To what and to whom do we consider ourselves responsible? To our neighbor down the street? To a shared planet? How do we draw the lines of our obligations and binds — by kin, race, nation? What happens in those moments when we are called to respond differently, to others across the boundaries we had drawn and in ways more imaginative than our habitual modes? These questions of roots and routes, bonds and breaks, guide my interdisciplinary research.
My dissertation, “Re-describing an Ethics of Responsibility with Édouard Glissant,” argues that Glissant presents a vocabulary for ethics in a globalized present. In dialogue with 20th-century Continental philosophy, I first read Emmanuel Levinas in order to bring into relief the limitations of what I call “the standard account of responsibility,” which focuses on an individual’s past liabilities and present possibilities for action. While Levinas presents an alternative to this account, his emphasis on an impossible responsibility between one individual and a single Other eschews community. This eschewal is too severe in a context wherein responses to anthropogenic climate change and international refugee crises require communal political action. What is needed today is a vocabulary of ethics that avoids backward-looking liability models and that poses achievable, rather than impossible, tasks. Drawing on Glissant’s concepts of “contacts among cultures,” “relation,” and “rooted errancy,” I call for a new vocabulary of responsibility in terms of participation, solidarity, and feasibility. My work is thus situated between moral and political philosophy.
In regard to figures and traditions more broadly, I read and comment on Édouard Glissant, William James, Simone Weil, Enrique Dussel, and John Dewey. In this way, I am in conversation with American (including Latin American), Caribbean, and Continental philosophy.
My dissertation committee is: Cynthia Willett (co-director), Dilek Huseyinzadegan (co-director), Rocío Zambrana, and Valérie Loichot. John Stuhr is a reference for my publications in U.S. pragmatism and religion.
Several people outside of Emory are familiar with my research. John Drabinski is the external reader on my dissertation committee. Sophie Bourgault and Helen Kinsella know my work on Simone Weil; Kinsella can also speak to my approach to humanitarianism and human rights. Vincent Lloyd can comment on both my writing related to political theology and my dissertation on Levinas and Glissant. Mark Kingwell understands, and indeed has shaped, how I approach philosophy as a practice that connects ethics, aesthetics, and politics—philosophy as a mode of engagement with questions of values and publics.