Some video talks

Toxic Speech and Composite Bodies

The Composite Bodies Series is a partnership between the Northeastern University Humanities Center and the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard. It is convened by Patricia Williams (University Distinguished Professor of Law and Humanities, Northeastern University) and Caroline Light (Senior Lecture on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University). ABSTRACT: What does it matter if our speech practices abandon truth, license violence, instill fear? Toxic speech has the power not only to shape the social body—our very practices of being and interacting—but also to injure individual bodies. When a political or cult leader, for example, licenses his followers to commit violent crimes against those deemed Other, we see an overt case of speech engendering physical harm. More insidious and ubiquitous are the everyday speech practices that generate harms ranging from physical violence to social exclusion and damaged health. Using tools from both epidemiology and philosophy of language, we can better understand how speech practices can create detrimental social climates and harm individual health.

Toxic Speech: A Viral Model

HaLO||Oppressive Speech, Societies & Norms @ZAS Berlin Theme 4 “Oppressive Practices & Norms: Speech Acts, Conversational Dynamics” (24-26 March 2021)


Research Talk to the UConn Humanities Institute, 3 April 2019 


Toxic Speech, Expressive Freedoms, and Human Rights

Abstract: Concerns about toxic speech tend to focus on the speaker’s freedom of expression (1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) or the target’s right to equality (14th Amendment). Shifting focus, I briefly explore discursive harms as enacting threats to the human right to health. Sponsored by UConn Global Affairs and Tubingen University, and the  Connecticut/Baden-Württemberg Human Rights Research Consortium