Alumni and faculty members who would like to have their books considered for this listing should contact Stacey Himmelberger, editor of Hamilton magazine. This list, which dates back to 2018, is updated periodically with books appearing alphabetically on the date of entry.

Awkwardness: A Theory by Alexandra Plakias, associate professor of philosophy.

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(Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2024).

The author explores the psychology and philosophical significance of the ubiquitous social phenomenon known as awkwardness. “Our aversion to awkwardness mirrors our desire for inclusion. This explains its power to influence and silence us: as social creatures, we don’t want to mark ourselves as outsiders,” the publisher notes. “As a result, our fear of awkwardness inhibits critique and conversation, acting as an impediment to moral and social progress. Even the act of describing people as ‘awkward’ exacerbates existing inequities, by consigning them to a social status that gives them less access to the social goods (knowledge, confidence, social esteem) needed to navigate potentially awkward situations.”


Plakias discusses how we ostracize and punish those who fail to fit into existing social categories; how we all depend on — and are limited by — social scripts and norms for guidance; and how these norms frequently let us down when we need them. But awkwardness has a positive side: it can highlight opportunities for moral and social improvement, by revealing areas where our social norms and scripts fail to meet our needs or have yet to catch up with changing social and moral realities.

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Stacey Himmelberger

Editor of Hamilton magazine

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