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Overlooking Everyday Injustice with Global Justice
January 13, 2012 11:30 AM
Presented by Professor Brooke Ackerly, Vanderbilt University

A buffet lunch will be provided at 11:30am, public lecture will begin at 12:30pm.
Please RSVP for lunch only at 

A theory of global justice is not always a theory of injustice. But it should be. Problems of injustice can be revealed in patterns of suffering and survival, but these patterns can also obfuscate the forces behind injustice, revealing some, but concealing others. Distributive approaches to global justice that draw our attention to the patterns, institutions, and principles of global justice have broadened the scope of our theoretical conversations about justice. Feminist theory can more than broaden our subject of global injustice. Using intersectional analysis, a feminist critical theory gives empirical attention to perniciously self-concealing forms of injustice. These forces work through structures, norms, and behaviors. They exercise power not only through structures and systems, but also through epistemology and even our very understandings of what it means to be human and our relations with each other. Intersectional analysis makes us aware of the vast complexity in the structures of our interactions and the potential for injustice and justice in these interactions. A theory of global justice needs to be a feminist critical theory of global injustice that leads us to understand the power dynamics of global injustice lest we underestimate them or accept them as normal.

This argument will be illustrated using the example of the 2008 global food crises to sketch out the dimensions of injustice to which a theory of global justice must attend. Yet the argument applies equally to a range of other forms of global injustice: to the differential mortality of women and men in natural disaster, to the complex forces of development and political change through which commercial activity in the developing world can lead to environmental degradation, and to the multiple layers of injustice associated with labor practices in the global garment industry. What these problems share are dimensions that are visible and others that are either invisible (such as mortality of poor women particularly of the age group 20-44 in cyclone Aila in Bangladesh in 1991) or difficult to disentangle such as the causes of environmental degradation (as in the southwest region of Bangladesh where the export shrimp industry has taken off).

Brooke Ackerly is Associate Professor in the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. Professor Ackerly's research interests include democratic theory, feminist methodologies, human rights, social and environmental justice. Her research blends theoretical work with empirical research on activism. Her publications include Political Theory and Feminist Social Criticism (Cambridge 2000), Universal Human Rights in a World of Difference (Cambridge 2008), and Doing Feminist Research, with Jacqui True (Palgrave Macmillan 2010). She is currently working on the intersection of global economic, environmental, and gender justice. Ackerly is also the founder of the Global Feminisms Collaborative, a group of scholars and activists developing ways to collaborate on applied research for social justice.

Hosted in partnership with the Department of Political Science.

Liu Institute for Global Issues, Multipurpose Room
January 2012
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