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Justice, Subversion, and the Politics of Respectability

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Abstract:

In her text, Justice and the Politics of Difference, Iris Marion Young criticizes philosophical theorists who fail to understand justice beyond the scope of the distributive paradigm. Of particular importance to Young, is the issue of cultural imperialism which she argues “involves the universalization of a dominant groups experience and culture, and its establishment as the norm”(58). Young introduces the ideas of the ‘ideal of respectability’ as an exemplar of cultural imperialism. In this paper I show the very real similarities between the ‘ideal of respectability’ and the black feminist notion of ‘politics of respectability.’ In doing so I argue that Young fails to account for the ways in which the taking up of imperialist cultures is not always forced. It is my position that some imperialist cultures are taken up by oppressed groups in order to subvert them. Defined in its most basic sense, subversion entails working within a system to overthrow its power and authority. The very need for this subversion identifies my alignment with the work of Young, but where I would like to depart is in presenting dominant groups as not being unaffected by the experiences, perspectives and actions of oppressed groups. Using the examples of 19th century black Baptist women’s upholding of Bourgeois ideals of respectability and Michelle Obama’s public persona, I illustrate the ways in which an oppressed group –black women- endorsed a 'politics of respectability' in order to both define themselves and to reshape the dominant groups perception of the black community.
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Association:
Name: 36th Annual National Council for Black Studies
URL:
http://www.ncbsonline.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p560900_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Mensah, Shaeeda. "Justice, Subversion, and the Politics of Respectability" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 36th Annual National Council for Black Studies, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, Atlanta, GA, Mar 07, 2012 <Not Available>. 2014-11-24 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p560900_index.html>

APA Citation:

Mensah, S. , 2012-03-07 "Justice, Subversion, and the Politics of Respectability" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 36th Annual National Council for Black Studies, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, Atlanta, GA <Not Available>. 2014-11-24 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p560900_index.html

Publication Type: Individual Presentation
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In her text, Justice and the Politics of Difference, Iris Marion Young criticizes philosophical theorists who fail to understand justice beyond the scope of the distributive paradigm. Of particular importance to Young, is the issue of cultural imperialism which she argues “involves the universalization of a dominant groups experience and culture, and its establishment as the norm”(58). Young introduces the ideas of the ‘ideal of respectability’ as an exemplar of cultural imperialism. In this paper I show the very real similarities between the ‘ideal of respectability’ and the black feminist notion of ‘politics of respectability.’ In doing so I argue that Young fails to account for the ways in which the taking up of imperialist cultures is not always forced. It is my position that some imperialist cultures are taken up by oppressed groups in order to subvert them. Defined in its most basic sense, subversion entails working within a system to overthrow its power and authority. The very need for this subversion identifies my alignment with the work of Young, but where I would like to depart is in presenting dominant groups as not being unaffected by the experiences, perspectives and actions of oppressed groups. Using the examples of 19th century black Baptist women’s upholding of Bourgeois ideals of respectability and Michelle Obama’s public persona, I illustrate the ways in which an oppressed group –black women- endorsed a 'politics of respectability' in order to both define themselves and to reshape the dominant groups perception of the black community.


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