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SAAP Annual Meeting 2018

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Racism as an Ontological Agent: A Pragmatic-Posthuman Rethinking the Foundations of Anti-Racist Politics

Weary with well-rehearsed debates between naïve empiricists and social constructivists, social science scholars have begun turning to post-humanist philosophy for alternative ontologies of the social. This relatively nascent philosophical movements has introduced agential realism – the idea that agency is a characteristic of human and non-human phenomena. In this paper I offer that institutionalized racism is a phenomena that we can productively engage as an agent. Racism is resilient. It adapts to our analytic and political interventions. It moves around them like water, at times co-opting the rhetoric of anti-racist resistance and the subjectivities of researchers who seek to analyze its operation. Drawing on new materialism and Charles Sandeers Peirce later writings about material semiotics, I illustrate how approaching racism as an agent can help us think ambitiously and more precisely about the methodological implications of agent ontologies.

Jerry Rosiek
University of Oregon
United States


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