Dr. Amy Reed-Sandoval on Developing Feminist Perspective on Privacy


Image Headshot provided by Dr. Amy Reed

Marlene Herrera, Staff Writer

On March 3, CSU Bakersfield hosted a lecture by Dr. Amy Reed-Sandoval, an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada as part of Kegley Institute of Ethics Community and Colloquia Series. She is the author of the book titled, Socially Undocumented: Identity and Immigration Justice (2020), and she has founded and developed Philosophy for Children programs in places like Oaxaca, Mexico and El Paso, Texas.  

She began her lecture, “Intimate Boundaries: Toward a Feminist Theory of Borders” by ackowledging the current political crisis in Ukraine. She mentions how the surrogacy industry is putting women in impossible situations in Ukraine because they are controlled by contracts. It helps to develop her philosophy as it raises ethical challenges in the realm of gender and migration. She states, “because their movement is being coerced in certain ways… certain types of bordering practices are being enacted, although they are not always visible to us.”  

Reed-Sandoval makes sure to distinguish that borders and boundaries, physical and metaphysical, can be beneficial just as much as they can be harmful. Research supports the privacy violations that occur frequently at physical borders, such as the U.S-Mexico border.  

Although loss of privacy at border sites is not specific to one group of people, she states, “those who experience [violation of privacy] have relatively vulnerable social identities, including women, gestating people, people of color, and children.”  

As she tries to expand how others think of borders, she states, “for many vulnerable crossers, it’s not just the human immigration agents themselves that seem to be wrongfully violating privacy. It’s something about material borders that constitute a type of invasion.”  

Dr. Michael Burroughs, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Kegley Institute, states, “As a hispanic serving institution and having students, staff, and community members who come from immigrant families, we thought her research on immigration ethics was really relevant and would resonate with our community.”  

Reed-Sandoval breaks down the importance developing a broadened feminist conception of privacy, which would include informational, physical and decisional privacy. She demonstrates each with one example: a woman having agency over who gets her phone number (informational), agency over who and when others get access to her body (physical), and deciding if and which contraceptives to take (descisional).  

She explains privacy is supposed to protect personal autonomy. Harmful privacy violations experienced by border crossers, such as parents and children who are separated from one another, robs individuals from opportunities of self reflection, self expression, and self enjoyment. 

During the Q&A portion of the event, Dr. Nate Olsen, assistant philosophy professor, asks, “Are more equal power distributions required to have privacy?” 

Reeds-Sandoval responds, “At the heart of this are differences of power, such as state power versus the power of individuals, or the lack of power. Even in the home, those who enjoy less power tend to have less privacy. A necessary step for addressing the privacy invasion in question is attending to that power imbalance.” 

She concludes “we need a new language for understanding privacy violations at borders in order to render visible the injustices faced by many vulnerable border crossers experienced.”