Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Professor Mary C. Rawlinson

Mary C. Rawlinson is Professor and Chair in the Department of Philosophy and an Affiliated Faculty in Comparative Literature and Women's and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University in New York.

Rawlinson's publications include Just Life: bioethics and the future of sexual difference (Columbia University Press, 2016), Engaging the World: Thinking After Irigaray (SUNY, 2016), The Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics (Routledge, 2016), Labor and Global Justice (Lexington, 2014), Global Food, Global Justice (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015), Thinking with Irigaray (SUNY, 2011), The Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and Bioethics (Springer, 2006) and Derrida and Feminism (Routledge, 1997). She has edited five issues of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, including Foucault and the Philosophy of Medicine, The Future of Psychiatry and Feminist Bioethics. She has also published numerous articles on Hegel, Proust, literature and ethics, bioethics and contemporary French philosophy.

Rawlinson was the founding editor of IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (2006-2016) and Co-founder and Co-director of The Irigaray Circle (2007-2017).

Professor Rawlinson's residence at the IAS will be devoted to two book projects. The first, a reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, reveals how Hegel's politics of the 'we' is undermined both by his effacement of sexual difference and by his misappropriation of art as a "betrayal of substance". Sexual difference and art offer points of critique that challenge Hegel's concept of Absolute Knowing and demonstrate the irreducibility of perspective or style in philosophical thought. The 'we' of political discourse cannot be thought, as Hegel would have it, in terms of a logic of the same, but must be rearticulated to take difference into account. Columbia University Press has reviewed a portion of this manuscript and will issue a contract upon its completion. She expects to complete this project during her residence at IAS.

The second project, which Professor Rawlinson will begin during her residency at the IAS, focuses on mystery and detective fiction as a genre of ethics and political philosophy. This book will analyze the impossibility of agency in the context of injustice, focusing on both race and gender. If, as Raymond Chandler argues, "ours is not a fragrant world", what kind of agency will be effective against this structural injustice, when the very institutions charged to protect the vulnerable are indifferent or hostile? Can an agent navigate these "mean streets" without becoming mean? What is the role of violence in justice? My hypothesis is that this literature deploys concepts of agency, judgment and sociality that more adequately address contemporary ethical urgencies than those of conventional moral and political philosophy.

Both projects address the central question of my research: what infrastructures of life will promote the solidarity necessary to collective action while at the same time safeguarding the singularity of each and all?