The Situationist

The Situation of Hate Speech – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 27, 2009

Julie Seaman recently posted her terrific paper, entitled “Hate Speech and Identity Politics: A Situationalist Proposal,” (36 Florida S.U. L. Rev., Vol. 99 (2008)) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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The scholarly debate over hate speech regulation has often been characterized as a clash of absolutes, an irreconcilable conflict between the values of free speech and equality. In this Essay, which focuses on the college and university context, I consider whether the findings of social and cognitive psychology research might have the potential to shift the hate speech debate such that some areas of common ground come into view. Relying on insights from the substantial body of research that demonstrates that individual behavior is strongly influenced (often unconsciously) by situational factors, this Essay proposes that universities can – and should – consider ways in which to structure their social and physical environments so as to minimize harmful, antisocial speech and maximize prosocial, productive speech. Such an approach would avoid the heavy-handed censorship most objectionable to strong free speech advocates, while at the same time recognizing the social constructionist insight that belief and behavior are profoundly influenced by cultural practices, language, and images.

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For another Situationist post on schools and hate speech, see “Dueling Stereotypes and the Law.”

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