Odd One Out

This morning I was excited to see a posting regarding a new anthology in my field, Chinese philosophy. But then I looked through the table of contents only to have one more of those too-familiar moments of deep discouragement.

In my area of philosophy, it remains commonplace for women scholars to be underrepresented in the typical fora of scholarly conversation. Edited volumes, conferences, and such will often include a woman, but too often it is just that: a woman, one woman among a roster full of men. That by itself is discouraging given the number of talented women philosophers and scholars in the field, but what I want to address here is something I have found far more discouraging. Some conferences and edited volumes with this pattern or low representation of women also include a particular man – David Tien – whose presence among the “elect” selected for these projects something that renders the scarcity of women not just discouraging but an affront.


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CFA: Philosophy of Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood (SWIP UK annual conference)

In association with SWIP, BUMP & PHILBIRTH,

University of Southampton

Thursday 21st June – Friday 22nd June 2018

Conference aims

Although philosophers have explored some issues related to pregnancy, birth and early motherhood – most obviously abortion and the value and metaphysics of coming into existence – relatively little philosophical attention has been paid to pregnancy, birth and (early) motherhood themselves. These are remarkable omissions because pregnancy, birth and early motherhood raise many interesting and important philosophical problems in metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, feminism, the philosophy of science, and other areas.

Pregnancy is unlike anything else that a human being experiences. It involves the production of a new person through a deeply intimate process that can radically transform not only the pregnant person’s body, but also their understanding, values, and who and what they take themselves to be. Pregnancy is also the nucleus of a series of unique physiological processes surrounding reproduction: conception; pregnancy; birth; post-natal recovery and breastfeeding. These processes are of great significance for individuals and society. These are key aspects of human life that are under-investigated in philosophy and are often not dealt with adequately by existing ways of thinking, because they do not fit the paradigm of humans as discrete independent individuals with firm boundaries. In these unique physiological processes, the boundaries between human beings are blurred. This may require rethinking key conceptual schemes – or even how we understand human value. This conference will aim to address such issues.

Pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood inescapably involve issues of gender. Most people who undergo these physiological processes are women. Gender expectations contribute to how we understand the duties of pregnant women and mothers. However, not all persons who are pregnant, give birth, or lactate, identify as women or as mothers, and not all mothers experience pregnancy, birth, or lactation. The conference welcomes papers that address the concept of motherhood from a variety of perspectives, including the perspectives of those who have been pregnant but do not identify as mothers, perspectives of those who identify as mothers but have not been pregnant, and trans perspectives.

These issues are not just interesting and important in their own right, but are also relevant to public policy: pregnancy, birth and early motherhood are constant issues of public controversy and policy development. For this reason one of our keynote speakers will talk about policy during the conference. The conference will also host the SWIP annual general meeting and we will organise a practical advice panel on parenting and work-life balance in philosophy.

Invited speakers

Rebecca Schiller (Chief Executive at BirthRights – policy)

Barbara Katz Rothman (City University of New York Graduate Center – sociology)

Maggie Little (Georgetown – ethics)

Sarah LaChance Adams (University of Wisconsin – feminism)

Guy Rohrbaugh (Auburn University – metaphysics)

Elselijn Kingma (University of Southampton – philosophy of science)

Fiona Woollard (University of Southampton – epistemology)

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