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Abstract Deadline: 31 March 2020 | Full Paper Deadline: 15 July 2020

Editorial Information

Guest Editors:
Ami Harbin, Oakland University, USA
Jennifer Llewellyn, Dalhousie University, Canada
Christine Koggel, Carleton University, Canada



Journal of Global Ethics

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Relational Theory: Implications and Applications

Accounts of human beings as essentially social have shaped philosophy in the Ancient Greeks; in African and Asian philosophy; in Modern European thinkers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx; and in contemporary communitarian theories. This contrasts with Modern and especially Western liberal accounts of the human being that take the primary unit of analysis to be the individual, who is owed certain rights and freedoms to pursue a rational plan of life without interference from the state or others. Feminist and anti-oppression theorists more generally have entered these debates about the ontological status of human beings by offering relational accounts of people as necessarily born into and shaped by relationships. By using relationships as the focal point for description and the unit of analyses for moral and political theory, these relational theorists have provided critical perspectives on accounts that have focused on either sociality or individualism to describe human beings and they have teased out ethical implications and applications.

Relational theory reorients political assumptions, including assumptions of individualism, liberalism, and purely state-based solutions for major social problems. Relational theorists argue that neither sociality nor individualism can fully or satisfactorily account for issues of power and oppression that can be best revealed and addressed in and through descriptions and analyses of actual relationships at interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels that shape the lives of many individuals. With relationships as the focal point, the idea is that those who are excluded or lack power and voice due to factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, and so on, can bring a diverse range of experiences and perspectives that shed light on conditions, structures, and institutions that entrench inequalities and injustices.

This special issue of Journal of Global Ethics extends the purpose, aims, and achievements of relational theory as a powerful theoretical framework. Authors are invited to go beyond discussing relational theory in the abstract or engaging with it superficially in order to apply it. Instead, we seek papers that explore and advance the unique explanatory and transformative potential of relational theory from an anti-oppression lens. We envision the papers to be unified in their use of relational theory as a theoretical framework from which to explore and extend its applications and implications in the world in which we live. Relational theory is transformative in challenging and shifting disciplinary boundaries and in its impact and potential to analyze and address pressing issues in our contemporary context. We seek papers from authors working in and beyond academic philosophy, and particularly welcome contributions from indigenous, decolonial, intersectional, disability, and critical ethnic studies perspectives. This special issue seeks insights that enrich and deepen relational theory through an engagement with its implications, applications, and impacts in the world.

We invite proposals of up to 500 words (plus references) on relational theory and its implications and applications. Papers may explore and critically engage one of the following topics, but are not restricted to these areas:

  • Anti-oppression approaches and relationality
  • Materialism, embodiment, and relational accounts
  • Relational framing of care ethics
  • Relational approaches and communitarianism
  • Global ethics through a relational lens
  • Connections between relational theory and the capabilities approach
  • Development ethics and relational critiques
  • Climate change, environmental collapse, and relational responses
  • Relational developments in understanding epistemic injustice
  • Indigenous approaches to justice as relational
  • Non-western moral and political theories as shaping/shaped by relational theory
  • Next steps in relational critiques of individualism
  • Social movements and practices of relationality
  • Relational approaches moving beyond ideal/non-ideal theory debate
  • The relational politics of memory
  • Relational autonomy and its applications
  • Relational theories of rights, justice, democracy, and/or punishment
  • Relationality, redress, and reconciliation


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Submission Instructions

Submission of abstracts (500 words): March 31, 2020. (Prospective authors are welcome to make inquiries and discuss possible topics with the guest editors in the period leading up to this deadline.)

Submission of full draft papers (typically 6,000 – 8,000 words): July 15, 2020 | Expected publication: Summer 2021

Direct enquiries and submissions to: Christine Koggel ([email protected]), Ami Harbin ([email protected]), and Jennifer Llewellyn ([email protected])