Duquesne
Nov 12, 2022 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM(America/New_York)
20221112T0900 20221112T1145 America/New_York New Directions in the Science of Structural Oppression

Social oppression is generally understood to be "structural": formal and informal rules and common patterns of interaction cause disparate and inequitable outcomes for members of certain social groups. However, it is common-especially in psychology and some philosophical subfields-for work to focus narrowly on features of individuals or interpersonal interactions. This symposium brings together four papers on the science of structural oppression that aim, in different ways, (1) to diagnose the causes of this tendency to examine interpersonal rather than structural phenomena, (2) to identify barriers to studying structural oppression, and (3) recommend new avenues of research that embrace the structural character of oppression. Thus, we examine experimental measures of discrimination, hypotheses about conditions that make microaggressions harmful, and how oppression can be facilitated by artifacts and by categorization choices in demography. This symposium will present new work that grapples with the structural character of oppression rather than its personal or interpersonal manifestations, and bring attention to recent work from various disciplines that does the same. We also hope to model a valuable kind of work in philosophy of science that supports a broader project of inquiry through interdisciplinary engagement and constructive, good-faith criticism.

Duquesne PSA 2022 office@philsci.org

Social oppression is generally understood to be "structural": formal and informal rules and common patterns of interaction cause disparate and inequitable outcomes for members of certain social groups. However, it is common-especially in psychology and some philosophical subfields-for work to focus narrowly on features of individuals or interpersonal interactions. This symposium brings together four papers on the science of structural oppression that aim, in different ways, (1) to diagnose the causes of this tendency to examine interpersonal rather than structural phenomena, (2) to identify barriers to studying structural oppression, and (3) recommend new avenues of research that embrace the structural character of oppression. Thus, we examine experimental measures of discrimination, hypotheses about conditions that make microaggressions harmful, and how oppression can be facilitated by artifacts and by categorization choices in demography. This symposium will present new work that grapples with the structural character of oppression rather than its personal or interpersonal manifestations, and bring attention to recent work from various disciplines that does the same. We also hope to model a valuable kind of work in philosophy of science that supports a broader project of inquiry through interdisciplinary engagement and constructive, good-faith criticism.

Who Counts in Official Statistics?View Abstract
Symposium 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM (America/New_York) 2022/11/12 14:00:00 UTC - 2022/11/12 16:45:00 UTC
Debates about racism and calls for racial equality have recently surged. This shift is reflected in the EU’s expansion of its anti-discriminatory policies to include race and ethnicity as categories. To determine the extent of racial/ethnic discrimination and the success of ‘positive action’ measures, the EU recommends the collection of statistical data. Unlike the systematic investigation of racial disparities in the UK and the US, in most European countries, ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ are not used as statistical categories in comprehensive data collection. In Germany, reservations towards gathering racial/ethnic data and even the very term ‘Rasse’ are deep-seated due to the history of National Socialism. Instead, categories such as ‘migration background’ are used. We argued in previous research that collecting racial/ethnic data is crucial to map patterns of multi-layered disparities and discrimination, inequalities and vulnerability and identify effective mitigation strategies. Building on this work, we argue that the category of “migration background” is both ethically and epistemically unsuited for this task and explore alternative approaches. First, we draw on accounts of ethical-epistemic analysis (Tuana, 2010, 2013; Katekireddi & Valles 2015; Valles forthcoming), as well as social-scientific research to argue that the category of 'migration background' is both epistemically and ethically problematic. As Aikins et al. (2020) point out, it does not capture the putative racial discrimination of some racialised groups. For example, black Germans whose parents both have German citizenship by birth have no ‘migration background’ (https://afrozensus.de/reports/2020/). This suggests that demographic categories such as ‘migration background’ can render certain social groups invisible (Will, 2019). The stakes are high as the current demographic categories disallow investigating to which extent structural racism is a causal factor explaining racial disparities related to, e.g., health outcomes in the context of COVID-19 (Plümecke et al., 2021). Second, we draw on debates on the metaphysics of race and ethnicity to examine alternatives to ‘migration background’. Drawing on an ongoing experiment study (James et al., in progress), we provide a comparative analysis of race talk in the US and Germany. We address concerns raised by the use of racial/ethnic categories related to, e.g., privacy, and reflect on the controversy regarding the meaning of the German term for race (‘Rasse’). One metaphysical worry is whether adopting racial categories in official statistics commits us to the view that races are biologically real, a view widely held to be refuted. However, we argue that, while talk of ‘racialised groups’ may be preferable in most (including social-scientific) contexts, cautious talk of ‘Rasse’ is permissible in others. In particular, the latter may be suited to publicly communicate how racial discrimination shapes material and (physical and mental) health conditions, socioeconomic positions and overall well-being in racialised people (Hendl, Chung and Wild, 2020). Thus, we explore how conceptual ethics can inform the social-scientific and public debate over racial/ethnic classification and thereby facilitate racial/ethnic data collection that is both ethically and epistemically sound.
Presenters
DJ
Daniel James
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
TH
Tereza Hendl
The University Of Augsburg And Ludwig-Maximilians-University Of Munich
Materialized MicroaggressionView Abstract
Symposium 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM (America/New_York) 2022/11/12 14:00:00 UTC - 2022/11/12 16:45:00 UTC
Microaggressions, as defined by psychologist Derald Wing Sue, are “the brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual-orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue 2010: 5; see also Sue et al 2007). Amongst these three different mechanisms, environmental microaggression is most rarely discussed and most poorly understood. On Regina Rini’s (2021: 21) characterization “Environmental microaggressions are distinctive in that they don’t involve any particular perpetrator. They are background facts that regularly confront marginalized people with casual disregard or disdain.” Sue’s own examples tend to primarily involve social arrangements, and his own analyses tend to primarily be about messages communicated. For example, he talks about his own experience, as a non-white person, going into a room of university administrators, all of whom are white, and how this monochromatic scene sends the message “You and your kind are not welcome here.” (Sue 2010: 25–26). However, I contend that the background facts that regularly confront marginalized people are often not only social, but also material. For example, automatic soap dispensers that work less well for darker-skinned users also realize environmental microaggressions. Such objects and spaces are not merely biased against some class of users, but a downstream consequence of injustice toward an oppressed group and an upstream antecedent of further injustices. That is, they are oppressive things that don’t simply reflect or reveal past injustices, they also perpetuate it: in particular, they do so because—on a broadly 4E cognition perspective—our thoughts and actions causally depend on, and may even be partially constituted by, our cognitive environment (Liao and Huebner 2021). My proposal can be thought of as a generalization of Alison Reiheld’s (2020) account of microaggressions as a disciplinary technique for fat bodies. Specifically, Reiheld gives examples of furnitures that are not built to fit fat bodies as examples of such environmental microaggressions. But the world is also full of similarly materialized microaggressions against oppressed groups along axes of race, gender, disability, etc. and their intersections. These objects and spaces have the same epistemic profile as verbal and behavioral microaggressions. People in the oppressive group tend to not notice the existence of such materialized microaggressions. But even people in the oppressed group tend to not notice their systematicity: that is, they might be inclined to explain away individual interactions as isolated incidents. In particular, the connections between materialized microaggressions and other manifestations of oppression remain opaque. Taking seriously the materiality of environmental microaggressions also challenges Sue’s own understanding of the concept. While he focuses on social arrangements and symbolic communication, a materialist conception of environmental microaggressions emphasizes their role in scripting thoughts and actions. To address environmental microaggressions, we do not need training sessions with consultants; instead, we need to gradually, but quite literally, remake the world.
Presenters Shen-yi Liao
University Of Puget Sound
A Structural Microaggression Concept for Causal InquiryView Abstract
Symposium 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM (America/New_York) 2022/11/12 14:00:00 UTC - 2022/11/12 16:45:00 UTC
Microaggressions have received increasing attention in recent decades because, although individually they may seem minor, they are hypothesized to have significant harmful psychological and social effects in aggregate. However, correct usage of the term “microaggression” is contested; authors across disciplines defend a variety of inconsistent accounts. Psychologists, moral philosophers and other scholars (e.g. Sue et al., 2007; Rini, 2020; McTernan, 2018; Pérez Huber and Solorzano, 2015) construct definitions or glosses in service of their varied investigative aims, which include the assessment of moral responsibility, near-term institutional reform, and the construction of anti-oppressive phenomenologies. However, I argue that these accounts are not so well-suited to guide empirical research about how microaggressions cause certain social ills. I propose a pluralist account of microaggressions that builds on these extant accounts while facilitating causal-explanatory inquiry. Public health researchers (e.g. Gee and Ford, 2011) have found that inequitable structural outcome gaps—like the U.S. racial health gap, racial and gendered income gaps across the world, gaps in mental health outcomes, etc.—are not fully explained by correlated factors like socioeconomic status. Microaggressions are thought to contribute to these outcome gaps, but there are outstanding questions about precisely what causal role microaggressions play. Let the “explanatory project” be the effort to answer these questions. I recommend a pluralistic causal role account, that microaggressions are whatever interpersonal and institutional factors explain the outcome gaps. I identify a number of independent (but not mutually exclusive) hypotheses about mechanisms that might fulfill this causal role, including attributions to prejudice, attributional ambiguity, plausible deniability of discrimination, and implicit bias. These hypotheses correspond to emphases in various extant accounts of microaggressions, and suggest distinct kinds of interventions. While a priori disputes about these accounts can serve some investigative aims, the explanatory project can only be resolved satisfactorily through future empirical work. Most extant accounts of microaggression are poorly suited to the explanatory project, because they are crafted to accommodate, rather than to overcome, our present epistemic limitations. In particular, most extant accounts take as given various social controversies or gaps in our understanding of microaggressions and the causal role they play in individual well-being and structural oppression. Rini (2020) objects to “structural” accounts like mine on the ground that they lack epistemic humility; in particular that they are inconsistent with attractive versions of standpoint epistemology. I argue that Rini’s arguments presuppose her project—assessing moral responsibility—and her discussion artificially forecloses empirical possibilities because of epistemic constraints that apply to individuals, but not to research programs. It is possible that when we better understand the mechanisms that cause outcome gaps, we may decide that they are so diverse that they do not merit being grouped under a common label. That is, my account may eventually be self-eliminating. But I do not recommend the wholesale elimination of the term “microaggression,” since the term can still function as a tool outside of the explanatory project, e.g. in phenomenological or moral accounts.
Presenters Mikio Akagi
Associate Professor Of The History And Philosophy Of Science, Texas Christian University
Path Dependence in Psychological Measures of Racial DiscriminationView Abstract
Symposium 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM (America/New_York) 2022/11/12 14:00:00 UTC - 2022/11/12 16:45:00 UTC
Early scales developed to measure experiences of everyday racial discrimination employ an interpersonal schema of the racial discrimination construct (e.g, McNeilly 1996; Williams 1997; Krieger et al. 2005). For example, the Perceived Racism Scale conceives of racial discrimination as “a belief or attitude that some races are superior to others and discrimination based on such a belief” (McNeilly 1996, 155). However, racial discrimination is now recognized to be a more expansive construct that includes structural oppression. Measures of discriminatory experiences of structural oppression lag behind. In this talk, I argue that the concept of path dependence is useful for understanding how measurements of everyday racial discrimination in psychology and sociology have (1) developed to primarily measure features of interpersonal discrimination and (2) frequently fail to measure cases of structural discrimination. Path dependent systems are those in which a particular change in a system’s history reinforces its development along particular “paths” and hinders other “paths”. The concept of path dependence gained traction in economics, social science, and science and technology studies (e.g., David 2001) to analyze why some standards set by a previous technology are perpetuated in future designs, even when alternatives may be as good or better. The classic but contested example is the QWERTY organization of keyboards (David 1985; Leibowitz and Margolis 1990). According to David (1985), the QWERTY layout was chosen to solve a technical issue with previous typewriter designs, namely, putting commonly used letters further apart to avoid errors when congruent type bars are pressed in sequence by . While we no longer face this technical problem, QWERTY layouts persist even when superior alternatives exist, such as the Dvorak layout. Path dependence can help explain why interpersonal scales have dominated the measurement of racial discrimination in psychology and sociology. The features of measurement validation reinforce the early focus on an interpersonal schema of the racial discrimination construct because earlier published scales become standards by which to evaluate future scales. When multiple measurement scales are intended to measure the same construct, we assess their convergent validity: the extent to which both measures do in fact measure the same construct. In psychology, convergent validity is often measured by assessing correlation coefficients of the scores on those measures. There is no explicit rule to determine what strength of correlation is required, so judgments are made implicitly and case-by-case. Further, an imperfect correlation is to be expected: noise in the data is expected and different scales ought to have some relevant differences. Small differences in scales can sometimes lead to importantly distinct results (e.g., one or two questions for race and ethnicity in the U.S. Census would impact the amount of self-identifying Hispanic people; Valles 2021). Thus, when implicit judgments require high convergent validity between existing scales and new scales, path dependence can emerge. Applying this analysis to the case of everyday racial discrimination measures, this path dependence has led to a focus on interpersonal discrimination over structural discrimination.
Presenters
MT
Morgan Thompson
Universität Bielefeld
Universität Bielefeld
Associate Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science
,
Texas Christian University
University of Puget Sound
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
The University of Augsburg and Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich
Duke University
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