Background and thoughts
The AGCLE aims to promote effective ethical agency through transforming not only the minds of individuals but also on transforming the cultures that shape the minds and, ultimately, the actions of individuals. As a feminist philosopher, my research focuses primarily on issues of gender-based violence and rape. While gender-based violence and rape are pervasive in most of the world today, the prevalence of both is highest in South Africa, and Grahamstown is no exception. Rape and gender-based violence are endemic in our society.
They happen on both ‘sides’ of town—the east and west—and target people of all races, classes, ages, and social standing. While the environments in which we live differ in vast and important ways, patriarchal culture pervades both in ways that lead to the same evils—the raping, battering and murdering of women and children. We need to better understand, I think, the particular ways in which patriarchy is played out in South Africa in order to understand why it is that we have the highest rates of gender-based violence and rape in the world. Grahamstown provides an excellent base from which to do this work, as it contains an extremely diverse population from which to draw a sample. As a post-colonial, post-apartheid space where different cultures move and live in close proximity with one another, Grahamstown provides the type of setting within which we can attempt to understand the larger social structures of our country and, thereby, how these structures serve to undermine effective ethical agency.
Effective ethical agency, I believe, is as much a matter of understanding oneself as it is a matter of understanding the impact that one has on others and the world in which one lives. It is only as a member of a community that we are properly propelled towards acting ethically, towards respecting those around us and behaving accordingly. However, it seems as though our communities—our societies—either do not allow for the full development of ethical agency or come to drive a wedge between an individual’s ethical values and their ability to act on these values in the world. If the worlds in which we live mould us in certain ways then it seems as though we cannot effectively act according to what we might value and believe.
From the moment I began my PhD, I have been interested in how philosophy can speak to its context and how philosophers can work to change the contexts within which they live. Recently I have become especially interested in processes of conscientization and in consciousness-raising practices; in how the creation of certain spaces allows for the collective creation of new and alternate meaning. While I have been focused on the ability of these practices to assuage some of the harm suffered by victims of rape and sexual violence, I believe that these practices and in particular the creation of these sorts of spaces are pertinent to the aims of the centre and to the existential conversations that the centre promotes. We need to create the kinds of spaces in which both conversation and conscientization can occur so that we can begin to understand ourselves, one another, what makes us ‘tick,’ and how we can work towards expressing ourselves ethically in action.
Academia and Google Scholar links
Last Modified: Tue, 16 May 2017 15:31:09 SAST