Seminar "Mindshaping, Racist Habits, and White Ignorance"
Meeting ID: 961 0461 2077
Speaker: Michelle Maiese, Professor of Philosophy at Emmanuel College in Boston, MA
Theorists such as Charles Mills have argued that racism and white supremacy are pernicious, in part, because they result in an “epistemology of ignorance” whereby white people come to know the world in systematically distorted ways. Drawing upon insights from the enactivist approach and associated notions of habit and mindshaping, I argue that so-called “white ignorance” is the result of over-determining social influences that frequently operate covertly and lead to inflexible habits of mind. These socially inculcated habits make it difficult for individuals to attend to relevant considerations, form accurate interpretations, or revise their beliefs in light of new evidence. But in addition, white subjects actively, though not necessarily self-consciously or intentionally, maintain their ignorance and investment in whiteness in order to hold on to racial privilege, preserve their self-image, and avoid painful confrontations. In my view, an enactivist account of mindshaping and habit can help us to make sense of how subjects are both molded by their social environment, and also play an active role in enacting and reproducing oppressive patterns of cognitive and practical engagement.
Michelle Maiese received her PhD in Philosophy from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2005 and is now Professor of Philosophy at Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. Her research addresses issues in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychiatry, and emotion theory. She has authored or co-authored numerous articles and four books: Embodied Minds in Action (co-authored with R. Hanna, OUP, 2009), Embodied, Emotion, and Cognition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), Embodied Selves and Divided Minds (OUP, 2015), and The Mind–Body Politic (co-authored with R. Hanna, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).