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Winter Colloquium Series - Alisa Bierria, “Black Action & Criminal Intent: A Challenge for Agency Theory”
WhenFriday, Jan 11, 2019, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Campus locationSavery Hall (SAV)
Campus roomSavery 264
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsDepartment of Philosophy
Program on Ethics
University of Washington

Location: Savery 264

Title: “Black Action & Criminal Intent: A Challenge for Agency Theory”

Alisa Bierria
Assistant Professor
Ethnic Studies
UC Riverside

What does the systematic criminalization of black action reveal about the theorization of human agency? In this discussion, I explore various examples of intimate state violence against black women to consider how the social construction of black women’s agency is maneuvered by others to conform to powerful social and epistemic conditions that conflate black action with criminal action. In light of the relationship between the construction of intention and the politics of meaning, I contend that we must not only ask “how much” agency are subjects granted in conditions of oppression, but also “what kind” of agencies are projected onto subjects so that these conditions of oppression are rendered legitimate? I recommend a qualitative mapping methodology to better highlight and theorize the complex social and political context of human agency. This framework re-conceptualizes agency in pluralist terms – “heterogeneous agencies” – and advocates that agency within social encounters are evaluated in terms that are indexed to systems of power and legitimacy.

Alisa Bierria is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She is developing a manuscript entitled, Missing in Action: Agency, Race, & Invention, which explores how intentional action is socially imagined in contexts of anti-black racism, carceral cultures, and gendered violence. Alisa is co-editor of Community Accountability: Emerging Movements to Transform Violence, a special issue of Social Justice.  Her writing can also be found in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Journal of Popular Music Studies, and in numerous scholarly volumes, activist anthologies, and op/eds. Alisa is also a member of several community-based initiatives, including Survived and Punished, a national project that develops policy and research strategies to challenge the criminalization of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She received her PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University.

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