Who Gets to Ponder the Big Questions of Life Is Ripe for Disruption

Why perspectives in academic philosophy beyond the White male gaze matter

Jesi Taylor
ZORA
Published in
5 min readAug 22, 2019

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Photo: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

AAcademic philosophers build their work around topics that include the meaning of life and freedom, what it means to be human, how to live a good life, and other questions that encourage us to think about existence and humanity in new ways. So what happens when these questions are considered through one dominant lens?

The racism, classism, and general exclusion perpetuated in academic philosophy circles has long been the subject of scrutiny. Some argue that the field is xenophobic and transphobic; others choose to leave the field due to its failure to hold a mirror up to itself and do better for the sake of academic integrity.

Statistically speaking, academic philosophy is overwhelmingly White and male. According to the American Philosophical Association (APA), of approximately 10,000 PhD-trained philosophers in the United States, about 125 are Black. And of those 125, only 38 are women. While the field has historically silenced and excluded Black women, our presence is necessary to ensure that philosophers approach these questions from different perspectives.

That’s why the APA created the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in 2013 to change the landscape of the field via recruitment initiatives.

According to the American Philosophical Association (APA), of approximately 10,000 PhD-trained philosophers in the United States, about 125 are Black. And of those 125, only 38 are women.

InIn an effort to encourage networking and mentorship relations, while also increasing the visibility of Black women, the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers (CBWP) was founded by Kathryn Sophia Belle (formerly known as Kathryn T. Gines), with a grant from the APA. The mission of the CBWP was, and continues to be, to help participants navigate and obtain tenure-track positions, develop research projects into publications, and recruit at least two undergraduate students per year into graduate programs for philosophy.

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Jesi Taylor
ZORA
Writer for

NYC-based writer-archivist-researcher whose work covers Genocide Studies, Repro + Enviro Justice, Discard Studies, and Political Ecology of Waste. @moontwerk