My research examines how political communities constitute themselves by differentiating between members, non-members, and marginal members. As a philosopher, I am most interested in the ideals used to legitimate these practices of differentiation, and the values that might call them into question.
Current research projects
Voluntary Migration and the Problem of Semi-Citizenship
This project considers whether liberal democracies do anything wrong when they restrict non-citizen residents to a position of second-class “semi-citizenship.” Michael Walzer and Joseph Carens have answered this question in the affirmative, arguing that immigrant semi-citizenship is an unjust form of inequality. However, others have objected that if immigrants consent to a subordinate position in a receiving country, then their semi-citizenship is not unjust. My project seeks to change the terms of the debate. So long as the issue is framed in terms of rights and equality, I argue, the consent objection is decisive. This does not mean, however, that there is nothing problematic about semi-citizenship. To better clarify what is at stake, my project turns to democratic theory. I argue that certain forms of immigrant semi-citizenship undermine democratic legitimacy. This has negative impacts on all residents of a democratic polity, citizens and non-citizens alike, albeit to different degrees.
Epistemic Injustice in Jails and Prisons
In this project, I examine the ways that incarcerated persons are unfairly disregarded or disqualified when they speak about the conditions of their incarceration. Drawing on work by Kristie Dotson, Miranda Fricker, and Karen Jones, I argue that incarcerated persons face specific, context-dependent forms of testimonial injustice. These injustices do not merely harm the persons attempting to speak. Rather, by suppressing first-hand knowledge of jails and prisons, they also contribute to pervasive ignorance about these institutions. This, in turn, prevents local and national communities from exercising democratic accountability for their punitive practices. Co-writing with José Medina, I will publish some of this research in an edited volume titled Making the Case: Feminist and Critical Race Theorists Investigate Case Studies. I am also developing a single-authored paper that looks at issues of democratic accountability in more detail. There, I argue that inmate testimony is necessary to avoid domination in correctional institutions, and I advocate inmate participation in local democracy.
Democracy and Exclusion
This book project explores the ethical and political stakes of democratic membership. At a philosophical level, the project argues that democracy, despite its history of increasing inclusivity, remains an oppositional form of political community. The demos, or democratic community of 'We, the People', is defined against an explicitly or implicitly designated 'Them'. If we take this thought seriously, we should critically inspect the purportedly universal values of freedom and equality that lie at the heart of democratic politics. In particular, we should wonder what happens to those values—how are they articulated, experienced, and perhaps corrupted—if democracy bestows them upon full citizens only while denying them to others.
At a more concrete political level, this project examines mass incarceration, immigrant detention, and felon disenfranchisement as mechanisms by which the United States differentiates between citizens, non-citizens, and semi-citizens. The project argues that we cannot understand the contemporary U.S. without examining how citizenship and political participation are shaped by the imprisonment, forced mobilization, and disenfranchisement of millions of people, most of them minorities. Drawing on the work of Iris Marion Young, Philip Pettit, Charles Mills, and scholars outside academic philosophy, the book argues that the freedom and equality of even unincarcerated citizens are deeply impacted by contemporary mass incarceration.
Representative Past Research
"Felon Disenfranchisement and Democratic Legitimacy."
Social Theory and Practice 43, no. 2 (2017). Forthcoming.
"Sovereignty, Community, and the Incarceration of Immigrants."
In Death and Other Penalties, edited by G. Adelsberg, L. Guenther, and S. Zeman
(New York: Fordham U. Press, 2015). Link
"Other People's Problems: Student Distancing, Epistemic Responsibility, and Injustice."
Studies in Philosophy and Education 35, no. 5 (2016): 427-444. Link
"Democracy's Sovereign Enclosures: Territoriality and the All-Affected Principle."
Constellations 21, no. 4 (2014): 560-574. Link