Dr. Heather Stewart
Department of Philosophy
Dr. Heather Stewart recently joined the OSU Department of Philosophy as a tenure-track Assistant Professor. She comes to Stillwater from Western University (Ontario, Canada), where she completed her Ph.D. in Philosophy, writing a dissertation on “The Moral and Political Status of Microaggressions.” Dr. Stewart’s primary areas of research specialization are applied ethics (especially bioethics and ethics of artificial intelligence), philosophy of medicine, feminist philosophy, and philosophy of language.
A central focus of Dr. Stewart’s current research involves the various ways that speech and communication can go morally wrong and, more generally, on the power that language has to shape our social and political worlds, often in subtle and difficult-to-detect ways.
Our society is stratified by race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status or class, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability status, body size, and more. Dr. Stewart is interested in how our linguistic practices (how we use speech and communicate with one another) contribute to or reinforce problematic forms of social stratification and hierarchy. One speech phenomenon that Dr. Stewart’s research examines is called “microaggressions.” Microaggressions are frequent and subtle comments (or gestures or features of our social environments) that function to reinforce stereotypes or biases about members of structurally marginalized groups. Dr. Stewart’s work in this area aims to clarify what microaggressions are, how they should be understood and researched, how they can harm their recipients, and why they warrant our collective moral concern. Dr. Stewart has published several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in this area and is currently finishing a book manuscript, Microaggressions in Medicine, under contract with Oxford University Press.
Another focus of Dr. Stewart’s current research centers around “algorithmic injustice,” or how AI systems and algorithms can reinforce various forms of social and epistemic injustice. Dr. Stewart's forthcoming paper, “A Perfect Storm for Epistemic Injustice: Algorithmic Targeting and Sorting on Social Media,” examines the role of social media algorithms in worsening social and epistemic injustice and exacerbating problems of distrust between social groups. This paper is part of a developing research program for Dr. Stewart, focused on AI and online speech and communication ethics, especially on social media platforms.
Dr. Stewart has a passion for interdisciplinary research and collaborating with scholars outside of her home discipline of Philosophy. To this end, Dr. Stewart is thrilled to have been selected for the OSU Humanities Initiative inaugural class of fellows, where she will work in “Digital Humanities” with scholars from History and English. She is also a member of the Transformational History and Philosophy of Science Network, which brings together scholars working on underrepresented areas of history and philosophy of science, such as those which bring insights from queer theory, decolonial theory, and disability studies to bear on more traditional areas of history and philosophy of science.
Dr. Stewart is also a passionate educator and mentor. As an educator, Dr. Stewart is passionate about incorporating innovative teaching methods and inclusive pedagogy strategies into her bioethics, feminist philosophy, and ethics courses to show students from all backgrounds the relevance of philosophical inquiry to their daily lives. She has also mentored students from underrepresented groups in philosophy as a fellow for the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key program in Boston, MA (hosted by MIT and Harvard) and as the new faculty representative for OSU’s Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) chapter. Dr. Stewart also serves on the Committee for LGBTQ+ People in the Profession for her professional organization, the American Philosophical Association (APA). She has worked extensively on bringing to light issues faced by first-generation students and students from poor or low-income backgrounds in pursuing higher education. Dr. Stewart hopes to continue these initiatives to make higher education in general and academic in philosophy, particularly, a more equitable, accessible, and just enterprise, available to and more genuinely inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences.