A forum for philosophers and other scholars to discuss academic work and current affairs with race and gender in mind.
Find symposia on recently published books and articles by following the links that appear on the right column.
Those interested in philosophy's pipeline may want to look into the Leadership Alliance. Philosophers are some of the participating institutions have mentored students over the summer. If you are in a participating institution, perhaps consider becoming a mentor? If you know an interested student, perhaps you could suggest they apply?
Another study - from the Brookings Institution - providing evidence of what is already known....but good to keep in mind as the school year starts.
"We find evidence of systematic biases in teachers’ expectations for the educational attainment of black students. Specifically, non-black teachers have significantly lower educational expectations for black students than black teachers do when evaluating the same students. We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two. This is nonetheless concerning, as teachers’ expectations likely shape student outcomes and systematic biases in teachers’ expectations for student success might contribute to persistent socio-demographic gaps in educational achievement and attainment."
Check out her Ted Talk, "Anger is Not A Bad Word." As she describes it: "In it I argue for the five features of moral anger against injustice. I also use the work of Audre Lorde to respond to criticism from the "anger police."" Fantastic.
As a taste, on "black prophetic fire" West writes:
"Fire really means a certain kind of burning in the soul that one can no longer tolerate when one is pushed against a wall. So, you straighten your back up, you take your stand, you speak your truth, you bear your witness and, most important, you are willing to live and die. Fire is very much about fruits as opposed to foliage. The ice age was all about foliage: “Look at me, look at me.” It was the peacock syndrome. Fire is about fruits, which is biblical, but also Marxist. It’s about praxis and what kind of life you live, what kind of costs you’re willing to bear, what kind of price you’re willing to pay, what kind of death you’re willing to embrace."
Born on the ten-by-twelve-mile island of Antigua, writer Jamaica Kincaid inaugurated a remarkable literary life with reflections on what it meant to occupy A Small Placepresumed to be largely uninhabited by the tourists who came to enjoy its beautiful beaches. In Hispanophone, Lusophone, Francophone, Anglophone and Dutch Caribbean letters, “the archipelago,” a cluster of islands, has been mobilized as a distinctive trope characterizing a unique geopolitical, existential, authorial, and theoretical disposition. Across the Atlantic some centuries earlier, Genevan-born Jean-Jacques Rousseau, upon encountering Paris, reflected that academies were most developed in empires that trained people in rules of civility and predictability that squelched their potential to “follow their own lights.” He suggested that the most important and innovative ideas almost always emerged from people who came of age in more remote stomping grounds, where they could be led by their own curiosities and priorities, undisrupted in pursuing their projects by distractions of narcissism and a public of glaring, monitoring eyes.
This year’s conference theme therefore continues the organization’s exploration of our larger motto of “shifting the geography of reason” through challenging the presumption that historic ideas and theory must emerge from large, metropolitan centers. We particularly invite reflection on the global range of small places from which many have undertaken theoretical endeavors and continue to produce vital ideas of worldly significance, the usefulness of Caribbean reflections on this situation, and more generally about how the scale and nature of the terrains where we work inflect the character of our thinking.
Please submit your application here by December 15th, 2015. To submit a paper abstract, click here. To submit a panel proposal, click here. To submit a roundtable proposal, click here. In turn, we will send out acceptance notices by January 30th, 2016. Questions? Write to Jane Gordon at email@example.com
Two hundred years ago, the "slave trade" was abolished at the Congress of Vienna. But this was owing less to Enlightenment philosophy than to political and economic considerations. For the "great white" philosophers of the Enlightenment were little concerned with European enslavement of African people. This has consequences down to the present day: the philosophical canon has been "whitewashed."
This is the claim of philosopher Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman at University College London, in conversation with science.ORF.at. In Coleman, scholarly interests and biographical background are intertwined. He crosses out his name, because of the history of slavery hidden behind it. According to Coleman, the historical hopes of white "slave owners" to continuously expand their property in enslaved Africans is inscribed in his name.
"Persons racialised as white virtually bred "slaves." They gave European surnames to the "offspring" of enslaved African women, and, thus, a sort of emblem to lay claim to their possession. Today no one "owns" such children anymore, but the hope to lay claim to their possession lives on in the European surnames."
"Africans Are Philosophers"
In the context of the Congress of Vienna, European power relations and borders were reorganised. In the course of this, the "slave trade" was outlawed worldwide. But abolition of the "slave trade" was only gradually implemented around the globe in the decades thereafter and not until 1888 was Brazil the final state to abolish the actual institution of European enslavement of African people.
On closer consideration, this, as well as other things, reveal themselves as a "whitewashing" of history: Besides the euphemistic emancipatory representation, there is also the idea that, although "great white men" once put forward the arguments justifying slavery, they afterwards changed their mind, promising to help Africans and declaring that slavery is morally wrong.
But "Africans are philosophers. From the moment they were abducted they argued philosophically that it was unjust," Coleman says. But they weren't listened to, and even today they are missing from the canon of Eurocentric curricula and are not valued as philosophers.
Enlightenment philosophers such as Hobbes or Rousseau philosophised and spoke about slavery, but not really about the European colonial enslavement of African people. If they did, it was in a supposedly universal political sense as the opposite of freedom, or metaphorically, as in Wollstonecraft, who meant "enslaved" wealthy, "white middle-class women." "She didn't really want to get her hands dirty with the actual enslavement right before her eyes."
"Slave Breeding" Instead of "Slave Trade"
A central mark of difference to other forms of enslavement, such as those of antiquity, was "slave breeding," something that David Hume—a philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment—had already identified. Coleman explains that a legal change in 17th century England—Partus sequitur ventrem—made "slave breeding" possible because, from this point onward, the societal status of women was passed on to their children.
This change not only broke with English tradition, according to which the status of a child was dependent on that of the father, but also made possible that persons racialised as white could increase the number of those enslaved by them by sexually abusing African women: the enslaved thus reproduced themselves. They were, so to speak, "bred" on site, such that the Great Powers realised they no longer needed to "resupply" from Africa, Coleman explains.
Hence, it was convenient for the colonial powers to speak of the "slave trade" rather than of enslavement, at the Congress of Vienna. Under the pretence of social progress, it was indeed forbidden to buy and sell people, but not to own people: enslavement wasn't abolished, and the European empires could still enrich themselves on the basis of the enslavement of persons.
In the course of this, economic competition between the countries played an important role. After all, colonizing the world was about the question: "Which European nation is on top; which nation is the whitest?"
The Haitian Revolution
A further reason to outlaw the "slave trade" was the African revolution in Haiti which began in 1791, led to the abolition of enslavement two years later, and reached its climax in 1804. The Africans founded a republic, renamed Saint Domingue as Haiti (its indigenous name), and declared all citizens of Haiti to be Black - actions that were astonishing for the time.
"This shocked the European empires. They thought: we have to change something about slavery, we have to stop the "slave trade" or else we will have revolution throughout the Caribbean," says Coleman. The "slave trade" was thought to disturb "seasoned negroes" with revolutionary Africans.
The European empires also regarded the Haitian revolution as shocking and unbelievable because, here, African people had undertaken something that, according to Immanuel Kant, was impossible: The "great" Enlightenment philosopher thought that African people were incapable of organising and administering themselves rationally. In Haiti, however, that is exactly what they did.
A Colonial Administrator Shapes the Image of Africans
This understanding of the "incapability" of African people fit the contemporary Zeitgeist: Edward Long, a British colonial administrator in Jamaica, had deeply influenced the idea of what an African was and could ever be. In his 1774 History of Jamaica, he described African people from a perspective of colonial arrogance. He thought that "negroes" had been rightfully enslaved, because they were akin to "orangutans," explains Coleman. "Long thought they were like apes, had the same colour—brownish-black—and behaved in an uncivilised manner. They spoke strange languages, couldn't write (in European languages), didn't participate in intellectual conversations and didn't have the technologies that "we" have."
According to Coleman, Long thought that one would be doing them a favour in enslaving them and forcing them to work, in order to "civilise" them. Thinkers and writers influenced by Long's ideas were dubbed "orangutan" philosophers—dubbed by the "Sons of Africa" —a movement opposed to enslavement.
"The Sons of Africa"
A leading member of the "Sons of Africa" was Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, who had been abducted on the West African coast. Later, he was the first African who penned and published arguments against enslavement in English.
The most notable thing about this was that his writings weren't narratives or biographies, like those of his colleague Olaudah Equiano, but rather philosophical arguments that were rooted in the European ideas of the Enlightenment, beginning with John Locke, one hundred years earlier, in the 17th century.
Cugoano committed himself to Locke's idea that each person owns himself. Accordingly, his philosophical argument was that this also applied to Africans and, therefore, African persons couldn't be owned by other persons. Through enslavement, African people had been dispossessed of themselves, argued Cugoano. With this, he came to a conclusion implicit in Locke's thought - one that Locke himself had not drawn. For Locke once wrote: "Every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves."
"Try to find Cugoano in a philosophical syllabus," Coleman notes. You will fail. Similarly, if you search for "philosophers" in Google Images, you will find only ""white men," usually with beards."
According to Coleman, the philosophical canon is socially constructed and unjustly excludes Africans like Cugoano or Anton Wilhelm Amo, an African philosopher who lived in (what is now) Germany, in the 17th century. They were virtually written out of the history of philosophy. It has been recounted that enslaved Africans did not write anything worth reading, and much less anything of philosophical value. And if they did write anything, it was only "stories." But this is false.
With the British campaign "Why is my curriculum white," the related South African campaign "Rhodes must fall" and the British solidarity campaign "Rhodes must fall Oxford," efforts are currently being undertaken to recover those voices that have been stifled and to challenge institutionalised whiteness, especially in Eurocentric curricula.
How deeply rooted racist views still are can be seen in the fact that there are still "orangutan" philosophers around. Take, for example Michael Levin, an emeritus professor of New York University, who, among other things, defended the 1994 book The Bell Curve, which attempts to establish a relationship between intelligence and "race."
New APPS has a lengthy post giving a structural analysis of Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman's termination at UCL. Worth reading.
Readers of New APPS may recall Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman as the author of a powerful piece last March in Times Higher Education that drew attention to the discipline of philosophy’s overall, systemic failure to critically engage its own Whiteness. And now, DailyNous draws our attention to a piece in The Independent, itself sourced (again) from Times Higher Education, in which Coleman announces that he will lose his position at University College London—along with the chance of that position becoming permanent—as a result of the rejection of a proposed MA in Critical Race Studies, which he had been hired specifically to develop over the past year.
Recent philosophical contributions to critical race theory have been exciting, some of the better and more important philosophical work of the past twenty years. This workshop aims to further this dialogue, in a conversation between scholars from South Africa and scholars from elsewhere. Possible questions for discussion:
What are races? Are they biological populations or lineages, social creations, or cultures?
Non-racialist discourse is prominent among intellectuals in South Africa. Is non-racialism something worth aspiring to?
What value would race-talk have in the unlikely event that racism was finally eradicated?
What is racism?
What is the lived reality of racism?
What is the relationship between races and racism? Are races to be conceived of as dependent upon racism?
What kinds of racism are there? Are there any forms of racial injustice not properly characterized as ‘racism’?
How do we defeat racism in our midst?
Is Black solidarity the most effective means of fighting racism? Why?
What is the importance of Black consciousness – changes in the outlook of members of groups on the receiving end of racism – in fighting racism?
What is the relationship between racial (or racialized) identities, race, and racism?
What is the importance of so-called implicit bias to critical race theory?
What differences, if any, are there between being having a racial identity in South Africa and having a racial identity in other countries?
Expected speakers: Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie), Samantha Vice (University of the Witwatersrand), George Hull (University of Cape Town)
Five-hundred word abstracts, or full papers, should be sent to Ward Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org), by 30 June, 2015.
There will be no parallel sessions, so competition will unfortunately be tight. Some papers from the workshop will be selected for publication in *Philosophical Papers*. Attendance at the workshop will be free. Lunches and coffees will be provided.