Judith Kay

Judith Kay

Professor Emerita, Religion, Spirituality, and Society

Professor Kay’s research interrogates oppression theories, virtue ethics, and issues of intersectionality. Her most recent publication is “Jews as Oppressed and Oppressor: Doing Ethics at the Intersections of Classism, Racism, and Antisemitism” (in Judaism, Race, and Ethics. Ch. 4. Edited by Jonathan Crane, University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2020). She worked with the university’s Race and Pedagogy Initiative from 2003.

Selected Publications

“Jews as Oppressed and Oppressor: Doing Ethics within the Structural Dynamics of Classism, Racism, and Anti-Jewish Oppression.” In Shades: Race with Jewish Ethics. Edited by Jonathan K. Crane. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, Forthcoming.

"Aquinas and Hume: The Implications of Moral Anthropology for the Responsibility and Blameworthiness of Trauma Survivors" (under consideration with The Journal of Religious Ethics)

"Middle Agents as Marginalized: How the Rwanda Genocide Challenges Ethics from the Margin." Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. 33:2 (2013): 21-40.

Murdering Myths: The Story Behind the Death Penalty. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

 “The Exodus and Racism: Paradoxes for Jewish Liberation.” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. 28:2 (2008): 23-50.

“Is Restitution Possible for Murder? Surviving Family Members Speak.” In Wounds That Do Not Bind: Victim-Based Perspectives on the Death Penalty (pp.323-348) Edited by James Acker and David Karp. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, Second Edition, 2007 (2006).

“Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation: Story-Telling for Healing, as Witness, and in Public Policy.” In Handbook of Restorative Justice: A Global Perspective (pp. 230-245). Edited by Dennis Sullivan and Larry Tifft. New York: Routledge, 2006.

“In the Shadow of the Execution Chamber: Affirming Wholeness in a Broken Place.” In Practice What You Preach: Virtues, Ethics and Power in the Lives of Pastoral Ministers and their Congregations. Edited by James Keenan, S.J. and Joseph Kotva, Jr. Franklin, WI: Sheed & Ward, 1999, pp. 115-127.

[This book won first prize for a book on pastoral ministry awarded by the Catholic Press Association.]

 “Getting Egypt out of the People: Aquinas’s Contributions to Liberation.” In Aquinas and Empowerment: Classical Ethics for Ordinary Lives. Edited by G. Simon Harak, S.J. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1996, pp. 1-46.

“Natural Law.” In Dictionary of Feminist Theologies. Edited by Letty M. Russell and J. Shannon Clarkson.Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996, p. 192.

“Politics without Human Nature?  Reconstructing a Common Humanity.” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 9:1 (Winter 1994): 21-52. 


My research area is moral psychology in light of oppression theory with a focus on those who occupy dominant roles in society.

My book, Murdering Myths: The Story Behind the Death Penalty (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005) examines American’s deep-seated allegiance to a narrative that justifies violence as a means of justice. Drawing on interviews with death row prisoners and families who have lost loved ones to murder, I show how this story is shared by all. Yet some family members are beginning to tell a new narrative that calls for moral vision and for citizens to play a new role this new script.

My current book project, Human Liberation: Habit and Vice, examines how liberationists understand how those in oppressor roles acquire habits that perpetuate the status quo. A model is presented of how habits are imposed on the young, and how people can undertake to dismantle their habits of subjugation.


BA Oberlin College
MA Pacific School of Religion

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