Critical Self-Reflection and Opening Up Philosophy

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell.

I started blogging here in the summer of 2012, four years into my Ph.D. program. When I began that program in the fall of 2008, I didn’t know much of anything about feminist philosophy, and I didn’t care to know anything about it. I thought gender was a shallow and inconsequential human category, so there was surely nothing interesting for philosophers to say about it. Furthermore, since it seemed like there weren’t many women in philosophy, I had a suspicion that any sub-field dominated by them (applied ethics, feminist philosophy) was probably not that good.

By the time this blog invited me to join, I had had some major shifts in my epistemic and ethical worldviews, and had switched from specializing in philosophy of physics to philosophy of psychology, with plans to write a dissertation on gender & race stereotypes and self-identity. I had discovered, in large part through blogs and connecting with philosophers over social media, that there was, in fact, a lot of interesting things for philosophers to say about gender (and other socially hierarchical categories.) I had also discovered that the demographics of the field were not such an obvious case of how the meritocratic chips had fallen.

Another half a decade later, I view social & feminist epistemology as my intellectual home base. One of my current interests is how phenomena like epistemic injustice and active ignorance may be playing out inside the philosophy profession, especially in terms of boundary policing and teaching practices. While there is so much work left to do, it is also striking to me what has changed since 2008. Many critiques of the profession that would have been laughed at (that I remember being laughed at about) are now taken up seriously in many places. You can even get published (in philosophy journals!) talking about them.

There is still so much work left to do, so much critical self-reflection the discipline needs to undertake. But there are people doing this work, opening up philosophy to new subfields, new methodologies, new conceptions of itself. I would like to highlight some of the work being done to help us let go of these unnecessarily rigid and hierarchical boundaries…though in some cases a more apt analogy may be that people are taking up sledgehammers to those walls and gates.

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Diversifying a Discipline

I haven’t been able to read this yet because it’s behind a paywall, but I’m going to find a way around that because it’s important.

In 2015, Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy. Here’s how.


CFA: Reconsidering the Philosophical Canon (Duquesne)

April 23, 2016
Duquesne University

Keynote Speaker: Penelope Deutscher, Professor of Philosophy, Northwestern University

Duquesne Women in Philosophy (D-WiP) and the Duquesne chapter of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) invite philosophical papers on the question of reconsidering the philosophical canon. Given the recent discussions on the limitations of the philosophical canon, we aim to facilitate a discussion on the future directions of philosophy, how we may reconsider our reading of the history of philosophy and the question of canonicity. Papers are welcome from historical perspectives as well as from within contemporary philosophical discourse. We invite abstract submissions of maximum 500 words to by March 7, 2016. Allotted presentation time will be 20 minutes.

Possible areas of exploration include:

  • women in the history of philosophy
  • philosophy done from minority perspective in the history of philosophy
  • intersection of race and gender in the history of philosophy
  • attempts in contemporary philosophy of reformulating the North American and European philosophical canon
  • historical or critical approaches to the modernity in terms of canonization of philosophical texts
  • feminist writings on the philosophical canon
  • problems of race and racism in Modern philosophy

This conference is generously sponsored by Minorities and Philosophy (MAP), Duquesne Programming Council (DPC), and the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts.

So You Want To Be Inclusive

A reader is asking for guidance on creating inclusive events.  Their problem?  Not every attempt to be inclusive works.  So for those with experience, what strategies have proven reliable?  What can you do if your ideal conference line-up all decline the invitation?  What do you say if the colleague organizing this year’s colloquium series has pulled together a rather marginalizing list, despite your suggestions?  How do you translate the aspiration to be inclusive into actual inclusion?

A female colleague recently reached out to me about a lack of inclusivity in an academic setting. This got us talking about a variety of things. One thing was strategies for making conference/colloquium schedules more inclusive. I asked her for advice about this. She recommended that I reach out to you (all).

Context: We were talking about how there are a variety of ways in which even progressive departments and conferences (i.e., ones run by progressive people) fail to be inclusive. E.g., one otherwise inclusive department’s colloquium schedule does not feature any non-white non-male (etc.) speakers.

My own experience: Some of my attempts to be inclusive don’t pan out. And many of my second, third, etc. attempts don’t pan out either. In the moment, I felt like I am going out of my way to be inclusive and somehow not succeeding — I am sure there was more to it than this, as will become clear in a moment.

I am interested in brainstorming ways to be inclusive when putting together, say, conferences and colloquium schedules: anything that involves inviting scholars to participate in something, really. I have searched through this blog and gathered some ideas — I particularly enjoyed reading “I Dreamt Of An Inclusive Conference,” by the way. One idea is for conferences to be held online, eliminating some of the difficulties associated with attending a conference and thereby making it easier for people who might not otherwise be able to participate. Still, I imagine that there are all sorts of things that have not even occurred to me. (And in my more anxious moments, I worry about how I might be clueless to the fact that I am the (or part of the) problem).

Any guidance/correction/resources/etc. would be very much appreciated.

It seems to me that there are at least four separate stages worth considering:

  1. How are conference funds and organizing duties distributed within a department?  Who is making invitation decisions?  Are they responsive to criticism?
  2. If you have the opportunity to organize an event yourself, how should a desire to be inclusive affect the planning stages: the conception of the topic, the kind of event and how it will convene, the keynote selection, etc.?
  3. Once the event is in the works, how do you ensure representative participation?  Where and how do you advertise the CFA/CFP?  How are you evaluating the submissions you get?  Where and how do you announce the event to encourage outside attendance?  Should you engage in outreach?  Should some funds be reserved to facilitate attendance by those for whom attendance is difficult?
  4. As the event approaches, and as it’s underway, what should you do (and what resources should you set aside) to ensure that attendees are able to participate fully?  What instructions should chairs be given on managing the queue?  What can you do if the tenor of Q&A or discussion turns exclusive?

And a difficult question raised by the reader’s concern: what constitutes a good faith effort?  What should you do if attempts to be inclusive fail?  Can you reach a point where you’ve done all you can?

Thoughts?  Suggestions?

Mellon Foundation Grant to the APA for diversity initiatives!

Fantastic news!

The American Philosophical Association (APA) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a major grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will provide $600,000 over three years to support undergraduate diversity institutes in philosophy, including the expansion of the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) program and the development of infrastructure to support it and other undergraduate diversity institutes.

2014 and our profession

There is, obviously, a lot that still needs to be done to make our profession the place we’d like it to be. And I find it’s far too easy to let negative stuff dominate my consciousness.  So over the last few days I’ve been asking people to send me lists of good things that have happened in our profession in the last year. Here’s a start. Please add more in comments!

Fantastic new directory of philosophers from underrepresented groups!

Ruth Chang writes:

It is fully searchable and really neat. If you’re a conference organizer looking for philosophers in your city who work on X, you can search the directory and come up with a list of such philosophers from underrepresented groups that fit the bill. If you’re on a hiring committee, and the usual suspects keep coming to mind but you’d like to do a more thorough search, you can pull up the directory and find all philosophers in the directory who work in a general AOS or even on a specific research topic. If you’re an editor looking for a list of possible candidates to invite to contribute to a volume or to referee a paper, the UPDirectory can help you.

This sounds like a really wonderful tool. Go check it out!

What is it like to be a person of colour in philosophy?

Go check it out!

This blog contains narratives of personal experiences, submitted by readers, of life in philosophy as a person of color. Some of these stories will undoubtedly be accounts of racial bias, whether explicit, unconscious, or institutional. However, other posts will be accounts of progress being undertaken or achieved.

This is a project of several philosophers of all colors, moderated by a group of philosophy faculty from a variety of institutions. It is partly inspired by the thoughtful conversations that grew up around the blog What is it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy.

We invite everyone to contribute. Many posts will be written by people of color in philosophy. But we hope that not all will be.