1 March 2017, 3 pm – 5 pm.
Royal Institute of Philosophy Public Lecture at the University of Kent.
Speaker: Nancy Potter, Louisville
Abstract: Difficult and defiant people present problems to social cohesion, to law enforcement, to education, to psychiatry, and to the juridical system. But whose problems are these, and who bears the burden of responsibility to understand and address this problem? For example, Black children are suspended, referred to law enforcement or psychiatry, physically restrained, and expelled from school at a disproportionately higher rate than whites are. They may get diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Although some defiant people have gone down in history as heroes, most defiant people are vulnerable to being interpreted as criminals, as dangerous to the social fabric of society, or having a personality disorder such as Antisocial Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder. In order correctly to interpret defiant behaviour, we need a theory of defiance. This paper gives a short version of that theory, focusing on the role that oppressive norms and the social imaginary play in conceptualizing certain people as exhibiting ‘mad or bad’ defiance. I argue that sometimes defiance is good and, as such, requires that teachers, law enforcement, social workers, and psychiatrists need to grapple with the difficult social imaginary. Understanding the social imaginary as both historically given and as contingent allows those in authoritative positions to work collaboratively in creative, engaged change. One ingredient in a shift toward creating an instituting, rather than instituted, social imaginary is to give uptake to those who exhibit—or seem to exhibit—defiant behaviour. I present cases to illustrate these ideas.
All are welcome to attend.
The lecture will be held at Keynes Lecture Theatre 2:
Funding generously provided by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.
Questions about the series can be directed to Camillia Kong, c.e.h.kong[at]kent.ac.uk