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Ewan Swift

Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Microaggressions and Moral Responsibility

Microaggressions are broadly understood to be verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights which communicate negative messages towards marginalised individuals. Although seemingly subtle and innocuous, when microaggressions are frequent and pervasive communicative acts experienced by such individuals, they can cause significant psychological, physical, material, and epistemic harms that appear to functionally sustain structures of oppression.

Nonetheless, due to their subtle and compounding nature, most microaggressions are committed by individuals who are unaware of the unintentional messages they communicate, and it is unclear to what extent isolated microaggressions “do” harm. This subequently leads to two issues surrounding moral ignorance and cumulative harm which, despite the oppressive nature of microaggressions, appear to exculpate individuals on traditional accounts of moral responsibility.

My PhD research will thus explore the extent to which we can claim that individuals are responsible for harming others through microaggressive behaviours, and ultimately what our responsibility-holding and taking practices should look like.


Research Area

  • Ethics
  • Philosophy