“The vicious cycle of ignorance and exclusion in philosophy needs to be broken”

Ingrid Robeyns in Crooked Timber

© iStockphoto.com/timsa
© iStockphoto.com/timsa

“On Tuesday, I discovered that the Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy has 23 chapters (the introduction included), of which 20 have been written by political philosophers based in the USA, 2 by political philosophers then based in the UK who have in the meantime moved to the USA, and 1 chapter by a duo of political philosophers based in Oxford”, writes Professor in the Ethics of Institutions Ingrid Robeyns in an article for Crooked Timber. It’s a problem she had long been aware of: geo-academic inequality.

Anglophone focus

“The philosophers that are not based in [the Anglophone academic centre – the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand –] are less often published in the journals that those editors read. They are less likely to (be able to) attend the conferences that those editors attend. They are less likely to be among the seminar speakers. And, as we can infer from the above pretty striking example, they are less likely to be invited to contribute to standard works in their field.”

Prof. dr. Ingrid Robeyns
Prof. Ingrid Robeyns

According to Robeyns, the image that is propagated is that ‘good’ philosophy is only done in the USA and other Anglophone countries, and that philosophers, if they want to be successful, have to move there. “This image, however, narrows and impoverishes philosophy, as it excludes valuable knowledge produced elsewhere”.

What can be done?

Robeyns calls for a geographical equivalent of the Gendered Conference Campaign, a campaign that draws attention to all-male conferences and publications, and their harmfulness.

Furthermore, Robeyns write that we should read more of the work of those who do not work at anglophone universities, as well as political philosophers from outside the academic world. “Invite them to be visitors. Attend their conferences (which is now often even possible without travelling). If you’re involved in running a journal, try to free up fonds to help papers originally published in languages other than English to be translated.”

See also: ‘“Geo-Academic Inequalities” in Philosophy’, Daily Nous (7 April)