(Princeton University Press, 2021)
Drawing on political, feminist, and postcolonial theory, Unconditional Equals argues that we should understand equality not as something grounded in shared characteristics but as something people enact when they refuse to be considered inferiors. At a time when the supposedly shared belief in human equality is so patently not shared, the book makes a powerful case for seeing equality as a commitment we make to ourselves and others, and a claim we make on others when they deny us our status as equals.
The Politics of the Human
(Cambridge University Press, 2015. ISBN: 9781107475830)
The human is a central reference point for human rights. But who or what is that human? And given its long history of exclusiveness, when so many of those now recognised as human were denied the name, how much confidence can we attach to the term? This book works towards a sense of the human that does without substantive accounts of 'humanity' while also avoiding their opposite – the contentless versions that deny important differences such as race, gender and sexuality. Drawing inspiration from Hannah Arendt's anti-foundationalism, Phillips rejects the idea of 'humanness' as grounded in essential characteristics we can be shown to share. She stresses instead the human as claim and commitment, as enactment and politics of equality. In doing so, she engages with a range of contemporary debates on human dignity, humanism, and post-humanism, and argues that none of these is necessary to a strong politics of the human.
Our Bodies, Whose Property?
(Princeton University Press, Spring 2013 Princeton, USA. ISBN 9780691150864)
No one wants to be treated like an object, regarded as an item of property, or put up for sale. Yet many people frame personal autonomy in terms of self-ownership, representing themselves as property owners with the right to do as they wish with their bodies. Others do not use the language of property, but are similarly insistent on the rights of free individuals to decide for themselves whether to engage in commercial transactions for sex, reproduction, or organ sales. Drawing on analyses of rape, surrogacy, and markets in human organs, Our Bodies, Whose Property? challenges notions of freedom based on ownership of our bodies and argues against the normalization of markets in bodily services and parts. Anne Phillips explores the risks associated with metaphors of property and reasons why the commodification of the body remains problematic.
What, she asks, is wrong with thinking of oneself as the owner of one’s body? What is wrong with making our bodies available for rent or sale? What, if anything, is the difference between markets in sex, reproduction, or human body parts, and the other markets we commonly applaud?
Phillips contends that body markets occupy the outer edges of a continuum that is, in some way, a feature of all labor markets. But she also stresses the fact that we all have bodies, and considers the implications of this otherwise banal fact for equality. Bodies remind us of shared vulnerability, alerting us to the common experience of living as embodied beings in the same world.
Examining the complex issue of body exceptionalism, Our Bodies, Whose Property? demonstrates that treating the body as property makes human equality harder to comprehend.
Gender and Culture
(Polity Press, Cambridge, 2010)
The idea that respect for cultural diversity conflicts with gender equality is now a staple of both public and academic debate. Yet discussion of these tensions is marred by exaggerated talk of cultural difference, leading to ethnic reductionism, cultural stereotyping, and a hierarchy of traditional and modern. In this volume, Anne Phillips firmly rejects the notion that 'culture' might justify the oppression of women, but also queries the stereotypical binaries that have represented people from ethnocultural minorities as peculiarly resistant to gender equality.
The questions addressed include the relationship between universalism and cultural relativism, how to distinguish valid generalisation from either gender or cultural essentialism, and how to recognise women as agents rather than captives of culture. The discussions are illuminated by reference to legal cases and policy interventions, with a particular focus on forced marriage and cultural defence.