Finally back in Durham, I’ve caught a couple of posts responding to Nathaniel Goldman‘s piece in the THE. John Draninski then supplements that with two key points: that philosophy sees itself as policing other disciplines while also from within being a white project (empirically evidenced in the UK by the lack of black philosophers). I’ll just go off one point:
philosophy as a discipline is a racialized project. It doesn’t have to be.
Let me deal with this not from within Anglo American philosophy–the dominant form in the UK and North America, which does tend to see race theory as “not philosophy” (one need only look at early Leiter rankings)–but from within Continental philosophy. Obviously from the very name we have a troubling history of addressing questions only through readings of a certain canon, a certain ex post facto established Western canon, which is a post-Renaissance invention, since no one thought the West unified prior, and was “unified” at the same time as the rise of colonialism and the racialisms needed for its ideological underpinnings. Just as I don’t think we can jump to a “post-racial” future, I think too that philosophy may not be a “racialized project” someday is a bit off, since it requires all too much work to show how it already is–and then to dispense with a whole vocabulary underlying it. Philosophy—whatever it is–is a historical trajectory that has read itself and gave itself all the vocabulary to read itself as a long Western project, back to the Greeks. This Western adventure, to the exclusion of anything else, is most apparent in Heidegger, but there are points in Derrida, Kristeva, Irigaray, and so on (Foucault tended not to talk in these Heideggerian terms and at least his work was localized to France–though his lack of discussions of colonialism is noted) to Agamben–the history of the world (even the concept of “World”) is Western. This has meant saying that other voices don’t get looked at since they don’t belong to this long discursive space that we are trying, say, to deconstruct or what have you. (The ancillary problem was the faux-Levinasian claim that to “know” another set of philosophical practices, such as those in Africa, was to do violence to them—this really was presented to me when I was writing early articles in African philosophy. Granted my treatment of it is aporetic–not exporting onto a given set of debates premises that are culturally specific). All that said, we like to think in “Continental philosophy” that we have a better ear for these claims, but there are foundational problems in how “Continental philosophy” institutes itself as a reader of a tradition (the West) that is problematic through and through. There’s also differences within, say, North American and European varieties–I think North American theorists using Derrida, Kristeva, et al, do make alliances in terms of critical race theory and Africana philosophy, though not as often as one would hope. (I recall Kristeva’s claim in an interview that no one really reads Fanon.) And as Continentalists, we are used to thinking of philosophy as being done outside of so-called philosophy departments. (Here in the UK, twice I’ve been asked how I do what I do in a philosophy department.) I’ll wrap it here since this is important stuff and I’m afraid I may be vague–I just wanted to point out Continental’s need for its own interminable critique and for it to no longer use Heideggerian type claims about the West as a closed system from within which to think a radical change will only come from displacing (and thus endlessly reading) that system.