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The Ethics of Uncivil Protest: A Workshop

Thursday October 12, 2023 - Friday October 13, 2023

This two-day, international workshop offers engagement with questions that have been at the forefront of political discourse in recent years: can uncivil, violent resistance ever be justified as a means of protest? The workshop brings together leading and emerging scholars who work on the meaning, practice, and ethics of uncivil resistance, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and in a variety of political contexts. Together, their research challenges the dominant approach to the ethics of protest in liberal ethics, according to which protest even in so-called liberal democratic states must remain civil and nonviolent. Papers presented in this workshop will examine the nature of incivility, the tension between incivility and democracy (if such a tension exists), the justification of uncivil protest from the perspective of excluded and marginalized groups, and the limits to incivility and violent protests. Examining such questions from the perspectives of moral philosophy, critical theory, Africana and Indigenous philosophy, as well as philosophy of language aims to generate new understandings on the ethics of protest and resistance.

The workshop is organized by Avia Pasternak (Toronto) and Candice Delmas (Northeastern) and will take place in the spaces of the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto.

Please note that registration is now closed.


Day 1 (October 12)


9:00 Coffee, Start, and Introductions
9:15-10:30 José Medina (Northwestern University), “Breaking Silences: Kissing, Shaming, and Other Things to Do When Protest Has to Be Uncivil”
10-min break
10:40-11:55 Cristina Lafont (Northwestern University), “Uncivil Protest and Democratic Legitimacy” 
11:55-12:55 LUNCH
12:55-14:10 Erin Pineda (Smith College), “Carceral Disobedience and Abolitionist Horizons”
10-min break
14:20-15:20 Jeff Howard (University College London), “The Ethics of Prison Breaks” (Zoom)
15-min break
15:35-16:50 Temi Ogunye (Princeton University), “What Does It Mean to Be Civil?” 

Day 2 (October 13)

9:00 Coffee
9:15-10:30 Yann Allard-Tremblay (McGill University), “Indigenous Resistance: Sovereignty, Transgression, and Transformation””
10-min break
10:40-11:40 Ẹniọlá Ànúolúwapọ́ Ṣóyẹmí (Oxford), “Participation (and Uncivil Non-Participation) in Steve Biko’s Ethics of Just Resistance” (Zoom)
10-min break
11:50-13:05 Daniel Viehoff (New York University), “On Harming Officials to Stop Injustice”
13:05-14:15 LUNCH
14:15-15:30 CM Lim (Nanyang Technological University), “Political Resistance and Property Damage”
15-min break
15:45-17:00 Avia Pasternak (University of Toronto), “Meeting the Necessity test in Violent Protests”



  • Candice Delmas is an associate professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Northeastern University. Her work is primarily in social and political philosophy, ethics, and philosophy of law. She is the author of A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil (OUP 2018).
  • Avia Pasternak is an associate professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Responsible Citizens, Irresponsible States: Should Citizens Pay for Their State’s Injustices (OUP 2021), and has published work on the ethics of violent resistance.
  • Yann Allard-Tremblay is an assistant professor in Political Theory at McGill University. His work is concerned with the decolonization and Indigenization of political thought. He has recently published in Polity, the Canadian Journal of Political Science, and Political Studies. He is a member of the Huron-Wendat First Nation.
  • Jeffrey Howard is an associate professor of Political Theory at University College London. He has published on various topics in political philosophy including freedom of speech, criminal punishment, and democracy.
  • Cristina Lafont is Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. She is the author of five books and the co-editor of two collective volumes. Her most recent book is Democracy without Shortcuts: A Participatory Conception of Deliberative Democracy (OUP, 2020). She has published numerous articles in political philosophy and is currently working on issues related to deliberative activism and democratic legitimacy.
  • Chong-Ming Lim is an assistant professor of Philosophy at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His current research explores whether and how political resistance may be vindicated. He is the recipient of the APA’s Gregory Kavka/UCI Prize in Political Philosophy in 2022.
  • José Medina is Walter Dill Scott Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. He is the author of The Epistemology of Resistance (OUP 2013) and The Epistemology of Protest (OUP 2023). He works primarily in critical philosophy of race and political epistemology.
  • Temi Ogunye is an associate research scholar at Princeton University’s Department of Politics. He currently works on the political philosophy of activism – that is, the means by which people intervene in society to shape it for the better..
  • Erin R. Pineda is Phyllis C. Rappaport ’68 New Century Term Professor of Government at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Seeing Like an Activist: Civil Disobedience and the Civil Rights Movement (OUP, 2021), which was awarded the 2022 Foundations of Political Theory Best First Book Prize.
  • Ẹniọlá Ànúolúwapọ́ Ṣóyẹmí is Departmental Lecturer in Political Philosophy and Public Policy at University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. Her first book, Law’s Moral Legitimacy, is under contract with Hart/Bloomsbury Publishing. Her research is focused in contemporary and African political philosophy and theory, including the ethics of uncivil non-participation in Steve Biko’s political thought.
  • Daniel Viehoff is an associate professor of Philosophy at NYU. He works on topics in political, legal, and social philosophy, including democracy, equality, authority, and the right to resist officially inflicted injustice. His research has been published in Philosophy and Public AffairsEthics, and Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy (among other places), and he is currently completing a book on political legitimacy.


Thursday October 12, 2023
Friday October 13, 2023
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Avia Pasternak (Toronto) and Candice Delmas (Northeastern)


Centre for Ethics
Larkin Building, Room 200, 15 Devonshire Place
Toronto, ON M5S 2C8 Canada
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