K. Bailey Thomas

Assistant Professor


My research focuses on bridging the gaps between epistemic, ethical, and political sphere through an argument for the integration of ethical and political frameworks into social epistemology. My current work focuses on examining a phenomenon that I call “insidious ignorance,” which results from the racial contract erected in the United States upon marginalized communities. Much of this work is developed within my first manuscript, tentatively titled Insidious Ignorance: Race, Power, and Cultures of Ignorance

I have also identified two long term research programs based on the views developed in my dissertation and further research I am conducting. The first research program focuses on my work on the epistemic erasure and appropriation of Black feminist thought. This project responds to the current challenge Black feminists face with the decontextualization and misapplication of Black feminist theory in issues of social justice and decolonization. I have published research towards this project in a peer-reviewed article, “Intersectionality and Epistemic Erasure: A Caution to Decolonial Feminism,” in Hypatia. Next, I plan to publish two articles that will use this research to advance the role of Black feminist theory in our understandings of social ethics, theories of social justice, and decoloniality. One article will present my current criticism of engagements with Black feminist theory that specifies the epistemic harm done with the appropriation of Black feminist theory. Simultaneously, this article will demonstrate how these engagements with Black feminism recall Zora Neale Hurston’s depiction of the Black woman as the “mule of the world.” Responding to the cases of Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal, I argue that this appropriation does not just end at the appropriation of Black feminist thought, but of Black women’s embodiment as well. The second article, an articulation of how we can observe a Black feminist ethics from bell hooks, centers the care of Black women’s physical and mental well-being by pairing hooks’ notion of “self-recovery” with Audre Lorde’s concept of “self-revelation.” These two essays show that in order for decolonial thought be fully liberatory, it must take seriously the non-African Black woman as a colonized subject.

My second research program, which I plan to turn into a future manuscript, focuses on developing an epistemology of mourning based on current social and political movements within the Black community, especially as they pertain to Black women and non-men. Here I focus on a second concept in my dissertation, which I call “epistemic silencing”. I propose that this silencing is characteristic of communities who exist in the liminal space of recognition and social death using the work of Christina Sharpe, Orlando Patterson, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, and Fred Moten. This project will seek to discover the possibility of mourning Black bodies without using broad notions of resistance as a balm to Black abjection. A separate, but related, project in addition to this is archival research that I am doing to compile various theories in decolonize Africana philosophy. In sum, my work develops radical Black feminist approaches to understanding epistemological, political, and ethical aspects of structural oppression and the lived experiences of marginalized people. 

I am the founder and organizer of the annual Roundtable for Black Feminist and Womanist Theory