Epistemic Justice and the Costs of Exclusion

A welcome email from Alison Wylie gave a web site for the contents of an issue of Hypatia on Epistemic Justice and Women in Philosophy:  the Costs of Exclusion.

Actually, there’s quite a bit of Hypatia news on the web site; here’s the part most relevant to the particular issue of Hypatia (#2 of vol. 26):

Epistemic Justice, Ignorance, and Procedural Objectivity
The groundwork has long been laid, by feminist and critical race theorists, for recognizing that a robust social epistemology must be centrally concerned with questions of epistemic injustice; it must provide an account of how inequitable social relations inflect what counts as knowledge and who is recognized as a credible knower. The cluster of papers we present here came together serendipitously and represents a striking convergence of interest in exactly these issues. In their different ways, each contributor is concerned both to understand how dominant epistemic norms perpetuate ignorance and injustice and to articulate effective strategies for redressing these inequities…

Women in Philosophy: The Costs of Exclusion
Philosophy has the dubious distinction of attracting and retaining proportionally fewer women than any other field in the humanities, indeed, fewer than in all disciplines but for the most resolutely male-dominated of the sciences. As Marije Altorf notes in her contribution to this cluster, “the debate on the sparseness of women in philosophy often starts with shocking numbers or with anecdotes about means of exclusion” (this issue, 388), and certainly there is much to report on this front. It is striking however, that while the contributors to this “found cluster” take such evidence as their point of departure, their focus is on questions about the implications of under-representation—not just of women but of diverse peoples of all kinds in philosophy, as Kristie Dotson characterizes the problem—and on devising effective strategies for change. I begin with some of the depressing figures presupposed by the article, the four Musings, and two reviews that make up this cluster, and then briefly identify key themes that cross-cut these discussions…

Read Alison Wylie’s entire introduction for the clusters (Epistemic Injustice and Women in Philosophy) and access the table of contents and articles of the issue at Wiley-Blackwell

The College Board and Educating young men of color

Many may think of the College Board’s role in the education of young men of color as at least problematic.  The College Board is often taken to be the gate keeper to much in higher education in the United States, and their exams are thought by many to provide very hefty obstacles for many whose social environment is not solidly white American. 

I think we should put those issues aside to look at the recent results of the Board’s advocacy and policy arm, which is making available the results of quite extensive research on how to increase the success of young men of color in college.  While they do not address all the questions we have raised – such as why there is a dearth of African American professors of philosophy – some of their general recommendations could give one ideas about how to make a philosophy department more attractive to people of color.

This web site has videos from a conference on educating young men of color and three important publications, the latter on the right hand side. 

The publication on legal implications and policy guidelines looks to address concerns about programs that admit a subgroup that is identified by race or sex.  It looks to be important if you want to design a program, but it also addresses some issues that may come up as one just starts to discuss addressing, e.g., the present whiteness of an area of study.

A publication review of research and progress is to some extent case based, and draws on the experience of specific individuals.  Another publication, with the alarming subtitle “Capturing the student voice,” has a lot of data that breaks down various sub-groups.   These two publications also have general policy recommendations.  The latter address some of the issues about framing the questions that guide research and perhaps misguide it.  For example, one passage points out that white experience is standardly taken as the norm against which the experience of people of color is measured.  As they point out, this leaves out the question of whether meeting that norm is a particularly good goal.

Here’s one list of general recommendations, from the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s article,  for what is emphasized as an important national problem:  the nation’s failure to capitalize on the talent and resources in communities of color:

1. Minimize the experience of ‘feeling like an outsider’ by recruiting a critical mass of men of color.
2. Elevate the importance of aid that addresses life issues to the same level as academic and financial aid.
3. Increase access and support for students who step off the pipeline, yet want to step back on.
4. Close the engagement gap (in terms of curriculum and learning) for better outcomes.
5. Increase the chances for getting help from campus resources.
6. Create a support culture of community, connection, and relationship building on campus.

Thanks, Nathaniel!!

How to (not?) defend the humanities!

The British Academy host a conference on “the humanities under threat“, featuring a “distinguished panel” of seven male speakers.

No women.

Now, I welcome the organising of such events. But isn’t it precisely the study of humanities that should (also) teach us the value of diversity????? Shouldn’t such a conference set an example of what the study of humanities involves, not merely discuss what it should be? Walk the walk, not merely talk the talk?

Why oh why was this overlooked — again?

rant over.

More women charged with murder after miscarriages

The Guardian reports:

Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.

Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby’s death – they charged her with the “depraved-heart murder” of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

And she’s not the only one. Yet more cases to discuss next time you teach Susan Bordo’s brilliant “Are mothers persons?” (Unbearable Weight)

I’m figuring the feminist worries about this are too obvious to spell out in this context, so I thought I’d note a less obvious one.

I have a friend who specialises, in the UK, in care for pregnant women with addiction problems. She has helped hundreds (actually, probably thousands by now) of women addicted women through their pregnancies and birth and thanks to the specialised care they provide they have all been healthy, as have their babies. But the specialised care is important. And she tells me that such care is simply not possible in the US, because addicted pregnant women who admit their addiction risk criminal charges. Even if all you care about is the babies, then, you should oppose this: the babies of addicted women are far less likely to be born healthy when their mothers can’t seek the care they need.

And, may I just add, HTF does “depraved-heart murder” get to be a legal category?!

(Thanks, M!)