Oppression and Injustice
How can we fight oppression and eliminate injustice in the world? Philosophers and activists confronting exploitation, colonialism, imperialism, racism, and sexism have relied on self-produced bodies of theory to guide their analyses and actions. This course focuses on the moral and political thought of oppressed groups with respect to the question of overcoming injustice, that is, on philosophy born of struggle and aimed at emancipation. It explores themes of intersectionality and epistemology, education and liberation in the traditions of Black feminism and postcolonial Latin American thought.
Philosophy of Human Nature
What is human nature? In what ways are we limited or liberated by being human? This course will examine a number of philosophical theories about morality and rationality. In particular, we will focus on the question of what sorts of beings we would have to be in order for those theories to be true. What kind of psychologies, individual and social, are required for us to act morally or rationally? To achieve justice or knowledge? In exploring answers to these questions, we will draw on works by philosophers, economists, and social psychologists.
12. Decision theory
Unit: The Ethics of Sexual Preference
3-week teaching unit with recommended texts, created for The Deviant Philosopher database.
Handout: Writing a Philosophy Paper
Writing a good philosophy paper is in many ways just like writing any other good paper, but is in some ways very different from the kinds of papers you may be asked to write in other disciplines. This handout explains the three main criteria by which your philosophy paper will be graded, along with more specific expectations and guidelines.
Handout: Grading Key
A grading key for providing feedback on student papers, adapted from here.
Handout: Paper Wrapper
A form handed back with graded papers to prompt students' self-reflection on the writing process, to be filled out before meeting to discuss the paper.
Handout: Office Hour Checklist
A guide to office hours for first-year students.
Handout: Avoiding Bias in Course Evaluations: A Guide for Students
A handout providing background information and tips for students.
Handout: First Day Survey
A survey for the first day class, especially for collecting potentially private information (pronouns, disability, general anxieties about the course), and for setting up initial icebreaker/exercises.
Handouts: Professional Development
A trio of worksheets providing preparation and practice for cover letters, interviewing, and alt-ac careers.
The Ethics and Politics of Sex
In this course we consider the moral and political dimensions of sex by focusing on sex understood as individual and social practice. Are sexual preferences, fantasies, behaviors, and traditions morally criticizable at all? What about sexual industries and institutions? In what ways do our sexual practices impede or advance the struggle for social justice?
Solidarity and Social Change
This course undertakes an in-depth study of the concept, value, and practices of solidarity in connection with social change. What different things are meant by “solidarity,” and how do they motivate social change? Must solidarity be grounded in a shared social identity, e.g. race or gender? Do we have moral duties to stand in solidarity with others? What principles should govern solidary groups? In addressing these questions, we will also develop and practice a number of skills needed for graduate-level seminars.
NB: The language policy was crafted in consultation with students.
Philosophy & Political Thought (PPT)
From 2016-2021, I was a member of the Yale-NUS College Philosophy & Political Thought (PPT) teaching team. This mandatory two-semester sequence, part of the College-wide Common Curriculum, was taken by all first-year students. It provided a partial overview of Chinese, Indian, and Western philosophical traditions from antiquity to modernity (course syllabi available here and here.)
Fragments by Pythagorean women philosophers
Lucrezia Marinella, On the Nobility and Excellence of Women
Huang Zongxi, Waiting for the Dawn
J.S. Mill, On Liberty Ch.4
Hannah Arendt, "Thinking and Moral Considerations"
Validity & soundness with Ibn Tufayl
Deductive/inductive arguments & Nyaya inferences with Annambhatta
Flora Tristán, The Workers' Union
All Yale-NUS students complete a year-long capstone project in their final year. I have supervised the following undergraduate capstones:
2017: (PPE) Elizabeth Thai, "Why It Is Morally Wrong to Hire Based on Physical Attractiveness: BBLBD as Discrimination"
2018: (Philosophy) Shina Chua, "Can One Be a Trans Madhyamaka Buddhist?"
2019: (PPE) Pragya Sethi, "Power(less/ful): Gendered On the Job Experiences of Women IAS Officers (Punjab Cadre)"
2019: (PPE) Trang Nguyen, "Reinterpreting Empirical Evidence: A Response to Prinz's Sentimentalism"
2021: (Philosophy Capstone Prize Winner) Lee Jin Hee, "New Materialist Ecofeminism: Reconceptualizing the Body as Fluid and Embedded in Nature"
2021: (DDP Capstone Prize Nominee) Joel Tan Wei En, "Outcomes and Desert in Criminal Sentencing"
2021: Diya Kundu (PPE), "Auraton ka Inquilab, A Woman's Revolution: Why Women Led the Anti-CAA/NRC Movement in India"
Oppression and Injustice: A Class Textbook
In 2018 I received a Yale-NUS Teaching Innovation Grant to support a "Class Textbook Project" for my Oppression and Injustice course. The following years, I broadened the assignment to a "Building Collective Knowledge" project which allowed for the creation of other resources.
Students created an online zine called Oppression and Injustice Vibe Check: An Invitation Towards Reimagining Our Shared Future featuring three main themes: Paolo Freire's pedagogy of the oppressed, Walter Mignolo's decolonial aesthesis, and Angela Davis' prison abolitionism, within which they applied course concepts and theories to their everyday lives, the local Singaporean context, and case studies from the region and beyond.
Students created a multimedia website featuring original essays, analyses of pop culture and literature, and video interviews with leaders of justice-oriented student organizations, along with a glossary of key terms and list of further resources.
Students collaboratively produced a class textbook for the course. The entire manuscript was wholly conceived, planned, written, and edited by students, and printed with funding from a Yale-NUS Teaching Innovation Grant. Right before the book went to press, the editors asked me to write a foreword, excerpted here:
When I explain to others that my students have been writing a class textbook for the 2018 YHU2280 “Oppression and Injustice” course, a common and immediate reaction is to ask: how can students who are learning the material be expected simultaneously to teach it? Indeed, this is clearly the central challenge of the project. But it is has also been a central tenet – not only of my own pedagogical practice, but of the overarching ethos at Yale-NUS College and in the work of thinkers you shall read in the following pages – that students are not passive recipients or consumers of knowledge. They are active subjects with the power to produce knowledge and put it to use in the world...What drew us all together was a set of academic, personal, and political commitments that made it important to try and understand the problem of overcoming injustice through seriously examining the theorizing of oppressed groups themselves – and anyone who has ever stepped foot on the long and convoluted road to justice learns as soon as they are out the door that we are all of us student-teachers and teacher-students at different points along the way.
You can read the entire textbook here:
To see further materials used in this project, please email me.
Week 7: Stories of Ourselves
Every fall, all first-year students at Yale-NUS College participate in a one-week mini-course outside the classroom, as part of the Learning Across Boundaries (LAB) program. In 2016 (with Chris Asplund) and 2017 (with Vanessa Lam), I co-taught a Week 7 course in Singapore on "Stories of Ourselves," which focused on the construction and destruction of memory and identity, at the individual and collective levels. The link between memory and identity, of course, is narrative: the stories we tell about ourselves. In both the individual and collective cases, however, there are often alternative or competing narratives. We thus explored topics such as building and challenging national identity, the science of memory and dementia, narratives after death, the aftermath of sexual violence and trauma, the preservation and loss of cultural heritage and history through film, creative writing and drawing, and site visits to Singaporean neighbourhoods and organisations.
For 2017 course itinerary and readings, click here.
For 2016 course itinerary and readings, click here.
Each year, seeing the students’ final projects – how they achieved everything we hoped for, through media more thoughtful, creative, and compelling than anything I had previously imagined – has been an incredibly rewarding teaching and learning experience. I am extremely grateful to all the students, staff, facilitators, and guest partners that have made it all possible.