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“What Does it Mean to Have a Social Identity as X? A Non-idealizing Metaphysics of Social Identities” - Youjin Kong (UGA)

Youjin Kong
Peabody Hall, Room 115

In this talk, I explore the metaphysics of social identities by using non-ideal theory as a method. I examine what social identities are by analyzing the experiences of marginalized people—the experiences of people having a social identity as X (e.g., “Latina,” “Muslim woman”) in the non-ideal world, where they are marginalized by virtue of being X. To this end, I delve into the decolonial feminist philosophies of Uma Narayan, Mariana Ortega, and María Lugones, and engage their conceptual frameworks with Asian and Asian American experiences. Through these analyses, I develop an account of social identities as processes of navigating power. A social identity as Xcan be most accurately understood as the process as a whole, in which the subject lives as an X by navigating power dynamics, bargaining with them, and highlighting different meanings of being X. This comprehensive understanding of social identity can only be attained by employing non-ideal theory as a method, which centers on power-as-oppression that shapes marginalized people’s lives, whereas not attainable through ideal theory, which excludes such power from metaphysical analyses.

Youjin Kong (PhD Michigan State University) is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Georgia. Her research specializations are in Social/Political Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, and the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Her current research focuses on two strands. First, she analyzes how AI reproduces gender and racial injustice and develops philosophical frameworks for improving justice in socio-technical systems. Second, she explores what social identity (such as race, ethnicity, and gender) is and means, especially how these change in relationship to power. She is presently working to build a non-idealizing, decolonial ontology of social identity that could serve as a bridge between AI fairness research and women of color feminism.

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