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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.

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