The Ethical Self, Community and State

Disaggregating the essential features and qualities of the ethical self, community and state has been an acute interest since commencing my formal training in philosophy. 

How the ethical self performs in the public domain, whether in face to face or virtual interactions, is one key theme of the project. In one journal article, I look at the construction and performance of gendered identity on social media [audio paper:  video and podcast]. The analysis suggests that gender can be constructed through the subjects’ participation in the post-feminist masquerade, through which their gendered identity is defined in relation to a hegemonic masculine ideal. This situates social media posts within a space characterized through the ambivalent and appropriative treatment of feminism, and further coiled within a tension and resistance between, and within, feminist and post-feminist discourses. In another study, I examine the utility of online political humor (egao) in China [audio paper:  video and podcast] [public talk: powerpoint], with notable attention to dispelling received wisdom that egao is simply a form of resistance, and/or a reaction to state control. I discuss the notion that the networked practices of netizens have a formative relationship with their perceptions of, and interactions with, egao. Moreover, the connectivity netizens feel from engaging in egao often supersedes its content in terms of value to cyber culture. This study is inspired by another study looking at Maoist-era thought reform tactics designed to foster emotional control and political trust.

Understanding the impact of the individual, community and state actions on marginalized populations is another major theme. This is evident in a series of studies that conceptualize various forms of  ’privilege’ in society. In one paper [public talk: video, podcast and powerpoint], I argue that ’white privilege’ is salient in the traditionally non-diverse societies of Europe, and can be an effective analytical tool to understand the relationship and life course variances – inclusive of the institutional and socio-economic inequalities – amongst ethno-racial groups. I continue to explore the notion of ethnic privilege in the Chinese context. I advance an argument that Han Chinese privilege [translations: Chinese and German] has gained prominence from specific state public policies and philosophies of governance; and can be aptly viewed across a range of areas, including the labour market, media representation, and the daily interactions between Han Chinese and ethnic minority populations.

Continuing the focus on marginalize populations, in another study I look at how to rehumanize social groups such as refugees, Indigenous and/or ethnic minority groups through state apologies [public talk: video, podcast and powerpoint] [interview: video]. This is especially notable since most state apologies are qualitatively about rehumanizing the apologizer (the state), and seldom the apologized social group. The study employs a novel framework by bridging insights on the literature about apologies which has focused on how apologies function, and the literature on truth and reconciliation which has focused on rehumanization. The study was born out of a Workshop on Ethics, Rights, Culture and the Humanization of Refugees that I co-organized, and appears in the edited book, Resisting the Dehumanization of Refugees.

Finally, I marry international legal jurisprudence and international relations theory to analytically dissect regional peremptory norms in international affairs. I carefully illustrate how a regional set of norms can be reconstituted as a regional jus cogens, and can assist in accomplishing certain political tasks that are deemed acceptable within a specific time-period by a group of nation-states. Coiled in this positivistic, pragmatic construction, the implications for the existence, and practice of regional jus cogens is considered; with notable attention on its effects on sovereign equality and the promotion of differential treatment in international affairs. The paper was the recipient of the Society for the Study of Social Problems’ Law and Society Division Alfred R. Lindesmith Award.