Asta: Reflections on the Hypatia Affair

I’ve been a feminist for a long time, perhaps because I was often the only girl engaged in various activities like sports or math and physics competitions. I don’t know. But for a long time it wasn’t exactly clear how my feminist commitments were expressed in my work, apart from the choice of the subject matter itself, and it is only recently that I have started to articulate more clearly how my feminist commitments are re ected in my methodological commitments. Even as recently as January, I gave a talk where I characterized my book on social categories, Categories We Live By, as feminist, because it was motivated by feminist social justice concerns. How that was reflected in my methodology, as opposed to the subject matter, was unclear.

Then came the Hypatia affair.

Read on.

2 thoughts on “Asta: Reflections on the Hypatia Affair

  1. an idea i feel like i’ve often seen expressed in discussion of the tuvel article is that it was the cause of detrimental effects upon one party or another. this idea received expression shortly after the article’s publication in claims that tuvel or people speaking up on her behalf were doing violence to various parties. it seems to arise again in the article linked as the suggestion that there are people with “skin in the game” who we ought to be more heedful of — the assumption being, i would guess, that writing an article like tuvel’s has negative effects on the people in question.

    this brings to mind several questions for me, and i’d be interested to hear whether anyone can point me to places where they’ve received much discussion. (1) what are the detrimental effects people are referring to here? i see references to epistemic harm in this article, which i’m familiar with. i often see people use the term violence in a sense inclusive enough to subsume acts like publishing an academic article, but i’ve never seen a philosophical explanation and defense of this usage; is one available? (2) what sort of evidence do we have that tuvel’s article caused these effects? do we only have anecdotal reports? (do we have such reports?) are these enough to justify the claim? (3) what’s the ethics surrounding these negative effects? can we judge the person who causes them as having done wrong even when it was an unintended result of an otherwise innocent activity? what sorts of repercussions is it appropriate to impose upon the person who unintentionally causes them?

  2. I’m going to be very very hesitant about letting much discussion kick off on this topic, but I’m happy to pass on literature suggestions. (1) Two good sources on the notion of epistemic violence are Gayatri Spivak here:, and Kristie Dotson here: (2) There were a lot of anecdotal reports on social media at the time of the firestorm.

    I’m going to ask that we not discuss (3), or really anything other than pointing people to literature. I genuinely think online grappling with these issues is a mistake– it’s not the way this stuff needs to be dealt with.

    I left comments open only by accident, and now I’m only going to allow e.g. literature questions, because I don’t want to contribute to making things worse through blog-based discussion.

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