Dissertation Defense: Nabina Liebow

Candidate Name: Nabina Liebow

Major: Philosophy

Advisor: Rebecca Kukla, Ph.D.

Title: Microaggressions and Moral Responsiblity

In this dissertation I answer three central questions: What are microaggressions? In what ways are they morally significant? What should our responsibility-holding and responsibility-taking practices be regarding microaggressive conduct? Politically and morally, these questions gain their importance because of the role that microaggressions play in sustaining unjust, oppressive social conditions and the impact they can have on individual microaggressees.

I argue that microaggressions should be defined as interpersonal behaviors that implicitly signal the microaggressor is biased in a way that supports a larger pattern of unjust prejudice and oppression in a broader social context. The dissertation carefully details some of the most profound moral harms associated with microaggressions by focusing on the ways they can challenge self-respect, self-trust, and the moral health of interpersonal relationships. I defend a set of communicative norms detailing responsibility-holding and responsibility-taking practices between microaggressors and microaggressees. This account of responsibility focuses on reactive attitudes and their dialogical, interactive nature. Working within this framework, I explain what I take to be a minimally decent approach to taking responsibility for microaggressive behavior as well as outlining possibilities for supererogatory responses. To conclude, I respond to popular objections microaggressors face and show that, even according to the understanding of moral responsibility that these objections presuppose, these objections are less powerful than generally assumed.

Overall, the dissertation helps give voice to microaggressees by validating their experiences with microaggressive behaviors. Finally, this dissertation provides us with an understanding of moral responsibility that avoids reproducing and supporting systems of oppression.

Friday, December 1 at 1:00pm to 3:00pm

New North, 204
37th and O St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events, Dissertation Defense


Georgetown College, Philosophy, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences



Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Carina Olsson

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