Rachel is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Brown University. Her primary field is political theory, with a secondary specialization in American Politics. Rachel’s dissertation engages with the concept of responsibility and the reasons why dominant approaches seem to fail us when it comes to pressing social and systemic challenges like climate change or reparations for slavery in the United States. Building on the work of Iris Marion Young and others, she argues that an explicitly political approach is necessary if we hope to engage with one another more productively on such topics.
Rachel holds an M.A. in Political Science from Brown, a Master’s degree in Public Policy from American University, and a B.A. from New York University. At Brown, she was awarded the Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellowship. Her research and teaching interests include Normative Political Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, History of Political Thought, American Politics, Race and Racism, Social Movements, Public Opinion, Public Policy, American Political Development, Political Theory in Film and Literature, Constitutional Law, and Professional Ethics.
Job Market Paper TitleThinking Like An Activist: A Political Approach to Responsibility for the Climate Crisis
Job Market Paper Abstract
Despite growing recognition of the urgent need for serious action on climate change, after decades of international efforts and serious-sounding rhetoric from world leaders, global emissions remain stubbornly high. The problem does not seem to be one of understanding, as the consequences of continuing on in this way are foreseeable enough. Rather, the breakdown seems to arise when we reach the delicate question of what is to be done about it, and by whom.
The debate over whose responsibility it is to deal with climate change — and thus, to bear the burdens associated with doing so — has in many ways taken precedence over the actual work of prevention, mitigation, and adaptation. Given the dire consequences of failure, this may seem a petty concern. Nevertheless, I argue that this points to a challenge that must be addressed if we hope to engage more productively with this challenge, and others like it, in the days to come.
This paper takes up the question of how we tend to conceptualize responsibility, and what makes this approach so unsuited to a challenge like climate change. I engage with the most prominent critics of the dominant model of responsibility — known as the liability model — building on their insights to develop my own theory of how such responsibilities might be understood (and taken up) more appropriately. Understanding such challenges to be fundamentally political is a necessary first step in this direction, and I draw on the real world example provided by youth activists and indigenous land defenders to argue that such a model is not only possible, but already at work driving action of the kind so desperately needed if we are to meet the climate challenge to whatever extent remains possible.