Annual Lecture in Ethics, Law, and Society explores women’s empowerment
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Annual Lecture in Ethics, Law, and Society explores women’s empowerment

The annual Lecture in Ethics, Law, and Society hosted by the philosophy department took place over Zoom Friday, April 16. This year the lecture was titled “What is Global Women’s Empowerment?” featuring Professor Serene Khader who explored her book “Decolonizing Universalism” during the lecture. 

Assistant professor of philosophy Zoli Filotas said the event is a great opportunity to bring cutting-edge research and intellectual activity to campus. He said it helps connect students with amazing people and experts in these fields.  

“What it’ll bring is a set of new ideas including tools for answering a hard problem and propose the answers to the problem,” Filotas said. “She’s going to bring those cutting-edge ideas to campus and provide an opportunity for all of us to think about them, ask her questions and hopefully start a conversation here where people on campus can develop their own ideas about these important issues.” 

Khader’s most recent book published in 2018, “Decolonizing Universalism,” is widely recognized as an important contribution to post-colonial or transnational feminism, Filotas said.

Khader’s book explores how projects that supposedly empower women by looping them into Western ways of life can actually be harmful and impose more labor on them. She then expands on the question of how to actually empower women so they keep their traditions and values without imposing Western values on them.  

During her presentation, Khader said she wanted to address the outcomes of international development, saying they aim to empower women and how some of those outcomes are not actually empowering. Khader said she wanted viewers to scrutinize and think about these effects during and after her lecture.  

“If you are a person who’s skeptical about the value of philosophy, one thing that I hope this talk will help you see is that one reason we want to get clearer about our assumptions and the meanings of concepts is that sometimes when we’re not, it actually causes bad things to happen in the world,” Khader said. 

Filotas said he hopes viewers will be able to develop tools and a balance of confidence and humility to think in a responsible way about the difficult issues presented.  

“For me, a really successful philosophy lecture, one of the things that happens is people come out of it, not all thinking the same thing necessarily, but all able to have a really productive conversation and feel like they see the world a little more clearly,” Filotas said.  

Khader said that it’s important to get a clearer idea of what women’s empowerment means if people are to make policies based on the concept. 

Khader’s book “Decolonizing Universalism” explores a feminist vision that creates a non-ideal universalism to reject Western feminism as the path to global gender justice. It can be found online and at most bookstores including Barnes and Noble.