Professor of philosophy speaks on double-consciousness as complicit resistance

Stock photo of Bunce Hall at Rowan University. Multimedia Editor / Miguel Martinez

On Monday evening, visiting professor of philosophy, Eva Boodman spoke to a room of philosophy students and professors about double consciousness as complicit resistance, a topic she has been researching for the past three years.

The problem, mentioned on a hand-out that was provided to all those in attendance stated, “Our usual, blame-based (liability) models of responsibility don’t motivate or justify taking responsibility for oppressive, unjust norms. This preserves an unjust status quo, and inhibits important coalitions between identity groups.”

“The problem is that we use the wrong concept of accountability,” Boodman said. “People don’t feel guilty if they aren’t to blame.”

Boodman used cookies as an example to further explain accountability and blame in terms of the liability model. She explained if someone stole your cookie, they’re responsible for you not having a cookie, which means they’re to blame. However, the social connection model also says that someone who has a lot of cookies should be responsible and to blame for someone who didn’t have any to begin with.

“What we need is a model to target the social norms,” Boodman said. “The liability model just isn’t appropriate for historical wrong doings.”

Two of the examples that came up time and time again throughout the talk were sexism and racism. She went into complicit responsibility and complicit resistance, comparing it to several current social movements.

“People who do the work are most affected by historical inequality,” Boodman said. “Women know better than men how the world should be a just place for women.”

Boodman’s use of the worst resistance wasn’t meant to be a negative, either. The act of resisting these unjust social norms can be done through movements such as #MeToo, as well as going to feminist and LGBTQ+ rallies.

The talk ended with tying this all into Du Bois’ “The Souls of Black Folk,” written in 1903. The piece gives a better understanding of what she called “flipped double consciousness.” Boodman pulled a quote from Du Bois that lead to the idea of a flipped double consciousness easier to comprehend.

“[…] from this must arise a painful self-consciousness, an almost morbid sense of personality and a moral hesitancy which is fatal to self-confidence,” Boodman said. “Such a double life, with double thoughts, double duties, and double social classes must give rise to double words and double ideals and tempt the mind to pretense or to revolt, to hypocrisy or radicalism.”

The overall tone of the talk dealt with real-world, important issues that must be discussed and thought about. In particular, doing this talk gave those in attendance a better understanding for looking at things such as race and gender — which are two groups who face oppression.

Boodman’s talk is just one of many that the Philosophy and Religion Studies Department holds throughout the year.

“Our department hosts many talks throughout the year,” said Dr. Ellen Miller, associate professor of Philosophy and Philosophy and Religion Studies Department chair. “We have guest speakers and speakers from throughout the Rowan community. We host a lecture series called Theorizing at Rowan [and] try to have a variety of talks on important topics.”

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