Morgan Thompson

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow


Morgan Thompson is a philosopher whose research lies at the intersection of philosophy of science, feminist philosophy, and the use of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ concepts in science. She received her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to Cornell, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Universität Bielefeld in Germany on the project “Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research”. She is particularly interested in problems arising during measurement of socially-relevant constructs, such as ‘microaggression,’ ‘implicit attitudes,’ ‘intersectionality,’ and ‘racial discrimination.’ These issues include ethical and epistemic issues such as: retaining the unique features of ‘microaggression’ in comparison to other constructs, adapting multi-dimensional concepts to be suitable for measurement, and identifying ethical-epistemic limitations on changing the meaning of concepts. She also has research interests in the demographics of philosophy and in particular, identifying features that explain why professional philosophy remains primarily male and White. Her research in this area also informs her teaching and mentoring. She has taught courses on feminist theories, concepts of race in science, health and disease, and technology. For three years, she served as a co-organizer of the Pittsburgh Summer Program in philosophy of science, which aims to provide a graduate-seminar experience for undergraduates from marginalized groups and underserved institutions.

Research Focus

As a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Thompson will begin a project titled Who and What Counts? Racial Categorization and the Measurement of Racial Discrimination. This project examines how categorization and measurement in research and by nation-states characterizes racialized groups and the racial discrimination they face. In particular, her work examines two case studies: the racial and ethnic categorizations used in U.S. and German Censuses and the operationalization of racial discrimination in research on racial health disparities. Her work highlights an important tension between the rich understandings of these concepts in lived experiences and from social theories and the need to standardize and simplify for the purposes of categorization and measurement. This research examines epistemic and ethical considerations in producing population data or evidence of discrimination, which is of special importance because data and evidence are used in policy decisions. In light of these different epistemic, ethical, and ethical-epistemic considerations, the project advocates for the use of participatory methods to develop Census categories and measures of discrimination.