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In Disorientation and Moral Life, I consider disorientations as experiences of not knowing how to go on following serious life events and experiences like those involved in traumas, grief, illness, education, consciousness raising, and migration. I challenge a history of moral philosophy that I claim has been preoccupied by a focus on the best moral agents as those who are most decisive, wholehearted, and clear about how they ought to act. In this piece, I respond to three commentaries on Disorientation and Moral Life. In particular, I offer reflections on how disorientations might be useful in contexts of disability studies, prison abolitionism, professional philosophy, anti-racist action, and political organizing.

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What is the relation between knowledge and orientation? How does being disoriented lead one to new knowledge or/and to being humbled (tenderized) about not knowing? How can not knowing aid in liberatory struggles, in alleviating oppression or even in being in community with like-minded people in an ethical manner? These are some of the questions that Ami Harbin’s work “Disorientation and Moral Life” brought up for me and which I would like to explore below, using prison abolition as one brief example.

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This article reviews Ami Harbin’s recent book, Disorientation and Moral Life. It summarizes and affirms the book’s attention to the moral and political significance of moments of disorientation, moments in which people lack certainty regarding what to do, how to do it, or both. It also suggests two ways in which the book’s analysis could be extended, including an exploration of more extensive and systemically produced disorientations.


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This article summarizes Ami Harbin’s 2016 monograph, Disorientation and Moral Life, which argues that disorientations are an invaluable ethical resource. Harbin offers what she calls a “non-resolvist account of moral agency,” in which non-deliberative and non-decisive action has the potential to be just as morally significant as fully thought-through and conclusive decision-making. It then suggests that Harbin’s moral method provides a useful way of thinking through political inequities in the discipline of Philosophy, and illustrates this with some examples. It highlights three lacunae or possible extensions to the argument: the value but also the complexity of understanding “doubling back” strategies; the ambivalence between psychological and philosophical claims about the value of irresoluteness and the paradoxical nature of being certain of the value of moral uncertainty; and the spatial, temporal, and embodied nature of disorientation.

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This paper examines ways in which Nazism has been sexualized in contemporary Western media, drawing on Foucault’s theory of biopower to explain this bizarre phenomena. I argue Nazism has been eroticized through its use as a floating signifier for “evil” or “abnormal,” the oppositional half of the hegemonic binary narrative. Looking to Foucault’s later work on resistance and perfectionist ethics, I ultimately argue these representations negatively detract from and silence survivor and witness testimony, problematically distorting popular knowledge and understanding of the Shoah to fit hegemonic binary narratives, rather than to pay respect to or preserve the stories and suffering of the victims.

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In this article, I extend the feminist use of Friedrich Nietzsche’s account of memory and forgetting to consider the contemporary externalization of memory foregrounded by transgender experience. Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals argues that memory is “burnt in” to the forgetful body as a necessary part of subject-formation and the requirements of a social order. Feminist philosophers have employed Nietzsche’s account to illuminate how gender, as memory, becomes embodied. While the account of the “burnt in” repetitions of gender allows us to theorize processes of embodied identity on an individual level, analyzing gender today requires also accounting for how gender is externalized. I take up this question through the specific examples of identity documents and sex-segregated bathrooms. Returning to Nietzsche’s call to practice a resistant forgetting, I conclude by exploring the distinct strategies required to disrupt externalized memory. These strategies include contesting the use of past gender assignments in data collection and rewriting architectural reminders of gender.

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