Workshop: Patriarchy and Political Theology

Patriarchy and Political Theology Workshop

We invite applications for a two-day workshop on patriarchy and political theology. What can scholars of political theology learn from gender studies? Why has political theology been so resistant to addressing questions of sex, gender, and sexuality in any serious way? Are there any intersections between queer feminist criticism and political theology, and what would it look like if the two methods were brought together? This workshop will gather a selected group of scholars for two days of focused engagement around the above themes, with the hope that new methods for thinking about and beyond patriarchy and political theology will emerge.

Untenured scholars, alt-academics, and graduate students who have advanced to candidacy are welcome to apply. We are looking for participants coming from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including religious studies, political theory, women’s and gender studies, LGBT studies, ethnic studies, anthropology, history, literature, and theology. The workshop will be held on the campus of Villanova University, March 30-31, 2019. Travel and accommodation costs for selected participants will be covered; support for childcare will be available.

We are particularly interested in applications that move outside the usual boundaries of political theology. To apply, please send a one-page description (up to 300 words) of a question that a workshop of this kind should or could investigate, a list of 3-5 key texts that inform your thinking around these issues, and a CV of no more than two pages. Applications are due by October 30; selections will be made by late November.

Please send application materials or questions to Linn Tonstad (linn.tonstad@yale.edu) and Vincent Lloyd (vincent.lloyd@villanova.edu).

Sponsored by the Villanova Political Theology Project and the Political Theology Network.

We need to figure some of this out.

Another woman, Asia Argento, has been identified as at least a onetime sexual harasser. And she is prominant in “#Me too” movement.

The details of what she did are actually relevant, and in some ways quite different. He was underage and they had had in the past something close to a mother-son relationship. These are far from exonerating facts. The result was a financial deal; she paid him over $300K.

The situation and the non-hysterical coverage it got was still upsetting and, in an obscure way, shaming. I think part of my guilt was that I was, despite all I know about these things and my colleague’s great post preceding this one, I was not pacing around and demanding the perp be treated as a criminal, never allowed in Hollywood again, etc.

The present case seems to me, at least given what I know so far, about morally worse actions than Al Franklyn’s was while much, much less awful than Weinstein’s.  But I didn’t really know how to react to it.  I conclude that we need to figure some things out, such as

  1.  The legitimacy of the “no due process” complaints.
  2. Is our demanding or approving retribution is part of a crowd constituted punishment?  Are we approving a punishment or actually participating in a shaming that is part of the punishment?   And perhaps leading to more serious things, such as a loss of a career.
  3. What is the significance of the fact that most of the perps are men?  Is it, as many have claimed, that power is behind harassment and in general women don’t have much of it?  Or is there something else that women tend to do that is nearly as bad?  Perhaps kinds of emotional bribery and blackmail from women are also destructive and too prevalent?  In some arenas women can behave as bad as men, even if differently; think of abusive parenting.  Does the bad behavior “me too” is pointing at have an equivalent where women lack obvious power.

No doubt there are other things we should be thinking about.  And you may have some answer to questions I asked above.  Let us know!!

Appalling feminist reaction to harassment claims

Avital Ronell, a world-renowned female professor of German and Comparative Literature at New York University, was found responsible for sexually harassing a male former graduate student, Nimrod Reitman.

A group of colleagues, including Judith Butler, has written a letter in her support that looks just exactly like the crap that has been used to dismiss sexual harassment claims for decades.

“We testify to the grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell and ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation,” the professors wrote.

Professor Ronell also does precisely what all the sexual harassers do, and claims that he’s inventing this “because he just wasn’t smart enough. “His main dilemma was the incoherency in his writing, and lack of a recognizable argument.” ”

The parallels to all the other cases I’ve been involved with are striking and clear. A powerful person is found to have* abused her power over a subordinate. She is now retaliating, and her powerful peers are closing ranks to insist that she is so famous and talented that she should be above the law. She should not.

Read more details of the case here.

*Actually, this is the one bit that’s rarer. All too often, they get away with it entirely.

CFP: Bay Area Feminism and Philosophy

The 2019 Bay Area Feminism and Philosophy (BayFAP) Workshop will be held at the University of San Francisco from May 20-22. BayFAP is different from typical conferences in important ways—if you’re not familiar with it, please read this CFP carefully.

Because BayFAP is a workshop-style conference, participants are expected to read all of the papers in advance, to attend all of the sessions, and to come prepared for discussion. You should only submit or volunteer if you plan on reading all of the papers in advance and attending all of the sessions.

There are four ways to participate in the BayFAP: (1) have your paper selected for the program; (2) be a chair or commentator; (3) referee; (4) be part of the USF or Sac State philosophy departments.

Conference attendance is limited to those on the program, organizers, referees, and members of the University of San Francisco philosophy department and the Sacramento State Philosophy Department (i.e., faculty and students). This is due to funding and logistical constraints, together with the fact that the BayFAP is a workshop-style conference that involves in-depth discussions of works-in-progress.

TO SUBMIT A PAPER

Papers must be submitted in PDF format, and prepared for anonymous review. Please include a cover page with the following information:

The title of your paper
Your name and contact information
An abstract
Word count (including all notes and bibliography)

Email your paper to bayfapworkshop at gmail dot com. The subject line of your email should read: BayFAP 2019 Submission.

The conference does not have any specific theme or topic. We will consider submissions in any area of feminist philosophy, broadly construed. The strict word limit is 8,000 words, but shorter papers (under 8000 words) have a better chance of being accepted. Do not submit published work, or work for which you wouldn’t be able to incorporate feedback from BayFAP in any subsequent published version. Authors will be notified of the organizers’ decisions by late January, 2019.

Philosophers who are unable to travel to San Francisco due to immigration restrictions or mobility issues are nevertheless invited to submit papers. If your paper is selected, we will be happy to discuss the possibility of arranging remote participation via Zoom. (There is no need to flag this with your submission. You can let us know on acceptance.)

TO VOLUNTEER

You can also participate in BayFAP by volunteering to referee, chair, and/or comment. You do not have to submit a paper in order to volunteer. Volunteer referees should be willing and able to read up to five papers in their areas of expertise between December 15, 2018 and January 15, 2019.

Referees will be notified in early December. Chairs and commentators will be notified in early February 2019.

To volunteer at BayFAP please email bayfapworkshop at gmail dot com. If you are also submitting a paper, please send a separate email indicating your interest in being a BayFAP volunteer.

The subject line of your email should read: BayFAP 2019 Volunteer. Your email should include:

Your name
Your contact information
Your AOS and AOCs
The roles for which you would like to volunteer (i.e., referee, chair, and/or comment)
FINANCIAL AID

BayFAP is sponsored by the Fleischacker Fund for Philosophy at the University of San Francisco. We have a (very!) limited budget to assist with costs for participants who lack access to research funding.

CFP: Hobbes and Gender

Papers are invited for a workshop on Hobbes and Gender, to be held at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany on 22 and 23 November 2018. Contributions to the workshop will be considered for a special issue of Hobbes Studies, on the same theme, to be published in spring 2020. The guest editors for the special issue are Eva Odzuck (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg) and Alexandra Chadwick (University of Groningen). The workshop will include two keynote speeches from experts in the field: Sharon Lloyd (University of Southern California) and Susanne Sreedhar (Boston University).

For more, go here.

Where (literally) the gender gap is in maths performance

Turns out that boys only outperform girls in maths in rich white districts. Girls out perform boys in poor and black districts. And in the rest they’er about the same. Also interesting:

The gender achievement gap in math reflects a paradox of high-earning parents. They are more likely to say they hold egalitarian views about gender roles. But they are also more likely to act in traditional ways – father as breadwinner, mother as caregiver.

Read the whole thing. (Thanks, S!)

Whatever Happened to Understanding the Authors we Cite?

James Baldwin understood moral complexity, but James Baldwin also understood power and privilege. This New York Times article (asking Whatever Happened to Moral Rigor) purportedly holds up Baldwin as a thinker in whose footsteps we ought to follow. But it also uses him to criticise recent trends associated with things like the #MeToo movement, which seems to fly in the fact of the fact that so much of what Baldwin wrote had to do with injustice and inequality. It seems insulting to use a person who made great contributions to the literature on racial justice, in the service of a cause that most feminists are painfully familiar with: asking “what about the men?” Lee Siegel bemoans what he sees as our rush to moral condemnation and our relatively recent lack of willingness to suspend moral judgement in many cases (and of course the cases he considers are those of sexual harassment/assault, and racial profiling). He takes this as a sign of a collective decline in moral rigour and a general social unwillingness to engage with genuine moral complexity. In his article, Siegel writes,

If, in a spirit of free intellectual and imaginative inquiry, you dared to suggest that a man who masturbated in front of a woman he barely knew without her consent might have been acting out, in an attitude of aggressive contempt, his own shame and emasculation — if you tried to understand his actions, without justifying them — you would be shouted down and vilified.

Imagine the outcry if you went further and speculated about why Harvey Weinstein allegedly manipulated some actresses dependent on his power into watching him while he was naked. Could it be that Mr. Weinstein, who reportedly had often been mocked for his appearance, wanted to dehumanize these women as well, while at the same time turning himself into a person who is watched and admired, like a person of beauty?

The problem is, plenty of feminists do this kind of speculation. Plenty of feminists, and philosophers who write about oppression more generally, talk about the reasons why oppression exists, and why people are treated poorly as a result of it. And plenty of feminists even write about the problems that patriarchy causes for men. bell hooks, in her Feminism is for Everybody, writes (in a chapter about feminist masculinity!) that

what is and was needed is a vision of masculinity where self-esteem and self-love of one’s unique being forms the basis for identity. Cultures of domination attack self-esteem, replacing it with a notion that we derive our sense of being from dominion over another. Patriarchal masculinity teaches men that their sense of self and identity, their reason for being, resides in their capacity to dominate others.

This sounds an awful lot like an explanation of why patriarchal masculinity might result in people like Harvey Weinstein acting in the way that they do. But guess what? It’s perfectly compatible to say that there are social factors that result in people becoming sexual predators while at the very same time condemning that predatory behaviour. I’m not sure what made that bit of logical complexity go unnoticed in this article, but it seems like quite the oversight.

The point is that a lack of empathy for men (see also: Kate Manne’s concept of himpathy) is not the driving and urgent problem facing us today. In a society in which assault victims are regularly disbelieved, and people tend to be very sympathetic to perpetrators, especially those who are young and white, what we need is more justice, and more ways to dismantle the oppressive social structures that enable and exonerate predatory behaviour. Doing that without condemning that behaviour seems quite difficult, and really, why would we want to refrain from condemning it? It’s possible to condemn things like sexual assault and simultaneously argue against seeing perpetrators as some kind of moral monster (at least I happen to think so).

Just to close this rant with a bit more Baldwin, though. I think Baldwin did understand disagreement and moral complexity, but he also understood ways in which one might come to view one’s oppressors as terrible people.

Most Negroes cannot risk assuming that the humanity of white people is more real to them than their color. And this leads, imperceptibly but inevitably, to a state of mind in which, having long ago learned to expect the worst, one finds it very easy to believe the worst. The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it. In the beginning—and neither can this be overstated—a Negro just cannot believe that white people are treating him as they do; he does not know what he has done to merit it. And when he realizes that the treatment accorded him has nothing to do with anything he has done, that the attempt of white people to destroy him—for that is what it is—is utterly gratuitous, it is not hard for him to think of white people as devils.

Maybe there’ll be a bit more room for more moral complexity after we’ve made room for believing BIPOC, women, disabled people, and all the rest of us. I’ll look forward to that.

Wikipedia activism in science

Jess Wade is a scientist on a mission. She wants every woman who has achieved something impressive in science to get the prominence and recognition they deserve – starting with a Wikipedia entry.

“I’ve done about 270 in the past year,” says Wade, a postdoctoral researcher in the field of plastic electronics at Imperial College London’s Blackett Laboratory. “I had a target for doing one a day, but sometimes I get too excited and do three.”

Read more.