I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast. I obtained my PhD from Queen’s University Belfast, having spent the final year of my PhD as the International Graduate Fellow at Vanderbilt University’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. My research interests include, but are not limited to, political theories of recognition, 19th and 20th century European philosophy, post-structuralism, feminist and queer theory, and Eastern philosophy (especially Buddhism and Daoism). I am currently developing an ethics of recognition, which focuses on our individual attempts at self-transformation and the role that both interpersonal and institutional recognition play in such attempts. In particular, I am interested in (a) how recognition can both enhance and hinder our capacities for self-transformation; and (b) the ethical issues that arise when we try to change ourselves, such as the impact we have on those around us and the demands we can make of institutions in our efforts at self-transformation.

My doctoral research analysed three major issues: (i) the tenability of contemporary recognition politics, especially as formulate by Axel Honenth; (ii) the role of recognition in subject-formation, especially as discussed within the Hegelian and existential traditions; and (iii) the relationship between recognition politics and feminism. I argued that Axel Honneth’s model of recognition is problematic for three reasons: (i) he does not adequately account for the role of power in subject formation; (ii) he identifies the solution of social struggles as always involving the acquisition of more recognition; and (iii) his focus on individual experiences of recognition means that he does not address satisfactorily how social identities regulate and normalise individuals. These claims were justified using post-structural and feminist theories of the subject and identity.

I highlighted ways in which power is co-extensive with subject-formation by examining the medical and legal recognition of gender, especially transsexual, intersex and transgender identities. I used this analysis to critique the medical community’s recognition and treatment of transsexuality, and advocated ways in which the clinical treatment and legal recognition of transsexuality can be improved. Underlying my research was the assertion that how we think about the subject significantly affects (a) how we understand struggles for recognition; and (b) our ability to recognise others. This allowed me to assess the plausibility of feminist demands for recognition by identifying how the subject is conceptualised in these demands. I also argued that theorising the subject as fluid and fragmented leads to a more ambivalent attitude toward recognition than one finds in Taylor’s and Honneth’s work. Whereas Taylor and Honneth conceive the desired outcome of recognition struggles as establishing one’s identity and sense of self, I emphasised the limits of recognition and the fragility of identity. On the basis of this, I argued that we should reconcile ourselves to the frequent failure of recognition, rather than always striving for more or better recognition.