“Diversifying philosophy”

The title of this post is my working title for the CSW (APA’s Committee on the Status of Women) diversity conference, which will be held jointly with a Hypatia conference. It will happen at the of May, 2015. I’m the program chair.

I have some ideas to put before a so-far-exiguous program committee, and they will also have ideas. But for now I’d really like to hear what you (my audience) think are important topics.

Let me mention two that I have begun to think about.

(1). The canon(s). In a number of the winter APA conference sessions speakers and the audiences discussed the ‘required reading’ that publishable papers too often have to cover. I think that the canon so understood often acts in a very exclusionary way, and so it may be important to discuss. One thing a discussion on this topic could look at is in effect advice for early scholars. How, for example, could modest, conservative woman-relevant topics be introduced? Still under the advice heading, we could look for areas that have already opened up a bit, or even a lot. Another topic here would be how can we get referees for conferences, journals, book publishers to consider less canon focused ideas. I.e., new creative stuff. Well, of course they already do, but there are … Well, maybe we should discuss this.

(2). The status of women. One topic might be on women doing philosophy outside the standard tt-tenured structures: what can the APA do? Another might be on surviving a cold climate, or the relative invisibility of women in the profession. Another might also be on the special trials of women of color.

So please let me know what more you think are vital topics. Either add to the sub-topics above or suggest new questions.

There are very recent events that have created very inflammatory discussions. So for now let us avoid the following:
– site visits
– injustices to male faculty as illustrated by recent events
– the demerits of feminist thought, the CSW, this blog, me and certain other bloggers.

We will resist derailing.

16 thoughts on ““Diversifying philosophy”

  1. This sounds great…Thanks for asking for input.
    Regarding topic (1) Canon(s): There seem to me to be a number of different topics that fall under this category. One, Anne has outlined nicely, concerning the creation in real time of a new canon of contemporary work in philosophy. There are also questions of the making of the historical canon, both more distant (say, early modern) and more recent (say, late 20th century — lately, I have been struck by how a historical recent efforts at including women in philosophy have been. There were discussions around this issue in the early 1990s (when I was in grad school) and there are articles that are in print that it doesn’t seem folks read. There are good rhetorical reasons for this, perhaps, but it is also worth asking what gets lost when we forget about the history of these discussions.

    Let me also add that I think the suggestion regarding having a discussion of status of women of color in philosophy is a particularly good one.

  2. My understanding of professional philosophy in the US is that it’s fairly prestige/status/lineage/hierarchically oriented ie fairly similarly to law schools. This made me wonder how much of a barrier these are to change in general.

    But my impression of computer science is that it’s much less any of these things and had horrible diversity problems. So, I don’t know. It’s hard to see how such things could be helpful, of course.

  3. I like the idea of looking at women doing philosophy outside of the tenure track structure. I would generally want to include women working at community colleges here. Some of the issues, for me at least, are access to research libraries and a community of like-minded scholars that would be encouraging and inclusive in their mentoring and research/writing support networks. Of course, topic #1 above, the exclusionary effect of canonical “required reading” is probably, and interestingly, not unrelated to this issue. Perhaps the association between TT positions and being the best “minds” in the field needs to be challenged a bit more given the epistemic injustice that exists in philosophy not only in terms of gender (though that is big, even at a community college), but also in terms of race, class, culture, age, disability, and so on. I would be interested in the percentage of women instructors teaching at community colleges full-time in comparison to women TT instructors. And then there is also the issue of adjuncts, and the percentage of female philosophy Masters and PH.D.s who are teaching as adjuncts in relation to the percentage of male philosophers teaching as adjuncts may also be illuminating. And I don’t know how female philosophers would sustain doing philosophy outside of any teaching position or academic grant or post-doc, but it would be interesting to find out.

  4. I would like to see some attention to the role of critical thinking pedagogy. That teaching is marginalized work, and so more likely to fall to women. Yet, it may have the largest cultural impact of any philosophy subject as it gives many students their only exposure to philosophy.

    Further, there’s a lot of lip service given to critical thinking as a general pedagogical that philosophy and women’s studies along with other liberatory programs claim to teach. Yet little substance can generally be found to those claims.

    All this suggests that CT pedagogy is ripe as a sight for cultural transformation, including the culture of philosophy. (I have a more detailed argument to this effect in the APA newsletter last Fall: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.apaonline.org/resource/collection/D03EBDAB-82D7-4B28-B897-C050FDC1ACB4/FeminismV13n1.pdf.)

    Yet we have few resources, and this conference would be an ideal opportunity to solidify and build on what we do have. I think a panel bringing together people who’ve developed such resources would be great. Two I know of are Maureen Linker (her textbook should be out by then!) and Shari Stone-Mediatore, or perhaps Audrey Yap and Sharyn Clough.

  5. Anonymous grad, i am pleased to say that the topic is part of my # 2 above.

    Rachel, yes, but surely not just descriptively? Could you say a bit more?

  6. I’m going to be saying a *lot* more in my talk to Rice next month. I’ll be touching on this topic.

    In my own experiences (and talking to others, and What It’s Like posts), claims of harassment and bad behaviour are very often met with gaslighting (even, or especially, by “allies”).

    People “caution” the affected against making formal complaints, but these are often veiled threats. If they’re not threats, the speakers are very often unaware of the language pragmatics involved in what they’re saying, (e.g., “Just so you know, if you go through with this, I’ll be on the other side of the table from you.” This gives a sense that one’s advisor won’t support one…and that one will be left to fight alone).

    If one complains to an “ally,” and that “ally” goes to speak to the offender, they often don’t report back to the affected person about what, if anything, was done. Usually they cite confidentiality issues. But this, again, leaves the affected feeling isolated, since they have *no idea* what, if anything, was done in support.

    These are roughly what I mean.

    Invite me to speak, I’ll say more ;) haha

  7. I second what J.W. Writes about looking at women outside the tenure track, including those teaching at community colleges. While some female instructors at ccs have Ph.D.s, given the climate at many grad programs in philosophy, many female grad students “opt” out at an M.A. and work at ccs. So not including them in talk/research about diversifying philosophy, can compound the marginalization they experienced in (what might have been) the limiting of their academic aspirations.

  8. Rachel, I really agree with your comment. Leaving one out of the loop reinforces the power differences that may well have made the injuring possible.

    Did I mention that the Rice thing will be about 17 days after my knee surgery? I’m hoping I can make it, but am not certain.

  9. What about emphasising practice over publications? I am member of a society which includes people who only practice philosophy – they engage in dialogue, they facilitate dialogues and they teach – but they do not write. (I supposes it ties in with some of the comments above.)

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