Keynote by Prof. Robert Bernasconi, "Racism, Responsibility, and Social Vulnerability"
- Date: 19 April, 16:00–18:00
- Location: Humanistiska teatern
- Lecturer: Robert Bernasconi, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies, Pennsylvania State University
- Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology and Engaging Vulnerability research program (Uppsala University)
- Contact person: Anna Baral
Keynote, SANT/FAS 2018 Conference: "Vulnerabilities"
“Racism, Responsibility, and Social Vulnerability”
Reference to the disproportionate impact on African Americans of the tropical cyclone Katrina is often considered sufficient to establish that race needs to be included among the factors contributing to our understanding of social vulnerability. Nevertheless, we also need to be aware of the way in which the perception of the racial dimension of social vulnerability has on occasion been used, and, it seems, is still being used, to perpetuate systemic racism. If we are to be able to give a philosophical account of how the concept of social vulnerability has an ethical purchase, we need to go beyond the merely factual level.
In the second half of the paper, Prof. Bernasconi draws on Levinas’s account of how the concept of vulnerability embodies the idea of ethical responsibility to meet that need, but uses the argument about the operation of systemic racism developed in the first part to conclude against Levinas that his account must be located within a comprehensive political theory so as to guard against the danger that in our efforts to address our responsibilities we do not end up sustaining the status quo.