Talk with Alexis Shotwell

Purity and Contamination
Talk with Alexis Shotwell
(online, registration required)
Tue, 4 May 2021, 7 pm

The world is in a terrible mess. It is toxic, irradiated, and full of injustice. Aiming to stand aside from the mess can produce a seemingly satisfying self-righteousness in the scant moments we achieve it, but since it is ultimately impossible, individual purity will always disappoint. Might it be better to understand complexity and, indeed, our own complicity in much of what we think of as bad, as fundamental to our lives? 
Against Purity argues that the only answer – if we are to have any hope of tackling the past, present, and future of colonialism, disease, pollution, and climate change – is a resounding yes. Proposing a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures, Against Purity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems. The slate have never been clean, she reminds us, and we can’t wipe off the surface to start afresh. But hope for new futures is found in distributed ethics, collective activist work, and speculative fiction writing for gender and disability liberation.

Alexis Shotwell is professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University, where she’s cross-appointed with the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies and the Department of Philosophy. She works in social and political theory, with a focus on complicity and complexity as a ground for ethical and political action. She’s currently writing about the idea of white people “claiming bad kin” or “collecting our people,” what science-fiction writer Ursula Le Guin’s work offers to our understandings of freedom and mutual aid, and craft as a practice of politics. Shotwell is also co-director of the AIDS Activist History Project.

The conversation will be held in English.

Please register by Mon, 3 May 2021 by email to You’ll then receive an access link as the conversation will be streamed via Zoom. To download and install the Zoom application please click here.