Hypatia Diversity Prize

Hypatia is pleased to invite submissions for the 2015 Hypatia Diversity Essay Prize. This prize is awarded biennially for the best essay, previously unpublished, written by a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, or non-tenured faculty member that embodies a feminist, intersectional approach in a philosophical analysis combining categories of identity (e.g., gender, class, disability, ethnicity, nationality, race, religion, sexuality). In addition to being published as the winning Diversity Essay in Hypatia, the winning author(s) will receive $500.  Essays of high quality that do not receive the award will also be considered for publication.

The Diversity Essay Prize committee warmly encourages essay submissions! Please submit essays at the Hypatia Manuscript Central Submission Site. When you submit your essay, make sure to select “Diversity Essay Prize” in the drop-down menu, and also note in the cover letter that the submission is for the diversity essay prize.

The Diversity Prize Committee is chaired by Linda Martin Alcoff and includes Ladelle McWhorter and David Haekwon Kim. If you have any question you may contact either the Editorial Offices at Hypatia@villanova.edu or Linda Martin Alcoff at lmartina@hunter.cuny.edu.

February 1, 2015 submission deadline

Call for Diversity Teaching Materials

The APA Committee on Inclusiveness of the Profession is now soliciting teaching materials bearing on any area of philosophy among those that have traditionally been underrepresented in the curriculum including but not limited to the following:

• Africana Philosophy

• African American Philosophy

• Asian and Asian American Philosophy

• Feminist Philosophy

• Latin American Philosophy

• LGBTQ Philosophy

• Multicultural Philosophy

• Native American Philosophy

• Philosophy and Disability

• Philosophy of Gender

Subcategories and other categories may be added depending on the types of syllabus received. Syllabi for courses that have modules corresponding to underrepresented areas are also welcome (for example, a Philosophy of Art syllabus with a feminism module, or a Philosophy of Religion syllabus with an East Asian module).The requested materials will be posted in the APA website so that they can be available to instructors seeking to incorporate in their teaching some topics or courses relevant to those areas.

By sending samples of syllabi, topics, and/or suggestions for readings, you will be helping to promote diversity in the profession.

Teaching materials should be sent as email attachments to Susana Nuccetelli, chair of the APA Inclusiveness Committee, at this address: sinuccetelli(at)stcloudstate(dot)edu

Defer to the Deaf Person: Interpreters and Quality Control

The story about the charlatan “signed language interpreter” at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service raises awareness about a problem that’s received little attention in mainstream media. This is the problem of signed language interpreter quality control. This is a huge issue in many deaf communities, but I want to focus on the version of the problem that comes up for deaf academics, including deaf philosophers.

Highly professional signed language interpreters follow professional codes of ethics tenets stating interpreters should not accept assignments they aren’t qualified for.

From what I’ve been able to determine, the man who waved his hands around at Mandela’s service was not a signed language interpreter at all, but merely trying to pass as one.  That’s an extreme version of the problem of  ‘Bad Fit to the Assignment’.

The more common version of the ‘Bad Fit to the Assignment’ problem encountered by deaf academics is the interpreter who accepts an assignment for which she is not qualified.

Sometimes this happens by accident – perhaps vital information about the assignment was not supplied  to the interpreter when she made the decision to accept the assignment. Sometimes this happens by hubris – I’ve seen more than a few cocky interpreters who think they can handle anything melt down during philosophy colloquia, both during the reading of the paper and the Q&A. Sometimes this happens because the person handling the request for interpreter accommodations makes mistakes or bad decisions.

When a deaf academic decides to attend an academic event outside of her home community, the process goes something like this.

  1. See if the conference/workshop/annual meeting registration form lists a contact person for disability accommodations.
  2. If there is no conference/workshop/annual meeting contact person on the registration form or conference website, expect to invest some hours identifying this person. Seasoned academics with disabilities will recognize this as the point when one mentally allocates a portion of one’s free time to the ‘job’ of being disabled.
  3. After the contact person is identified, make the request for accommodations, providing as much detail as possible. E.g. if I’m requesting an interpreter for a conference in London, I make a special point of emphasizing that I will need an interpreter for American Sign Language (ASL)  (BSL) –English not British Sign Language-English. (ASL and BSL are two completely different sign languages, they use different alphabets, and don’t even come from the same language family!). The deaf academic should also inform the contact person that she expects to be involved in the process of identifying and vetting the signed language interpreter.

Once the request gets underway, this is where things fall apart.

How to avoid this?

Here’s what you can do as a conference/workshop/annual meeting/colloquium organizer to make a better experience for everyone.

  1. First, involve the deaf person. In particular, deaf academics often have networks of interpreters and other deaf academics who are familiar with the local pool of interpreters and who is qualified to interpret high register academic discourse. Do not brush off the deaf person’s offer of assistance by telling her that you or your university will handle this yourself — even if you happen to be fluent in the local community signed language. Ask us what we need and communicate with us about possible constraints (not just money, but local resources). Odds are good that we’ve encountered similar problems before and may have some solutions.
  2. Don’t try to save money by doing the legwork yourself, e.g. contacting your niece’s friend who interprets at her church every Sunday. Even if the niece’s friend is certified through say, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID is a US American professional organization for signed language interpreters), she may still not have the qualifications and skills necessary to interpret the assignment. Interpreting philosophy is both demanding and difficult. Many topnotch interpreters won’t take on this kind of highly specialized assignment for fear their skills may not be up to the task.
  3. Trust the deaf academic’s assessment. If the deaf academic turns down an interpreter, do not ignore this and substitute your own judgment regarding whether or not the interpreter is suitable for the assignment. This holds even if say, your home university tries to foist a specific interpreter on the deaf academic. Interpreters are NOT fungible. There may be reasons beyond skill level for rejecting an interpreter – sometimes it is a matter of concerns about confidentiality, sometimes there are reasons of gender preference, sometimes there are concerns about the interpreter’s professionalism.

Last but not least: a reminder, followed by a coda*:

  • Deaf and hard of hearing people have long been excluded from things that concern us – witness the frequency at which we see/hear the phrases “Never mind”, “I’ll tell you later” and “It’s not important”. This pattern also gets extended to our accessibility accommodations. Our expertise is often dismissed (implicit bias, anyone?) even when we are the best person on the planet to make such judgments. (As a personal aside, my professional judgment has been dismissed out of hand (ahem) – and I’ve created much of the ASL philosophical lexicon currently in use.)
  • If you want to be an ally to deaf academics, recognize us as experts in not just our academic discipline, but in our own accessibility accommodations.

*Insider joke for deafies.

Charlatan Interpreter Sparks Outrage at Mandela’s Service

Once again, a charlatan “signed language interpreter” has stolen center stage. This happened on international television during the live streaming of Nelson Mandela’s service today. Deaf South Africans viewing the live streaming television feed were cheated of the opportunity to fully participate in the mourning of one of their nation’s greatest leaders, thanks to this unconscionable action.

…during the service, rather than remembering Mandela, many South Africans (and others from around the world) who were either Deaf, or work with Deaf people, were expressing their outrage.

Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman to be elected to the South African parliament tweeted:

ANC linked interpreter on the stage with dep president of ANC is signing rubbish. He cannot sign. Please get him off

I’m fuming mad, because this happens all too often.

A hearing person with a modicum of signing skill – let alone interpretation skill, which is something else entirely – assures a non-signing hearing person of his competence to interpret for deaf people.  Sometimes this is done via a-friend-of-a-friend; sometimes someone has the chutzpah to offer her services when the opportunity presents itself (this would be the equivalent of ambulance chasing), and sometimes the deaf person’s expertise to vet interpreters is offered and rejected (because, you know, interpreters are fungible).


Presumed Incompetent (You Have The Right to Remain Silent…)

I never go anywhere without a book, and my mother, a retired research librarian of mixed Arab and European descent, is always curious about what I’m reading. When I pulled out my copy of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia, my mother scrunched up her face in disgust, “Why would anyone choose that title for a book about women academics?” I responded with, “Because that’s how many people see us!” She countered by inviting me to move to the living room to watch a (closed captioned) television clip about the life of Sonia Sotomayor.


As usual, mom won this match: women, race, class, and disability.


As the title states, Presumed Incompetent, edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González, and Angela P. Harris, focuses on the intersections of race and class of women in the academy. The book is a compilation of narrative essays written by women (there is also an essay on being an ally written by a man) with chapters organized around the following themes: general campus climate, faculty-student relationships, networks of allies, social class in academia, and tenure and promotion.Read More »

More V-Day Dancing: Save Wiyabi Project and All Nations Rising

As Us is a new literary journal showcasing works by underrepresented writers particularly Indigenous women and women of color. The V-Day special issue is dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women in Native American and First Nations communities through the All Nations Rising and the Save Wiyabi projects.


Save Wiyabi’s involvement with 1 Billion Rising (1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten, or killed in her lifetime, that means 1 billion women around the world) stems from the fact that Native American and First Nation women have identical statistics; and violence in our communities continues at these extremely high rates. “1 Billion Rising is a global movement to end violence against women through dance, and we as a dancing people, we will be round dancing, side-stepping, and powwow-ing these issues away on VDay,” according to Chief Lauren Elk.

So Expressive!

Lydia Callis, signed language interpreter for New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg, is getting a lot of attention these days for her interpreting during Hurricane Sandy.

She’s been spoofed on Chelsea Handler’s show, she has Tumblrs dedicated to her, and she’s even been named “Hot Slut of the Day” by Dlisted.

Why all the attention? Is it because she’s an attractive woman doing something “exotic” with her hands? Or is it just because her facial expressions are markedly different from those of American English spoken discourse?

Would a male sign language interpreter get all of this attention?

I wonder.

Breastfeeding In the Classroom

American University professor Adrienne Pine speaks out about breastfeeding her daughter in class here. American University response here.

So here’s the story, internet: I fed my sick baby during feminist anthropology class without disrupting the lecture so as to not have to cancel the first day of class. I doubt anyone saw my nipple, because I’m pretty good at covering it. But if they did, they now know that I too, a university professor, like them, have nipples. Or at least that I have one.