Research

My research focuses on feminist bioethics and the philosophy of Hannah Arendt, and on intersections between the two.

I also have interests in the scholarship of teaching and learning in feminist theory and practice. Charlotte Wood, an undergraduate student, and I received a grant to work on a feminist pedagogy project in the summer of 2015. We will be presenting our research, “Video Blogs and Gender-Busting in a Feminist Classroom,” at the SCSU Women’s Studies Conference #FeministIn(ter)ventions: Women, Community, Technology in April 2016. Read our SCSU 2015 Proposal for more details!

Works in Progress

“The Patient-Worker: A Model for Transnational Human Subjects Research and Contract Pregnancy” (with Emma Ryman, PhD Candidate, University of Western Ontario)
The risks and burdens of medical industries are being increasingly exported from the global north to the global south. Controversies arising from these globalized industries have led many bioethicists to question how vulnerable populations who participate in them can be protected from abuse and exploitation. In this paper, we propose the ‘patient-worker’ as a theoretical construct that responds to the relevant moral dimensions of the work within medical industries performed by vulnerable populations in the global south. We develop this model in two steps. First, we introduce the patient-worker through a critical engagement with literature on the duties and obligations that may be owed to research subjects. While this literature tends to conceptualize research subjects either as patients or as workers, we argue that due to their vulnerabilities, some subject populations in the global south fit into both categories. The patient-worker model, which is grounded in research subject’s economic, educational and health-related vulnerabilities, suggests that some subjects may be owed both fiduciary duties and also worker’s rights. We then apply this model to transnational contract pregnancy. It is our contention that the patient-worker model captures the unequal distribution of power between fertility doctors and commissioning couples on the one hand and gestational laborers on the other. We suggest that gestational laborers ought to be recognized as both workers and also as patients who are vulnerable to physicians (and others) who make decisions about their health. By recognizing gestational laborers as active participants in their pregnancies, we suggest that this model can help respond to two of the most pressing concerns about the contract pregnancy industry: stratification along axes of race and class, and exploitation.

Canada’s (Neo)Colonization of Reproductive Labor”
Commercial contract pregnancy and egg donation are banned within Canada, but Canadians undertake commercial transnational reproductive travel to create families. In this talk, I suggest that the connection between Canada’s inconsistent regulation and neocolonialism is underexplored. Recently Canadian feminist bioethicists have noticed the inconsistent regulation and advocated for an altruistic, self-sufficiency program to reduce reliance on reproductive travel. However, without acknowledging neocolonialism, feminist bioethicists may not sufficiently highlight global power relationships embedded within transnational reproductive travel. Further, I draw attention to a possible problem with a concurrent ban on commercialized reproduction and promoting self-sufficiency: bans may also reinforce neocolonialism.

“Gift Narratives in Contract Pregnancy” (More exciting title ideas welcome!)
In this paper I examine how gift narratives appear in the contract pregnancy industry, whether these narratives originate with or are about contract pregnant women, commissioning parties, or industry professionals (such as fertility clinic staff). I aim to show how such narratives reveal or are in tension with accounts of oppression in contract pregnancy, and how such narratives reveal the moral obligations in excess of contractual ones (I assume here optimal contracts).

“An Anti-Commodification Defense of Veganism” (with Dr. Patrick Clipsham, Winona State University)
We develop an anti-commodification defense of ethical veganism (ACDEV) which holds that common defenses of ethical veganism can benefit from treating the commodification of non-human animals as a serious moral wrong. Drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Anderson’s account of commodification, we develop an account of commodification that identifies most uses of animals in developed countries as forms of problematic commodification. We then show that this position can make significant contributions to both welfarist defenses of ethical veganism and animal rights theories.

“Reflections on Carlotta Walls LaNier’s Little Rock”
What value can be found in revisiting unpopular social critiques offered by prominent thinkers–in this case, Hannah Arendt’s 1959 critique of legally enforced school segregation in “Reflections on Little Rock”? In this essay, Arendt argues that legally enforced integration placed an undue burden on children, and interfered with parents’ ability to shape the family’s private life. Further, Arendt argued that integration contributes to a program of social conformity rather than political equality. Instead, she proposed that legalized interracial marriage was a more pressing civil rights issue. Taking a cue from those who suggest that the process of Arendt’s judgment (rather than its content) is exemplary, can we understand some of Arendt’s arguments in a new light? My tentative conclusion is that returning to “Reflections” yields insights that may provide important interventions into our current political moment, where we are at a gap between either reinforcing or challenging what is called the New Jim Crow. I aim to think with and against Arendt by appealing to A Mighty Long Way (2010), the recent memoir of Little Rock Nine student Carlotta Walls LaNier.

“’I could care less’: A Phenomenology of Political Indifference and Family Values” (with Dr. Rita Gardiner, Western University, Dept. of Women’s Studies & Feminist Research)
**This paper is part of an on-going research project with Dr. Gardiner on Simone de Beauvoir and Hannah Arendt’s conceptions of freedom.
We use a phenomenological approach to explore the connections between political indifference and the discourse of family values, understood as the privileging of the heterosexual family. An emphasis on family values encourages people to put private concerns above the common good, supporting what Simone de Beauvoir calls the “curatorial view of the world.” First, drawing on Zachary Davis’s phenomenology of political apathy, we attend to the changing voting patterns in the US presidential election, together with the rise of the Tea Party, to show how “political indifference” manifests as “family values.” Second, adapting Hannah Arendt’s concept of worldlessness, we examine how political indifference and family values become disconnected from problems most families actually face, especially under neoliberalism. Finally, using on Arendt’s work on totalitarianism and André Duarte’s work on biopolitics, we illustrate connections between violence, biopolitics and political indifference. Our overall aim is to reveal some of the ways in which a seemingly innocuous term like family values covers over systemic injustices such that individual life becomes superfluous and economic concerns replace the political.

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