Ableism and Racism in Canadian Philosophy

I hope that by now many of you have read or listened to the comment thread of the June 25th post at Daily Nous about the large grant that the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to the “Extending New Narratives in the History of Philosophy” project. In case you didn’t, here is a summary of what took place on that blog:

I made an intervention early in comments to the post in order to draw attention to the starkly homogeneous character of the project team–that is, its nondisabled whiteness–and its likely exclusionary objectives, linking these structural and methodological dimensions of the project to the ableism and racism of Canadian philosophy departments and Canadian philosophy more generally. In the ensuing comments, Charles Mills, Linda Martín Alcoff, Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, and others articulated their concerns, frustration, and anger about the project, with Mills and Alcoff identifying various scholars of (for instance) Africana and Latin American philosophy whose potential contributions to the project would have expanded its scope and enriched the range of historical narratives that the project encompasses.

Not surprisingly, no Canadian philosopher in addition to me contributed critical comments to the thread nor has any critical discussion (at least none that I have read) ensued among Canadian philosophers in other venues such as Twitter or Facebook. Canadian philosophers don’t like to be embarrassed in front of their American peers. As I noted previously, the “magical thinking” (to use Desmond Cole’s term) of the Canadian public in general enables it to deny that racism exists in Canada, associating racist practices, policies, and beliefs with our neighbours south of the border. By refusing to engage in discussion about ableism in Canadian philosophy, furthermore, philosophers in Canada can (among other things) continue to both ignore the exclusionary character of their own department faculty rosters and avoid interrogation of the central role that Canadian philosophers and Canadian philosophy departments have played in the history of eugenics in Canada, including in the violent sterilization of disabled people and Indigenous people.

Nevertheless, some of us think that such critical conversation about Canadian philosophy and the implications and guiding assumptions of this project are both necessary and vital to the current moment of philosophy and to the relation between philosophy and society more broadly. Thus, later this week, Charles Mills, Linda Martín Alcoff, and I will join Dwight Lewis and Matthew LaVine to discuss the “Extending New Narratives in the History of Philosophy” project on the podcast “Larger, Freer, More Loving” that Lewis and LaVine host. Once the podcast is completed, I will post a link to it on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, along with recommended reading and other resources that Lewis and LaVine compile to accompany it.

You can find the Daily Nous post, in the comments to which we initially expressed concern about the “Extending New Narratives in the History of Philosophy” project grant, here.

Follow BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY on Twitter @biopoliticalph

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