Toxic Speech and Damaged Bodies


Wednesday, February 3, 2021, 5:00pm to 6:00pm


Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard—Online

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.

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