PPE Research Fellow Focus: Philip Yaure

Dr. Philip Yaure, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and PPE Affiliated faculty member, held a PPE Research Fellowship with the Kellogg Center during the academic year of 2021-2022. The fellowship helped Dr. Yaure to advance his research on Frederick Douglass’s notion of republican citizenship.

Specifically, as Dr. Yaure states: “With the generous support of a PPE Research Fellowship, I advanced my current book project on Frederick Douglass’s conception of republican citizenship, Seizing Citizenship: Frederick Douglass’s Abolitionist Republicanism. One is a citizen, in the tradition of republican political philosophy, because she acts in ways that contribute to the polity. Through a systematic analysis of his antebellum and postbellum autobiographies, speeches, public writings, and private correspondence, I argue that Douglass develops a novel conception of what it means to contribute to a polity, marking a decisive departure from traditional republican understandings of agency and contribution. Douglass puts the power to seize citizenship into the hands of those who seek it by characterizing our value-laden everyday social interactions as the fabric of political community.”

Frederick Douglass: My Bondage and My Freedom

To support this goal, Dr. Yaure was assisted by Colleen Malley, a former PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassador and student in the accelerated B.A./M.A. program in the Department of Philosophy. Colleen led the way in surveying archival materials for discussion of relevant topics and concepts and produced a detailed catalogue of relevant passages from these materials. This catalogue proved invaluable in drafting the manuscript while also providing Colleen with a valuable opportunity to hone scholarly skills in archival research.

Dr. Yaure notes: “As a PPE Research Fellow, I made progress on three chapters of the manuscript. First, I finalized an article-version of Chapter 1, ‘On Plantation Politics: Citizenship and Antislavery Resistance in My Bondage and My Freedom.’ This chapter lays out Douglass’s general conception of republican citizenship through an analysis of his ‘plantation politics’—his account of the grand and quotidian forms of resistance against slavery and white supremacy performed by enslaved Black Americans. This article is currently under review.

Mob silencing Frederick Douglass at Tremont in 1860

Second, I drafted Chapter 2, ‘American Citizenship, Constitutional Interpretation, and Antislavery Resistance.’ Chapter 2 shows how, in the 1850s, Douglass applies his general conception of republican citizenship to argue that enslaved and nominally free Black Americans are already American citizens whom the polity ought to acknowledge as such. I argue that Douglass’s assertion of American citizenship for Black Americans goes hand-in-hand with his methods for interpreting the U.S. Constitution as an antislavery document. With the support of my PPE Research Fellowship, I presented this chapter at the 2021 annual meetings of the American Political Science Association and the Association for Political Theory.

Third, I drafted Chapter 4, ‘This Multiform Composite Nationality: Emancipation and Empire in Frederick Douglass’s Pan-American Republic.’ In this chapter, I examine how Douglass’s conception of republican citizenship drove him to support an effort for U.S. annexation of the Dominican Republic in the early 1870s. While annexation itself did not materialize, the episode demonstrates the radically inclusive character of Douglass’s abolitionist republicanism is vulnerable to serving as a justificatory framework for expansion and empire. I presented this chapter at the 2022 annual meetings of the Western Political Science Association, and the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Society.”

To learn more about the Kellogg Center’s research fellowships, please visit this link.

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