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Shortcomings: Theories, methodologies, and inadequacies

2 May 2014

Cross-posted from The Molinist.
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If, for some reason, you are one of my twitter followers and have been following my updates about my research, you are perhaps aware that I have recently changed the focus of my dissertation. Rather than the decidedly rarefied question of the influence of Iberian scholasticism on Hugo Grotius’ theory of political consent [1], I am now examining the relationship between slavery and rights theories in these same thinkers. There were a few reasons for the change: this is certainly a more accessible, ‘bookable’ topic, whose value is more evident to my peers (at conferences and seminars, the questions I am asked are invariably on this topic) and (hard to believe though it may be) it doesn’t represent a huge change in terms of the content of my dissertation and the focus of my actual research (both rights and slavery are important considerations when discussing early modern conceptions of consent). It’s also a more focussed topic, though some aspects of the actual dissertation remain inchoate for the time being. At present I’m working on my chapter or chapters on Grotius. Since I already have a good handle on his rights theory I’m currently working on an exhaustive, coherent presentation of his thought(s) on slavery and a critical raciological and post-colonial [2] account of it.

For those unfamiliar, critical race theory is a recently-developed (it arose as a coherent school of thought in the mid-1980s) field of critical theory, which emerged amongst African-American scholars engaging critically with the ‘colour-blind’ orentiation of critical legal theory. If you followed the link above to the Wikipedia article on critical race theory (or ‘crit race,’ because, you know, academics) you may have noticed the warning bar (posted September 2013 at time of writing) forewarning the reader that “[t]he examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with USA and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject.” This warning is correct without being true. Yes, the article is article on critical race theory is USA-centric but that’s because critical race theory is USA-centric. Unsurprisingly for a school of thought born of critiques of the USA’s laws [3], critical race theory has historically been focused on race in the United States. [4] Though there is much to be said about law and race in the US, from slavery itself to Black Codes and Jim Crow to modern-day redlining and affirmative action, it is certainly not the only worthwhile area of research on questions of race…

Continued on The Molinist.

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