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    Instruments of power: how emotions contribute to oppression

    Sáenz-Benavides, María Laurencia (2019) Instruments of power: how emotions contribute to oppression. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    In analytic philosophy, discussion of oppression has focused on its definition. However, whilst definitional approaches are valuable as a means of achieving conceptual clarity, they tend to underplay a key aspect of oppression: its embodied, emotional dimension. If we attend to the descriptions of oppression offered in narratives and first-personal accounts, by the oppressed, the centrality of emotions comes to the fore. In this thesis I argue that attending to the role of emotions is crucial to producing an explanatorily rich account of racial and gender oppression. In contrast to those philosophical models that conceive of emotions as primarily episodic, disruptive and short-lived, I argue that we need to think of emotions as long-lived “patterns” (Goldie, 2012) or “attunements” (Bartky, 1990). Only by doing so can we properly explain their role in oppression. Moreover, attending to the relational aspect of emotions (Ahmed, 2004) allows us to account for the ways structures of power operate. Not only are some emotional phenomena partly shaped by oppressive structures, they also play an instrumental role in sustaining and reinforcing them. I contend that, by conceptualising emotions as mechanisms for reproducing structures of power, we can shed light on individuals’ complicity and participation in oppression. By showing how oppressors have an emotional investment in structures of oppression, and how emotions “can attach us to the very conditions of our subordination” (Ahmed, 2004, p. 12), we can identify one of the reasons of the pervasiveness of oppression.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2019 10:35
    Last Modified: 18 Jun 2021 13:00


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