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Mara Marin

Assistant professor

Political Science

Office: DTB A336 250-721-6491
PhD (2008) Chicago
Area of expertise:
Political theory, feminist theory, critical race theory, critiques of capitalism

Office hours

Summer 2024 office hours: by appointment


  • feminist theory
  • critiques of capitalism
  • history of political thought
  • theories of oppression, domination and structural injustice
  • legal theory
  • authority and political obligation

About Dr. Marin

Mara Marin is assistant professor of political theory at the University of Victoria. She is interested in the ways in which intersections of gender, race and class reproduce structures of oppression and in how collective action and legal reform can dismantle oppressive structures.

Her first book, Connected by Commitment (Oxford University Press, 2017), examines the relation between descriptive, social-theoretical questions about the nature of oppression, normative questions of responsibility for structural injustice and conceptions of collective action that can transform oppressive structures.

Connected by Commitment argues that three sets of social relations – legal, care and work relations – should be understood on the model of a relationship Marin calls "commitment". A commitment is a relationship of obligations developed over time through the accumulated effect of open-ended actions and responses. The concept of commitment links the descriptive question of what makes oppression enduring to the normative question of what action is required in response to the injustice of oppression.

At the moment, Dr. Marin is working on two book-length projects. Her current book project, Structural Agency and Structural Obligations, examines recent discussions of structural injustice and argues that in spite of theorizing injustice as structural, this literature tends to fall back on an individualist social ontology when raising normative questions about the actions that could be taken to dismantle structures of injustice. These theorists proceed as if agents embedded in unjust structures could act entirely unencumbered by the social structures whose injustice they resist. When they turn to prescribing actions that could dismantle the forms of injustice they theorize as structural, too often these theorists prioritize individual, deliberate action, losing sight of their own insights about the limits of individual, voluntary action.

She argues that this dominant tendency, that can be found in everyday practice as well as in scholarly discussions, relies on a picture of action that is both historically inaccurate and politically limiting. This picture of action limits our political imagination by making invisible precisely those features of political action that enable agents to bring about social change. She focuses on two of these features – action’s “plural publicity” and its “socially structured” character – and argues that the transformative potential of action, its potential to change the social structure depends on these two features, which should be central to theorizing action and the normative demands on agents.

Her next book project, Race as a Social Structure. A Conception of Race as the Basis for Solidarity for Anti-Racist Collective Action, is centered on the question of how to understand solidarity for anti-racist action, given that divisions along class, gender and sexuality challenge notions of shared black interests. She rejects 3 prominent answers to this question – the shared identity of persons of colour, the shared condition of being victims of racial oppression (Shelby) and shared political goals (Kolers) – for their inability to explain what brings together people of color across divisions of class, sexuality or gender.

These answers run into the problem of “secondary marginalization” of the poor, the gender-non-conforming, and women in anti-racist social movements. Given that different people of color experience racism in different ways, solidarity cannot be based on something they share, whether an identity, an interest to end racism or shared political goals. She argues that we should begin our conception of solidarity with the observation that the actions of agents in anti-racist social movements are aimed at transforming the same social reality of race, even though their agents experience different forms of racism and share no political goals. To understand the social and political facts behind this observation she argues that we should distinguish between, on the one hand, a conception of what constitutes race, and how it is structured by class, gender, sexuality and other axes of oppression and, on the other hand, a conception of action as a response to this social reality of race.

The aim of this book project is therefore twofold. The first aim is to argue that we should understand race as located in social practices, not in individuals or groups, and to offer a notion of race as a social structure that integrates race with other axes of oppression. This continues her work in "Racial Structural Solidarity" (CRISPP 2018). It also extends it to considering how race structures the political economy. Drawing on the literature on racial capitalism (DuBois, Williams, Robinson, Davis, Dawson, Fraser, Taylor), Race as a social structure shows how a variety of racial divisions were created in the historical process of capitalist expansion and consolidation, and how different racialized groups experience different forms of racial domination, yet also how their current domination has a common source in a set of interrelated processes that affect different groups in different ways.

The second aim is to argue that we should understand solidarity as forged in action in response to a shared social reality, and to offer a notion of anti-racist solidary actions as responses, from different structural positions, to the same social structure of race. In connecting a view of solidarity to the social reality of race, this view departs from views of solidarity as forged through democratic debate in a multitude of publics (Gooding-Williams) or from pragmatist views of agency as intelligent action (Glaude).

Previously, she was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics, a postdoctoral fellow in the Normative Orders cluster at Frankfurt University, and a Harper Schmidt fellow at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago, a MA in gender studies from Central European University and a BA in philosophy from the University of Bucharest.


Dr. Marin teaches courses on Political Theory.

Teaching 2023-24

Fall 2023:

Spring 2024:

Previous courses taught:
  • POLI 202: Introduction to Political Theory
  • POLI 300B: Early Modern Political Thought
  • POLI 385: Gender, Race and Power
  • POLI 401/533: Advanced Topics in Political Theory



Connected by Commitment: Oppression and Our Responsibility to Undermine It. (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Chapters & journal articles

Book reviews

  • Rochelle DuFord, Solidarity in Conflict: A Democratic TheoryPerspective on Politics, 20 (4), 2022, 1444-1445.
  • Avery Kolers, A Moral Theory of SolidarityPerspectives on Politics, 16 (3), 2018, 802-803.
  • Nichole Marie Shippen, Decolonizing Time. Work, Leisure and FreedomPolitical Theory, 46 (1), 2018, 151-155.
  • Elizabeth Brake (ed.), After Marriage. Rethinking Marital RelationshipsHypatia Reviews Online 2017.
  • Shay Welch, Existential Eroticism. A Feminist Approach to Understanding Women’s Oppression-Perpetuating ChoicesAPA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, 17 (1), 2017, 12-14.

Conference papers

Conference papers

  • "Transformative Action as Socially Structured and Plurally Public,” WPSA, San Francisco, 2023
  • "How to Think of Action as Structural," APSA, Montréal, 2022
  • "Transformative Action as Socially Structured," Structural Injustice, Responsibility, and the Passage of Time MANCEPT Workshop, September 8, 2022 (on zoom)
  • "Tommie Shelby on 'impure dissent' and the missed opportunity of understanding obligations as structural," WPSA, Portland, 2022
  • "Resistance as Structural Agency," WPSA, 2021
  • "Obligations to Resist Oppression and the Limits of Action," APSA, September 2020
  • "Against Understanding Obligations to Resist Oppression as Moral Obligations," WPSA, L.A., 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19)
  • "Black solidarity and the denigration of black labor," CPSA, Vancouver, 2019.
  • "Black solidarity and the denigration of black labor," WPSA, San Diego, 2019.

Invited presentations

  • "Structural Obligations," Power and Domination: An International Research Workshop, McGill University, August 15-17, 2022.
  • "A Structural View of the Obligations to Resist Oppression," Centering the Margins: New Approaches to Transnational Injustices workshop, Haverford College, April 22, 2022.
  • "Commitment and the Politics of Labor," Yale-NUS College Philosophy Research Colloquium Series, October 6/7, 2021.
  • "How to Think of Action as Structural," Political Philosophy Reading Group, Queen’s University, August 9, 2021.
  • "How to Think of Action as Structural," Structural Injustice workshop, University of Cambridge, March 22-23, 2021
  • "Labor Relations and Obligations of Commitment," Department of Political Science, Queen’s University, April 2, 2020 (cancelled due to COVID 19)
  • "Labor Relations and Obligations of Commitment," Department of Political Science, Department of Political Science, University of Ottawa, April 3, 2020 (cancelled due to COVID 19)
  • “Generating Inequality through the Denial of Vulnerability," Political Theory Workshop, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, April 24, 2019.