Ingrid Robeyns, a professor of philosophy at Utrecht University, recently came across something that described a problem she had long been aware of extraordinarily well, and was prompted to write about it:
On Tuesday, I discovered that the oxford textbook of political philosophy contains 23 chapters (including the introduction), of which 20 were written by political philosophers based in the United States, 2 by political philosophers then based in the United Kingdom who have meanwhile moved to the United States, and 1 chapter by a duo of political philosophers. Oxford-based philosophers. And while this is a rather stark case, in many, if not most, textbooks, authors from the US and UK numerically dominate.
The geographical exclusivity of this volume is not unique. As she notes, this manifests in other related professional ways:
Most of the time, the publishers of these review books are based in the United States or the United Kingdom; most of the time, they are asked for these roles. They face many hurdles in knowing what political philosophers who are from/based in countries outside of the English-speaking academic center – the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New -Zealand. Philosophers who are not based in this academic center are less often published in the journals these publishers read. They are less likely to (be able to) attend the conferences these writers attend. They are less likely to be among the seminar speakers. And, as we can deduce from the rather striking example above, they are less likely to be asked to contribute to reference works in their field.
It is a self-perpetuating phenomenon – “a vicious circle of ignorance and exclusion” – which produces a rather limited view of philosophy:
Edited volumes, conferences, series of seminars with only speakers from the academic center of philosophy convey an image: that the “good” philosophy is done in the USA and in other English-speaking countries, and that if one wants to succeed , that’s where you need to be . This image, however, shrinks and impoverishes philosophy, as it excludes valuable knowledge produced elsewhere.
The preceding excerpts are taken from a post by Professor Robeyns to twisted wood. In it, she solicits suggestions and calls for a geographic equivalent of the Gender Conference Campaign, which publicized events, edited collections, etc., that lacked women as a way to draw attention to systemic patterns. exclusion in philosophy. She also recommends:
read (more often) the work of those who do not work in universities in English-speaking countries. Read their journals and their books. Make sure your library has subscriptions, for example to the South African Journal of Philosophy. Invite political philosophers from outside the world university center to give talks in your department. Invite them to become visitors. Attend their conferences (which is now often even possible without traveling). If you are involved in the management of a journal, try to free up funds to help articles originally published in languages other than English to be translated.
She also suggests, in a comment, using the “UP Directory”, a list of philosophers from underrepresented groups in philosophy, including those who are not citizens of an English-speaking country, now hosted by the American Philosophical Association.
One thing to note is that, thanks to today’s communication technologies (among other things), philosophers around the world are better equipped than ever to overcome geographical and linguistic constraints. Yes, such connectivity can facilitate and perpetuate patterns of inequality and domination, but can also provide the means of interactions that can disrupt those patterns. The “UP Directory” is an example of this, but also the many online events currently taking place – not just conferences and summer schools, but forms of cooperation such as virtual dissertation writing groups.
Further discussions and suggestions are welcome.
Related: “Analytical Philosophy, Inclusion, and the English Language,” “Leveling the Linguistic Playing Field in Academic Philosophy,” “English Language Dominance in Contemporary Philosophy: A Look at the Journals,” “Language, Philosophy, and the Lure of Ignorance”, “Virtual Dissertation Writing Groups”, “Open, Live, Online Philosophical Events”