Ajinkya Deshmukh

Ajinkya worked in the non-profit sector in India before joining the PhD programme at Manchester. His research is aimed at developing an account of social groups and group identity.

Philosophy PhD

What’s the focus of your research programme? 

I am interested in interrelated questions about social groups, social kinds and group identity.

Social groups are things like book clubs, music bands, committees and organisations. Social kinds are things like class, gender, caste and race. Some philosophers prefer to give different accounts for social groups and social kinds – the former exhibiting collective features like shared intentionality, common goals, group agency, etc. which the latter lack. Further, the philosophy of social kinds has – I think rightfully – embraced the ‘ameliorative project’: the idea that we must not let pure descriptivism guide our concepts of social kinds but instead suitably engineer concepts of social kinds such that they are useful for our moral and political ends. A recent successful example of amelioration may be some countries redefining ‘marriage’ as applying to any two eligible individuals, irrespective of their gender identities. 

My aim is to give a more parsimonious and unified account of social groups and social kinds based on the deontic pressures both exert on their members. I argue that many of the features that social groups are alleged to have that social kinds do not, are neither necessary nor sufficient, and that thinking in deontic terms offers a compelling account that has both explanatory and ameliorative advantages. To think of social groups and social kinds in deontic terms is to say that they exist insofar as they facilitate or hinder their members in doing/saying/thinking certain things. 

I also argue that one identifies with a social group/kind when the deontic powers it confers on them align with what they value in life as an individual. Framing group identity in this way helps deal with philosophical challenges posed by intersectionality. 

What were you doing before you came to Manchester? 

Before coming to Manchester, I was working with an Erasmus+ research project at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Before that, I did an MA in Philosophy from the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, and an MA in Development Studies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.