James Rhodes, on the importance of bearing witness

“It’s important to bear witness, but also it’s important to give a message that bad things happen and we don’t lie about it, we don’t hide it, we don’t pretend it hasn’t happened, we don’t do everything we can to remove every piece of evidence that it happened, to erase the past.”

This is from an interview regarding his legal battle to publish a memoir in which he discusses his experience of being sexually abused as a child

But, he says, it’s also “a book about music. It’s a love story, it’s a book to Hattie, my wife, who’s the greatest thing ever. It’s a book about my son, about composers, about the extraordinary lives that these composers and musicians lead, it’s about all the things that are important to me. I don’t ever want this to be ‘the guy who was abused as a kid’, any more than I want, ‘this is the guy who’s a Pisces. This is the guy who’s 5ft 11in … 10½ … I live in Queen’s Park, I’m married to a woman who is a 10 when at best I’m a five and a half or a six on a really good day, I play the piano. . .

Last year, his previous wife took out an injunction against publication, on the basis that to have these “toxic” details in the public domain would harm their son. This was rejected in the first court case, but upheld on appeal, and in an elaborately restrictive judgment. “It ended up being a bunch of judges having editorial control over what I said. Literally to the point where I wasn’t allowed to use graphic language or vivid and colourful descriptions. I could use the word ‘rape’, but I couldn’t use the phrase ‘getting raped’ … ”He pauses, and recalls: “The shock of being told, in effect, you can’t say that. Not only can you not write it in a book, but we are trying to gag you from speaking anywhere in the world on any medium – on Twitter, in interviews, on TV – about not just sexual abuse but mental illness. Can you imagine? I wouldn’t be able to tell you now that I’m in treatment for mental illness without being threatened with imprisonment, had this been successful.”

Thankfully, he won in court. You can read the full story here.

CFP: Social Kinds (Journal of Social Ontology)

Professor Mari Mikkola, co-editor of the Journal of Social Ontology, writes to share this note:

Call for Papers: SOCIAL KINDS

Journal of Social Ontology (JSO) will publish a special section devoted to social kinds. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2015.

Social kinds include money and marriage, recessions and unemployment, as well as race and gender. It is often argued that social kinds depend in some way on people’s attitudes, activities, habits and practices. Actions and attitudes of individuals may both determine what social kinds exist and what the particular nature of different social kinds is, and may causally bring about and sustain social kinds. Even so, social reality is “stubbornly real” in that the extent to which individuals can change it is rather limited. This raises a number of questions concerning the ontology of social kinds.

Questions to be addressed in the special section include (but are not limited to):

– THE NATURE OF SOCIAL KINDS: Are social kinds uniform, or might ‘money’ and ‘gender’ for instance be fundamentally different kinds? Does essentialism apply to any social kinds? Should we adopt some form of realism about them? What kind of ontological dependence is at stake? On what does the existence and identity of social kinds depend on?

– SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION: Social construction plays a central role in the debate on social kinds. What is it? And what role do social practices play in it? Is social construction merely a causal process, or is it also a matter of constitution? How can notions such as bootstrapping, or looping effects contribute to our understanding of social kinds?

– KNOWLEDGE: It has been argued that the knowledge that those who do the construction have about their constructs is infallible. Is this indeed the case, and if so does it hold for all social kinds (including recession and unemployment) or only for some (perhaps money and marriage)? Do social kinds depend on collective intentionality? Which social kinds, if any, require common knowledge? If social kinds require collective acceptance, is this part of the very concept of a social kind? Can people be mistaken about any feature of institutions, or do some have a privileged status?

– FUNCTION: Which functions do social kinds fulfill? Is the function of some or all social kinds to solve coordination problems? In which sense (if any) is a status function a function? (How) can social kinds be dysfunctional? Does analyzing social kinds in terms of (regulative or constitutive) rules serve to shed light on social functions?

– NATURAL KINDS: How if at all do social kinds differ from natural kinds? Which insights from the philosophical study concerning natural kinds extend to the study of social kinds? If social kinds are homeostatic property clusters, what holds those properties together? How do theories concerning substantial kinds or primary kinds apply to social reality? How does the ontological nature of social kinds affect the theory of reference to social kinds? Do the social sciences rely on social kinds in the same way as some have suggested that the natural sciences rely on natural kinds?

– NORMATIVITY: Many if not all social kinds have a normative or evaluative dimension. What roles do norms and appraisals play in social kinds? What role do deontic powers play in institutions? Might some social classifications (like gender and race categories) uphold unjust practices? If so, does this pose special problems for social criticism? How can the normative dimension of such social constructions be justified or criticized? How if at all are ideologies implicated in social kinds?

We welcome any paper-length submissions (up to 8500 words) related to the topic of social kinds, and not restricted to these questions. All submissions should be suitable for anonymous review. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2015. For further info, please contact arto.laitinen[at]uta.fi; f.a.hindriks[at]rug.nl or mari.mikkola[at]hu-berlin.de.