What’s in a name? As it turns out, rather a lot. I explore the significance of the name “marriage” and the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate in an article published in Agora, the New Statesman’s philosophy column, on 2 August 2019. You can read the article here.
In American Journal of Bioethics (2019).
Duivenbode and Padela (2019) explored the “cultural boundaries” of Western medicine in light of a high-profile U.S. federal court case—the first to test the 1996 American law prohibiting “female genital mutilation.” Legally, this term refers to the intentional cutting or sewing of “the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years.” The sole exception to the law is medical necessity. In support of this sole exception, and keeping our focus on the Western medicolegal context for the purposes of this statement, we argue as follows: Under most conditions, cutting a person’s genitals without their informed consent is a violation of their moral and legal right to bodily integrity. As such, it is ethically impermissible unless the person is non-autonomous (incapable of consent) and the cutting is medically necessary.
Full author list: Susan Bewley, King’s College London; Janice Boddy, University of Toronto; Clare Chambers, University of Cambridge; James Chegwidden, Old Square Chambers; Hossein Dabbagh, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies; Dena Davis, Lehigh University; Angela Dawson, University of Technology Sydney; Brian D. Earp, Yale University and University of Oxford; Nuno Ferreira, University of Sussex; Ellen Gruenbaum, Purdue University; Saffron Karlsen, University of Bristol; Antony Lempert, (UK) National Secular Society; Ranit Mishori, Georgetown University School of Medicine; Kai Möller, London School of Economics and Political Science; Steven R. Munzer, UCLA; Sarah O’Neill, Université Libre de Bruxelles; Charlotte R. Proudman, University of Cambridge; Fabienne Richard, Université Libre de Bruxelles; Elizabeth Reis, City University of New York; Eldar Sarajlic, City University of New York; Lauren Sardi, Quinnipiac University; Arianne Shahvisi, Brighton and Sussex Medical School; David Shaw, Maastricht University and University of Basel; Godfrey B.Tangwa, University of Yaounde and Cameroon Bioethics Initiative (CAMBIN); Michael Thomson, University of Leeds and University of Technology Sydney; Anna Wahlberg, Karolinska Institutet
I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Wednesday 6th February 2019, discussing the ethics of driverless cars. You can listen to this programme (for a while, at least) here. I appear about 48 minutes in.
The segment inspired a satirical news piece “Ethically programmed self-driving cars refuse to start engines as it contributes to Global Warming” by Simon Paul Miller, which you can read here.
The 2018 David Easton Award was presented to me for Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defence of the Marriage-Free State at the APSA Annual Meeting in Boston.
The Award is given “for a book that broadens the horizons of contemporary political science by engaging issues of philosophical significance in political life through any of a variety of approaches in the social sciences and humanities.” You can see previous winners of the Award here.
You can hear me debate offence with Jordan Peterson, Shaista Aziz, and Evan Davis on BBC Radio 4’s “Sweet Reason”. Are people offended too easily? Are there some topics that should not be debated?The broadcast is on Thursday 2nd August 2018 at 9am and 9.30pm, and you can hear the programme online here.
You can read the review here.
“I found Chambers persuasive: Against Marriage compelled me to rethink some of my ideas on the subject and brought much greater precision to others. And even those who disagree with much more of it will have to engage with it, as an integrated and reasonably comprehensive analysis of how the state should approach marriage.”
Andrew Harrop, General Secretary of the Fabian Society, reviewed Against Marriage in Fabian Review, May 2018. You can read the full review here.
“Marriage makes me uncomfortable, whether the reason is political, historical, cultural or aesthetic. No matter how many married couples I see living modern equal relationships, for me, the whole concept is tainted by its patriarchal past. But I say ‘for me’ with good reason, as I have dozens of friends and comrades who disagree. This is a fault-line issue that divides socialists and feminists amongst themselves. In Against Marriage, Clare Chambers makes the case for why egalitarians and liberals should reject marriage. It is political philosophy at its most practical and readable.”
My Aeon article “Against Marriage” was recommended by the Journal for the History of Ideas Blog here.
I have written three books: Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defence of the Marriage-Free State (Oxford University Press, 2017); Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice (Penn State University Press, 2008) and, with Phil Parvin, Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction (Hodder, 2013). For more information about each book, including contents and reviews, click the links in the menu above.
I have a 3,300 word essay on “Against Marriage” at Aeon magazine. You can read the article here.
I presented my paper “Reasonable disagreement and the neutralist dilemma: Abortion and circumcision in Matthew Kramer’s Liberalism with Excellence” at the University of Edinburgh in March 2018. You can read their account of the session on the Just World Institute blog here.
I was interviewed by Valentina Saini for her piece “È L’ALBA DI UN’INTERNAZIONALE FEMMINISTA?” on the Italian news site Gli Stati Generali. You can read the piece, in Italian, here.
For those who don’t speak Italian I don’t have a translation of the full article, but here are the answers I gave to Valentina Saini’s questions.
VS: In many countries and regions of the world, sexual harassment in the form of a “pat” on a woman’s “butt”, for example, is seen as something innocent and harmless, nothing one should be especially offended by – many women think so too. Why is that? Is women’s body still something that does not belong exclusively to them – culturally speaking?
A (CC): Women and girls are taught from an early age that one of their most important roles is to be attractive, pleasing, submissive and helpful to others. This education comes from many sources: gendered differences in early upbringing, acceptable social roles for men and women, media portrayals of women that focus on their looks, role-models and stereotypes. It is not surprising in this context of gender inequality that some women internalise the role given to them, and think of their bodies as primarily existing to be appraised and used by others. That doesn’t make it acceptable.
Richard Smith writes in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) blog that he is persuaded by the arguments of Against Marriage. You can read the full article here.
“Chambers is against marriage on the grounds of equality and liberty. Women are not equal with men within marriage, and the state by attaching a bundle of rights and duties to marriage creates a hierarchy of relationships with marriage at the top, making unmarried couples and single people inferior. Much of the population, including my wife and I, thinks that “common law wives” have similar rights to married women, but in fact they have none. By bundling rights and duties together, marriage (and civil partnerships) restrict autonomy; if they weren’t bundled people might choose different combinations of rights and duties.
“There is a need, Chambers accepted, for the law to regulate relationships, particularly to protect the vulnerable, but neither marriage nor civil partnership, which all the speakers criticised as being “one size fits all,” need to be that mechanism. She pointed out that parenthood might be a better basis for regulation than marriage, not least because parent-child relationships are more durable than couple relationships. Tatchell advocates a model whereby people would select “any significant other” (perhaps a best friend, sibling, or lover) and then choose among a menu of rights and duties. Such an arrangement would lead to greater equality and autonomy. All three speakers agreed that something along those lines would be better than either marriage or civil partnerships.
“And at dinner afterwards, my wife and I, despite being married for 40 years, agreed.”
This paper investigates the possibility of what Sally Haslanger calls “ideology critique.” It argues that ideology critique cannot rely on epistemological considerations alone but must be based on a normative political theory. Since ideological oppression is denied by those who suffer from it is it is not possible to identify privileged epistemological standpoints in advance.
Convenors: Dr Clare Chambers (Philosophy) and Dr Duncan Bell (POLIS)
The seminars take place on alternate Fridays between 1.00-2.30pm in the Coleridge Room, Jesus College. All are welcome.
Michaelmas Term 2014
10th October (week 1)
Miriam Ronzoni, University of Manchester
“Republicanism and Global Politics: Three Requirements in Tension”
24th October (week 3)
Elizabeth Frazer, University of Oxford
“Reading Shakespeare Politically”
7th November (week 5)
Tracy Strong, UC San Diego
“Where Do We Find Ourselves? Hawthorne and the Actuality of Political Space”
21st November (week 7)
Moya Lloyd, Loughborough University
“Naming Absence: The Politics of Body Counts”