My current research focuses on the material history or a critical genealogy of a number of central concepts in social and political thought, concepts such as freedom, citizenship, sex/gender systems, land and property, public and private, revolution, and the idea of a social contract. In other words, I am interested in the political concepts that originated and were defined and acted upon between 1453 and 1804 in the Atlantic world. I am working on a number of writing projects that converge around the history of these social and political concepts and their history: I am completing an article dealing with Kant’s notions of Enlightenment, citizenship, and public sphere from an intersectional feminist perspective; I am writing on the role of race in social and political thought in the context of Turkey (in English and in Turkish); I am revising the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) entry on “Continental Feminism” (together with a brilliant and fierce collective of scholars), and I am drafting an outline for an article that deals with the year 1781 as a key moment in the history of the concept of freedom as we have come to know it. Lastly though always, I am thinking about what a decolonial and antiracist approach, orientation, or attitude requires today of the practices of philosophers, academics, teachers, and humans.
In my view, Kant is incontrovertibly one of the major architects of the modern world as we know it. So, when I turn to Kant’s writings it is mainly to better analyze and diagnose our times. In this way, I aim to highlight the continuity and complicity between many of his ideas and arguments and our current socio-political concerns and sensibilities. In my 2016 article, “Kant’s Political Zweckmässigkeit,” (in Kantian Review) I present an early version and slice of the main arguments of my first book: that part of Kant’s contemporary legacy for political thought is the very fact that he grasped and grappled with the fundamental relevance of history for political theorizing vis-à-vis his methodology of teleology, or what I name in the article his “political Zweckmässigkeit [purposiveness].” My first book, Kant’s Nonideal Theory of Politics (Northwestern University Press, 2019), argues that a fuller account of the contemporary relevance of Kant’s political thought must include his writings on philosophy of history, cultural anthropology, and geography, under the umbrella of what I name as his “nonideal theory of politics.” I show that Kant in these writings attempts work out under what narrative of a world history political progress is possible, what cultural activities are productive of civil society, and what natural-geographical factors affect political life on earth. These teleological views of history, culture, and geography, in turn, significantly inform and inflect his major political ideals.
Both at the Conclusion of Kant’s Nonideal Theory of Politics and in my 2018 article “For What can the Kantian Feminist Hope? Constructive Complicity in Appropriations of the Canon” (in Feminist Philosophy Quarterly), I invite us philosophers to reckon with the entirety of Kant’s claims: the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the 2018 article, I argue that feminist appropriations of Kant’s philosophy cannot simply pick and choose parts of his works. Rather, in order to actively and more effectively combat all forms of oppression, we need more than just these idealized tools; we need to recognize and make explicit the complicity between Kantian ideas – yes, even and especially the ugly ones – and our present socio-political sensibilities. My work on Kant therefore attends to the undercurrents of Kantian ideals, together with their still-unfolding history in the present, from the scientific concept of race, to the Eurocentric idea of a world history and cultural productivity, and to the conditional hospitality of commercial rationality reigning in the Global North.
In the past four years or so, I have also been conducting research on the texts and thinkers of decolonial thought, including those related to Grupo Modernidad/ Colonialidad. During the summer of 2017 I attended a 2-week intensive summer school on Decolonial Thought in Barcelona, Spain, organized by Center of Study and Investigation for Decolonial Dialogues, on the theme, “Decolonizing Knowledge and Power.” I also co-organized an interdisciplinary faculty-graduate reading group on Post- and Decolonial Thought at Emory that continued from 2017-2019.