The Philosophy Department announces an upcoming talk entitled “Freedom and the Shadow of Slavery: Autonomy, Recognition, and Social Dislocation” by Dr. John Christman, associate professor of Philosophy, Political Science, and Women's Studies at Penn State. The talk will be held on April 16, 2010, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Eberly Boardroom.
In numerous philosophical accounts of what it means to be a free person, theorists have insisted that standing in certain social relations are required, specifically ones involving recognition and non-domination. Millions of people around the globe, however, live in places and under conditions where the terms of such recognition is up for grabs, since the language of their own self-conception differs, often radically, from the language and culture of their surroundings. In this paper I argue that in cases where people find themselves completely dislocated from the social and cultural homes that had provided them with the language in which to formulate and express their values, it is clear that social recognition may be causally but not conceptually required for agency to be (re-)established. This is shown by noting that often victims of human trafficking or smuggling find themselves in foreign settings where it is quite up for grabs where and how they will attempt to reconstruct a life narrative which they can generally embrace. Therefore, seeing social recognition as conceptually required for autonomous agency or freedom would ignore the variability in the ways that such recognition must be expressed.