justified, and that the consequences, while awful, can be
changed. It may be the case that if these consequences are demonstrated to be
fixable, the need for self-deception will disappear: the privileged person will
be able to stop ignoring these facts and participate in a meaningful way. 

Alcoff Correspondence Paper - Me

In class it was discussed that Alcoff's return to an objective reason was a sort
of circling back to where we started; we began the semester with authors
throwing away objective reason as it was traditionally viewed to propose
theories and ideas that would support feminist values and produce 'good
science'. However, Alcoff makes the striking statement that "thought must be
gauged by something that is not thought" (55), a claim that is opaque, if not
entirely confusing - after all, most judgments are made through thought. But it
seems to be the case that, instead of this being some kind of vicious circle
where we merely arrive back where we started, Alcoff is instead condemning the
practices of earlier feminist epistemologists like Harding, Collins, or Longino.
Alcoff, when speaking of Okri, says that "open spaces for the development of
critical and creative reason are rapidly shrinking as universities themselves
become corporatized, 'digital diploma mills' instrumentalized by a war economy
engaged in global imperial projects" (53).  The move by universities to become
corporatized academies leads to a sort of knowledge production rife with
problems, Horkheimer calling them "a liquidation of the subject... the atrophied
ability to resist or critique" (53). The projects of the academy are tainted by
the throes of capitalism, endangering knowledge and leading to the kind of
ignorance Alcoff spends the majority of her paper discussing. Indeed, this
problem seems intimately related to Mills' discussion of the consensual
hallucination (49). Alcoff later goes on to claim that "one might well take such
a view to be a denial of the constitutive relationship between knowledge and
power" (56), which seems entirely to be a jab at Longino and others like her. It
seems, therefore, that Alcoff might be taking what has been generated by these
previous theorists about ignorance and power, and extending that work to its
logical conclusion: if we are in fact to attempt and judge our science with how
it upholds feminist values and criticizes out of the practice of knowledge
production other views that disagree with it, are those who attempt to have
knowledge serve feminist ideals "no better than those who would put it to the
service of capitalism" (56)? 

Response - Them

It appears that as Alcoff attempts to assert the necessity of objectivity, she
is pointing out a bias in striving to make an epistemology feminist (Alcoff 53).
It seems that she is saying that a feminist epistemology assumes that feminist
values are correct in the creation of the epistemology, when this is itself an
assumption because in an epistemology created specifically to be supportive of
marginalized identities will be constructed in such a way that sexist ideas
cannot be considered knowledge, creating a type of willful ignorance (Alcoff 53,
Tuana 10-11).

In your analysis, though, you say that Alcoff would disagree with earlier
theorists like Longino. It seems to me, that Longino's four criteria, if adhered
to in the way that Longino intends, would create a type of objectivity that is
equally as critical of feminist ideas as sexist ones, thereby accounting for the
problem that Alcoff raised here (Longino 112). It would allow for some level of
objectivity. As such, I am unsure just how much Alcoff would disagree with
Longino, although she does say that “thought must be gauged by something
that is not thought" (Alcoff 55), it seems that Longino's theory would still
fall under some level of scrutiny. 

Regardless, one major differences that fuels Alcoff's belief in objectivity is a
different definition of knowledge altogether (Alcoff 54). Instead of knowledge
being something to be obtained (regardless of whether or not it is constantly in
the process of being changed), Alcoff conceptualizes knowledge as a process that
takes place between social points (Alcoff 54). As such, knowledge can be
assessed differently than it is by other theorists, opening up the possibility
for an objective feminist epistemology. 

Lugones Correspondence Paper - Them

On page 476, Lugones describes the dominant group's perception of themselves as
having objective, 'pure' thought. She describes a scenario in which the
marginalized group must become familiar with this perception of objective
thought to navigate the dominant group’s structured world (Lugones 466).
However, being in a marginalized position, Lugones seems to allude to epistemic
privilege, saying that marginalized people can come to understand both this
perception of objectivity, as well as situated knowing (Lugones 476-477).
Lugones seems to pose this as a method of resistance, or breaking free of the
dominant groups control (Lugones 477), but also addresses the concern that a
marginalized person coming to an understanding of the 'objective, pure' way of
thinking could lead to them turning, and imposing this structure upon other
marginalized identities (Lugones 466). However, I am confused as to how this
understanding can be used. How is Lugones' proposed 'way out' of the oppressive
cycle actually going to work? It seems like it only grants marginalized groups
knowledge that the dominant group would be ignorant to. I understand how it
disrupts ideas of objective thought, but I fail to see how this might
fundamentally change the system as a whole. 

Response - Me

To me, it is also unclear how this would be a way of fundamentally changing the
system. Instead, it seems to be a method for preserving one's sense of self.
Oppressed groups are forced to trade in the language and logic of pure thought
and separation (Lugones, 477). But I think it's important to understand that
this goal is itself an incredibly important point on what this resistance itself
looks like. This resistance is an attempt by people to not allow a system to
destroy them and their culture; it is the way in which they can remain curdled,
and to not become like the lover of purity (466). To avoid losing this, Lugones
says that "we have to constantly consider and reconsider the question: Who are
our own people?" (477). Thus, this resistance is a way of survival and not
allowing the system to destroy you, to remain curdled. Lugones believes that
this is an active them, saying "curdle-separation is not something that happens
to us but something we do" (478). She also says "though transparents fail to see
its sense, and thereby keep its sense from structuring our social life, that we
curdle testifies to our being active subjects, not consumed by the logic of
control... [curdling] can become an art of resistance, metamorphosis,
transformation" (478). This act of resistance is a maintenance of the self in a
world where there are constant attempts to destroy you, to separate you out. The
goal then is not to destroy the system, but survive in it, and hope it changes
in response. 

Spelman Correspondence Paper - Me

In Elizabeth Spelman's paper 'Managing Ignorance', she gives us details on what
the managing of ignorance would look like and its motivations.  Spelman, pulling
from Baldwin, argues that "there is something whites are unwilling to believe,
namely, that black America's grievances are real" (Spelman, 120), and follows it
up with an account of what whites managing their ignorance would look like.
Later, Spelman brings up the decades following the Civil War and how ignorance
was managed then, providing an historical account.  Spelman says "the decades
after the Civil War in the United States provide a host of examples made almost
to order in support of Baldwin's claim about white America's ability to manage
ignorance by inoculating itself against inquiry into and knowledge of the
horrors of white racism" (126). She brings up Woodrow Wilson's speech fifty
years after the Civil War, saying that "by this point reconciliationists had put
decades of concerted effort into 'banish[ing] slavery and race from the
discussion' of the war", and she quotes David Blight as saying "can we say happy
is the nation that hath no history" (128). But it seems to me that this isn't
the case for managing ignorance, as Spelman might want it to be, but rather a
different kind of ignorance. Managing ignorance seems to be done on the
individual level, as a very active kind of thing (W does not believe that g is
true and does not want to believe that g is true), but this later account seems
to be more about an ignorance like 'you do know and they do not want you to
know', as Tuana would put it. Is this perhaps a broader account of what managing
ignorance may look like, or am I misreading Spelman? 

Response - Them

I do agree with you that this account seems problematic, though I do think that
she is intending to put forth these perspectives as ways of managing ignorance,
though in such a way that also perpetuates further ignorance. When these
prominent figures take on a perspective that does not address the racial element
of history, they are managing the ignorance of the past, in an attempt to move
beyond it to the future. However, in doing so from a dominant perspective that
denies history and promoting a sort of 'blindness' to the past, the ignorance
shifted to from 'you do not know and you do not want to know' to a 'you do _not_
know and they do not want you to know.' As such, these statements are examples
of managing ignorance because they are a mechanism requiring effort to maintain
the ignorance both on the part of the speaker, and the individual (Spelman 123).
In saying "can we say happy is the nation that hath no history" (Spelman 128),
the idea is being reinforced that ignorance to the past is the path forward,
encouraging people to also adopt a mindset of not knowing, thereby immunizing
the dominant group from needing to deal with the racially charged ideologies of
the past, allowing them to continue. So, Spelman has illustrated here how
statements like these fulfill the four entailments of ignorance, portraying them
as a method of managing the ignorance of the past to create a different,
resilient form of ignorance in the present.

Bailey Correspondence Paper - Them

Bailey discusses strategic ignorance, and the use of ignorance by marginalized
groups. She says that the ignorance of the dominant group can be used as a form
of resistance by the marginalized group, using the analogy of the marginalized
group being "servants" in the "master's house" (Bailey 87).  Because the masters
carry preconceived notions about the marginalized group, the servants can use
their understanding of the systems put in place by the masters to subjugate them
as a method of navigating and surviving the environment (Bailey 87). Bailey
portrays this as a form of resistance to the dominant group's subjugation
(Bailey 77). It seems to me, though that while this is a method for survival
under an oppressive system, that this is not actually resistance, but instead
plays into the dominant group's perception of the marginalized people. As such,
using the stereotypes as a method of survival perpetuates the ideas and systems
under which the marginalized group is oppressed. Can it be considered resistance
if it is not concerned with finding a way to break free of the system of
oppression? This situation even goes so far as to support systems of oppression,
so can it really be considered a form of resistance, with the exceptions of
extreme cases like that of Fredrick Douglass which do eventually break the
system of oppression? 

Response - Me

You mention Frederick Douglass as an extreme case of strategic ignorance in
which he is able to undermine the system in place to achieve something
previously denied to him. It doesn't seem to be the case that this 'breaks free
of the system' or demolishes barriers present to every nonwhite individual at
the time. It might simply be the case that strategic ignorance is not concerned
with destroying the entire system of racial prejudice or systemic problems in
our society. Rather, it is a tool available to those who are marginalized to be
able to survive. Bailey says that strategic ignorance "can be wielded by groups
living under oppression as a way of gaining information, sabotaging work,
avoiding or delaying harm, and preserving a sense of self" (Bailey, 77). This
seems to be what the resistance is about. The acts of resistance are acts of
survival or subversion, intended to only benefit that one person and not all
people. So yes, it doesn't do anything to end the stereotypes or stop ignorant
people from being ignorant, it enables marginalized and oppressed groups to
resist the system itself by denying what the system says about them as people.
Indeed, Bailey says that "people of color have historically been portrayed as
unintelligent, childlike, hypersexual, or primitive. Strategic ignorance is a
way of expediently working with a dominant group's tendency to see wrongly"
(88). It seems more like a sort of localized liberation than a broad one, more
about surviving and acquiring much needed skills or knowledge in a system that
would deny it to an individual than to give it to everyone in the group. 

Pohlhaus Correspondence - Me

Gaile Pohlhaus devotes a section of her essay to caveats to what she says
earlier about wrongful requests. She says that she does not "condemn those who
_do_ understand others in ways that shortcut their own agency" (Pohlhaus, 237).
She says that, to safely navigate power relations in the world, one may be
forced to understand how others view the world, even when such force "leaves
little or no room for [their] own agency" (236). In short, she is attempting to
only condemn this wrongful requests and point out the agency-limiting behavior
of those who perform them, rather than those who assent to the reduction of
their own agency. However, this stressed point concerns me.  Pohlhaus says that
"the white storeowner ought to understand how his use of a buzzer system is
unjust", even though he may not be aware of the injustice (236). She says that
"the meaning of my words and actions is not, nor should it be, determined solely
by what I think or want them to mean... often persons in dominant positions say
and do things that effectively harm others without expressly thinking that is
what they are doing" (236). It seems that, not only is the oppressed person's
agency attempting to be limited, but that they also must walk a tight-rope to
navigate these requests they come across each day. It would appear to be the
case that the onus is both on and not on the oppressed individual to assent or
dissent to the limiting of their own agency.  If they do not deny the request,
they are harmed; if they do deny the request, the oppressor will be none the
wiser as to their own action. Nothing will change in either case, and yet there
will be serious risk to the marginalized individual. How is it that they can
navigate this double bind? Is there some way out so that both individuals are
positively impacted? Does Pohlhaus provide such a method? 

Pohlhaus Response - Them

It appears to me that Pohlhaus does not place as much duty on the place of the
marginalized person as it may seem. When she says "Instead, I am arguing that we
should approach others and have the right to expect to be approached by others
in ways that enable an equitable range of possibilities for meaningful action"
(236), she _is_ putting the responsibility on the marginalized person to alert
the dominant person to their unjust action. However, earlier Pohlhaus also said
"an attempt on the part of the white storeowner to understand or follow
reasoning that supports the view that his actions are wrong might be difficult
or painful for him, since he may like to think of himself as someone who acts
rightly. That this is difficult or painful, however, in no way unfairly limits
his possibilities for action" (236). Here, it is implied that the white
storeowner ought to also take some responsibility for understanding the
perspectives of others, even though it makes him uncomfortable. As such, the
marginalized person is not caught in a complete double- blind trap, rather they
are disadvantaged in the situation, because there is no motivation for the white
storeowner to attempt to understand another perspective (236).


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