New Minority and Philosophy chapter at Brandeis

March 1, 2019

What does one think of when they imagine philosophers? Maybe they think of the names Immanuel Kant, Noam Chomsky, Sigmund Freud, René Descartes and Karl Marx. What do all of these people have in common? They are all white male philosophers that are well known for discovering some sort of theory, phenomenon or fact about the world. If someone were to examine the philosophy department at a university in the United States 200 years ago, they might find a majority of white male professors and students. However, over the years, individuals such as Christine Korsgaard, Simone de Beauvoir and W.E.B. DuBois have broken the stereotypes and paved the way for future women and minorities to make groundbreaking changes in philosophy.

At Brandeis, specifically, graduate students Ripley Stroud (GRAD) and Lia Curtis-Fine (GRAD) have created a new Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) chapter that aims to create a safe space in which minorities can share their thoughts on philosophy. The meetings of this chapter are extended to everyone, not just people involved in philosophy, and attempt to create a support system for women and minorities so that they can speak up about injustices they have faced.

Curtis-Fine explained that part of the reason she decided to create this chapter was that while pursuing her undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of North Carolina Asheville, she had resources that are not currently present at Brandeis, which really helped her find her voice and feel comfortable in speaking up and pursuing philosophy. This university has a small department for philosophy which allowed for small group meetings for women and minorities. Furthermore, a mentoring program was present which provided individuals with information on what to expect from PhDs. At Brandeis, there is no mentoring program similar to this. Therefore, Curtis-Fine hopes that the MAP chapter constructs an environment that motivates women and minorities to continue pursuing philosophy and speak up for themselves in class when they feel underrepresented.

Stroud’s experience while pursuing her undergraduate degree in philosophy at St. John’s College was slightly different than Curtis-Fine’s. As St. John’s College is small, Stroud eventually became comfortable with the people around her and therefore had to speak up and fight for space. In addition, many of her classes were discussion-based. She found that individuals who come from privilege often feel like they have ample opportunity to speak with no filter on their words or no idea of the impact that their words may have on others. As a result, women and minorities who do not come from privilege feel like they do not have the ability to speak up and do not want to take up space in the classroom. The MAP chapter at Brandeis will provide individuals who feel trapped or like they are not included to feel more comfortable in speaking up for themselves.

The MAP chapter could also appeal to incoming students or students who are applying to graduate school and do not have a lot of information on the philosophy department by providing them with information on various programs in philosophy around the country. Other ideas include having panels or guest speakers who discuss their experiences while pursuing philosophy or movie nights with movies that highlight the lack of representation of women and minorities. Stroud and Curtis-Fine also discussed the idea of workshopping inclusive pedagogy for faculty so that professors may create more inclusive environments for minorities in classrooms.

Currently, Stroud and Curtis-Fine have organized a monthly reading group in which individuals will read and discuss writing by female or minority philosophers. The group’s first meeting is March 11 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The effects of the MAP chapter could extend not just to the philosophy department but also to classrooms throughout Brandeis where individuals feel as if they do not have a voice to speak up.

Menu Title