Against Purity Book Discussion Group

Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times
by Alexis Shotwell

Professor Shotwell is a Professor in Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa, where she is cross-appointed with the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies and the Department of Philosophy. The author will be visiting our Carleton College campus in February and will join the second session of this book discussion group.

“If we want a world with less suffering and more flourishing, it would be useful to perceive complexity and complicity as the constitutive situation of our lives, rather than as things we should avoid.” 

Over the last few years, our campus community has grappled with what to do in the face of complex crises to which there is no one right response. From the murder of George Floyd and losses of COVID to the thousands killed in Gaza and Israel, we have seen a range of reasoned and impassioned responses. We have also seen a real fear among many that expressing various views about controversial issues will invite serious social sanctions.  

What would be possible if we, as a community, let go of that fear? How could we take actions and have conversations that allowed for our own complicity in these realities? How do we support one another, especially students, in foregoing the anxious pursuit of being purely “good,” when the energy put toward that impossible goal could instead be put to work toward more constructive ends?

From the Publisher: Why contamination and compromise might be a starting point for doing something, instead of a reason to give up.

In Against Purity, Alexis Shotwell proposes a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures. Against Purity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems.

“Exciting, original, and intellectually stimulating, Against Purity makes a clear and compelling argument for a politics of relationality that resists the demand for ‘purity’. Even as Alexis Shotwell challenges the basic assumptions of ethical and political philosophy, she also builds pathways for more conventional thinkers to find their way into her discourse.”

— Lisa Guenther, author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives

Book group meetings:

Tuesday, January 30
and
Tuesday, February 13


4:00-5:15pm


Weitz 236


Facillitators:

Daniel Groll, Professor of Philosophy
Sinda Nichols, Director of the Center for Community and Civic Engagement

This group is open to faculty, staff, and students. The first meeting will be led by the Carleton facilitators and the author will join the second meeting, as part of a larger visit to campus. 

Participants are not required to come to both sessions, though it is strongly preferred. Because this is a dense book, if you can’t read it in its entirety, we encourage you to read the introduction (pages 1-22) and Chapters 3 and 4 (pages 77-138) and come to the discussion anyway.

A note to participants: There is some sexually explicit material in the book. There may be other content that could be disturbing to some readers, however the organizers can’t yet give a comprehensive assessment, as they’re still reading it themselves. 

This discussion group is co-sponsored by the Center for Community and Civic Engagement, Ethical Inquiry at Carleton and the Perlman Center for Teaching and Learning.

Registration

We are sorry, this book group is full.