Cressida Heyes Phd

Stephanie Gale Dover

My research interests lie in the philosophy of race and gender, identity politics, feminist theory, and the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. I am interested in how we understand concepts and social categories, like race and gender, and how we can choose to reconceive of them to serve different political purposes.

Under the supervision of Dr. Cressida Heyes, I am developing a project that considers the concept of race. In the existing literature, we can distinguish two broad positions regarding the treatment of this concept: eliminativism and conservationism. Generally speaking, eliminativists suggest that the concept “race” causes us more harm than good. Given that there are no genetic foundations upon which to establish race a real category, they argue that it is a concept that we ought to be working to abandon. Conservationists, on the other hand, acknowledge that while race concepts can lead to harm, they also offer valuable distinctions in our world, for example in the formation of personal identity. Thus, they argue that these concepts are worthy of preservation. Both positions offer certain advantages, and so we are left with a dilemma in how we ought to treat the concept of race: should we eliminate it, or should we conserve it? My project contributes to this conversation by drawing on the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. In treating the concept of race as a family resemblance concept, I seek to resolve this tension for race theory. Treated as a family resemblance concept, there is no single necessary characteristic, nor sufficient group of characteristics, for membership in a particular race. Rather each race encompasses a group of individuals who are related through a series of affinities and similarities. We can bound groups under the demands of a particular purpose, while acknowledging that these boundaries can dissolve under the demands of a different purpose. How to best define our terms depends on the practical purpose with which we are dealing. Treating the concept of race as a family resemblance concept allows for this fluidity, and so offers a possible resolution to existing dilemmas in the philosophy of race.
Prior to beginning my MA at the University of Alberta, I completed an Honours BA in Philosophy at Dalhousie University with a thesis on Wittgenstein and ethics.

Professional Contributions

Honours and Awards (Selected)

— Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Masters), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 2015-2016.
— Walter H. Johns Graduate Fellowship, University of Alberta, 2015-2016.
— Sue Campbell Memorial Bursary, Dalhousie University, 2014.
— Allan Pollok Scholarship, Dalhousie University, 2014.