The conference was such a large, important, informative and exciting experience that anything like a report on it is going to seem selective in ways that cannot be well justified. That was just so much!
So I dearly hope others will join in with comments on this post or others. If you’d like to, consider sending us a piece on it; it would be great to do a compilation of perspectives.
One thing a number of participants commented on is that feminist philosophy is now without doubt a full field in philosophy. There is a body of foundational literature, leading current issues, a history of the issues in the field, questions that are just being raised, new directions, and so on. As with any field, there may not be complete agreement on the answers to questions about such topics, but one would expect wide agreement on what are sensible answers.
Though feminist philosophy does not start with Hypatia, its role in providing a center for the field has been very important. The conference opened with a panel on the founding of Hypatia, which was riveting. Hypatia’s history is one of great effort by a number of women, accompanied by support – and sometimes outrage – from various administrations of involved colleges and universities. Hypatia has had the honor of having been a target of Rush Limbaugh’s!
And some of the ideas? One idea that came up a number of times was first articulated by Helen Longino in the second panel. It’s the idea of moving beyond a focus on knowledge and picking up instead on more intimate relations of understanding, caring, loving and respecting. Just imagine a foreign policy founded on caring and respecting. Even trying that might get one a Nobel Prize!
Of course, my concerns about being selective are starting up as soon as I mention a particular speaker. So let me assuage them by mentioning other speakers of that panel. Sandra Harding has been working on themes that will appear in a book in 2010, Science and Technology Beyond Postcolonial Theory. Nancy Hartsock picked up on the current economic crisis and the virtual world and virtual workers, such as the workers for Disney in Haiti whom Disney does not employ. Libby Potter talked about practices, such as moral practices, particularly material embodied practices.
Two last notes: Quite a bit of attention was paid to whether there is a genuine division between analytic feminist philosophy and the rest of feminist philosophy. As someone acutely pointed out, we do listen to each other.
A paper by Carole Lee addressed the general professional consequences of the strong negativity in philosophy, one that shades off into a quite distinctive nastiness (what one might call the asshole factor). This feature shows up in reviews and hampers professional development in interesting ways that affect both men and women in the field.
Now, please, other reactions and observations!! I’ve said so little!