Visiting Assistant Professor of Applied Ethics and Political Theory
He works in the fields of restorative and transitional justice, which he understands as emerging through the intersection of social-political philosophy, critical race theory, ethics, and conflict resolution. He has taught a range of courses related to this work, and his publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as the International Journal of Transitional Justice, Critical Philosophy of Race, and Philosophy and Social Criticism. Along with several forthcoming articles, George is working on a book entitled Justice as Reconciliation: Political Theory in a World of Difference.
In this course we will first analyze traditional philosophical perspectives on punishment along side critical genealogical descriptions of how it is that certain penal mechanisms emerged and determined our present-namely, the prison industrial complex and the militarization of police forces. We will then take up the abolitionist question and reflect on how things could be otherwise. That is, we will spend a great deal of time in this class discussing restorative or community approaches to issues of justice as a viable alternative to those methods currently being deployed.
In this course, we will analyze several key texts in liberation thought. The question motivating these readings: What does our liberation require? Our primary text will be Enrique Dussel's recently translated Ethics of Liberation, which we will carefully read in its entirety. As we read Dussel, we will supplement the text with those figures he engages and references, such that we can cultivate a robust understanding of both Dussel and the discourses he is engaging. Some of the figures that we will engage through or in contrast to Dussel include (but are not limited to): Emmanuel Levinas, Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Ture, Bell Hooks, Lu Xun, James Cone, Gustavo Gutierrez, Hamid Dabashi, Antonio Gramsci, Angela Davis, Paolo Freire, and many more.
In this course we will focus on advanced topics in the global justice debate: war, human rights, and the demands of peace. We will begin with a survey of mainstream approaches to global justice, ranging from Kant's "Perpetual Peace," to Rawls's Law of Peoples, and various cosmopolitan approaches. We will then move to a discussion of the realities of war, colonialism, and human rights. Here, we will engage the geneva conventions and its additional protocols in relation to contemporary case studies and non-ideal philosophical approaches to issues of justice and war. The second half of the class will focus on contemporary issues in transitional justice, emphasizing the goals and practices of reconciliation, and clarifying what these activities imply for mainstream approaches to global politics.
In this class, we will explore the field of ethics from the starting point of a primordial tension: the experience of being both an individual and a member of a relational environment. This starting point places our exploration in stark contrast to classical approaches to ethics, which focus on the consequences of individual actions, universal rules, and individual habits. Instead, we will discuss ethics in terms of interpersonal relations and we will focus on how we can work on our relations in order to transform ourselves and thus our circumstances. Hence, in this exploration it will become clear that acting ethically is far more complicated than commonly assumed, but also an absolutely necessary practice for the proper functioning of a democratic society and thus for the fostering of a healthy environment. The general goal of this class is to have a clear understanding of key theories and texts in applied ethics and social-political philosophy, but also a clearer sense of what one must do to act ethically in every day encounters.
W.E.B. Du Bois famously declared "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line." In this class, we will explore the complex and conflicted meaning of Du Bois' utterance in the context of the contemporary United States, specifically focusing on how racial norms have shifted in various ways creating the superficial impression that the problem of the color-line is no more and that we are living in a post-racial era. We will begin by exploring race and racialization as it initially emerged in the modern period as a pseudo-science. We will then discuss the way in which the scientific project collapsed in the post WWII period, giving way to a questionably new phenomenon of targeting. In other words, the trajectory of this class will work to problematize the myth of a post-racial society and interrogate the meaning of terms like "Criminal," "Illegal," and "Terrorist" as ultimately being shrouded continuations of racist norms. Finally, insofar as one might understanding the color-line, as Du Bois describes it, as being akin to a border or an unresolved conflict, we will also explore ways in which this conflict might be transformed and repaired.
When discussing conflict, it is common for the language of reconciliation to be deployed as if its meaning and requirements are common knowledge. Further, it is assumed that reconciliation is somehow necessarily connected to forgiveness and truth, such that figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu suggest we can have "No Future Without Forgiveness." Peace workers, however, tend to have very specific and contextually dependent understandings of reconciliation that often seem in tension with other accounts. And, of course, skeptics think that the reconciliatory ideal is wishful thinking and opposed to some sort of violent human nature. In this class we will explore various approaches to reconciliation-theoretical and practical, as well as socio-ethical and legal-institutional-in order to get a better sense of what reconciliation is and thus to also understand what its realization might require.
While many have criticized "postmodernism" as a-political, Judith Halberstam has argued that conventional radical politics is not postmodern enough, insofar as it accepts a stable relationship between representation and reality, foreclosing any space (in fantasy, in representation) for political rage and unsanctioned violence on the part of subordinate groups against their powerful oppressors. Troubling the relationship between fantasy, representation and the real, and empowering culture and the production of counter-realities to the dominant orders as sites and ground of resistance are hallmarks of postmodernism. So is the insistence that a materialist politics of redistribution cannot be separated from a "cultural" politics of recognition; and the view that complex identifications and differences productively undermine identity and identity politics; and that truth is a product not a ground of political struggle. The goal of this course is to trace the genealogies of these ideas as they have come to challenge the Left, while maintaining full affinities with a radical anti-capitalist project. We will read Harvey and Jameson, the Marxists most closely identified with exploring the contributions of postmodernism; Lyotard and Baudrillard, the "ex-Marxists" whose names are most associated with postmodernism; and consider the lineage Nietzsche, Foucault, Mbembe Butler. Depending on time, and class interest, we will also read Benjamin or Deleuze. In this way we will look at major ideas of unorthodox Marxist/postmodern thought, always alert to the ways these thinkers both suggest research strategies (ways of reading the social text) and political openings.
In this course, you will become familiar with foundational figures and arguments in social-political philosophy, with a focus on the tradition of liberal social contract theory. Given that liberalism has been the central tradition in political thought since its emergence, there is an equally important tradition of dissent that we will address. Common to the various critical theories we will cover is the illumination of contradictions within liberalism, such that despite liberal values of democracy, equality, and liberty, there continue to be flagrant cases of tyranny and terror sanctioned by liberal nations. The victims of these tyrannies are women, indigenous peoples, racial/ethnic and religious minorities, the working class/poor, and many others. As we analyze these critical accounts, we will also consider how we can move past the failures of liberalism to form a more peaceful and just society.
There is a long tradition of Orientalist discourse that has functioned to represent certain spaces (the Middle East/Mediterranean) and peoples as appropriate targets of violent intervention and rule. In this course, we will discuss how the Orientalist imaginary was realized, thus affording the east/west divide of the present. One key factor in the colonization and exploitation of the aforementioned spaces was the internalization of externally determined narratives of identity. As Mahmood Mamdani suggests, persons were defined and then ruled. Many of these identities linger in the contemporary, such that the colonial political relation has superficially dissipated, while the colonial mentality remains. The specter of colonialism continues to cause violence throughout the territories closest to the east/west divide, which allows for an ongoing exploitative relation with western powers. In more recent history a counter-Orientalist narrative has emerged in an effort to liberate or decolonize the colonial subject and ultimately stop these violent relations; thus, the bulk of this course will involve working with figures such as Edward Said, Hamid Dabashi, Joseph Massad, Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, as well as many others who are often overlooked precisely because of the east/west power binary that they are working to undermine.