by Ed Kazarian
I've written before about the question of boundary policing in philosophy, occasioned at the time by a remarkable essay of Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman's. It's a question, and a habitual tendency within the discipline, that certainly continues to deserve our attention.
In the same spirit, I want to call readers' attention to an essay that Adriel Trott has published today on her blog. The piece is subtle and quite complex, beginning with four anecdotes and developing from there into a meditation on what it would mean to stop policing the borders of philosophy—but also engaging a series of related—and urgent—questions. How can philosophy remain attentive to the singularity of different sorts of experiences? How can philosophy embrace the insights of intersectionality? What, especially in light of these first two questions, might it mean to do philosophy while resisting the drive to universalize or ontologize? And how do we deal with the ever present danger of appropriation or colonization involved in our attempts to theorize or conceptualize what is at stake in lives at the border, even if we have given up attempting to police those borders?
The essay is carefully composed and deserves to be read on its own terms. But as a teaser, I will leave readers with this short section from Trott's conclusion, about which I will add a few remarks below the fold.
I am only just now coming to see that changing the way we think about philosophy in order to make it more inclusive means making those of us who are happy with the way the thinking in philosophy currently operates uncomfortable and not-quite-at-home with philosophy.
It seems to me that how those of us who are 'happy' in this way deal with this discomfort can be the source of some of the central problems we face as a community in trying to become more inclusive and more attractive to a diverse set of members. Much of the more diffuse retaliatory ugliness that I called attention to earlier in the week may be seen as defensive, largely unreflected expressions of this discomfort*—despite the fact that those in more marginal positions have long had little choice but to live with as much, and indeed more than likely far greater discomfort. As Trott suggests, for some of us, learning to live with this 'not-quite-at-home' feeling seems will be a matter of real, and pressing, necessity, at least if we are genuinely serious about a more inclusive, more diverse philosophical community.
*I don't see any contradiction in principle between the claim that the discomfort, its significance and its sources may, for many, remain largely unreflected and the fact that at least some of those people will elaborate lengthy argumentative responses to what they percieve to be making them uncomfortable or to justify actions which are, at bottom, defensive responses proceeding from a still unreflected discomfort. The discomfort will remain 'unreflected' in the sense that I am using the term so long as its subjects have not engaged in a self-critical reflection about why they are uncofmortable and what that discomfort means about their own positioning.