Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ferguson Syllabus for Philosophers

Many of you have probably seen the excellent "Ferguson Syllabus" created by Sociologists for Justice, which has been circulated widely over the last several days and which provides a collection of research articles used to inform the arguments and positions represented in their Statement on Ferguson.  I strongly encourage you to keep circulating that document, and to use Sociologists' for Justice suggested hashtag #socforjustice when you do.

If you work in academia but outside of a Sociology Department, as I do, I suspect you've thought to yourself how helpful it would be if a corresponding syllabus were produced and circulated for your own discipline, as I have.  (Would that it were the case that professional Philosophers could agree on something like a"Statement on Ferguson," but I'm not holding my breath for that!)  Below, I've attempted to BEGIN the construction of a "Ferguson Syllabus" for the discipline of Philosophy.  The list of materials I have here is, of course, non-exhaustive and incomplete, so I welcome any amendments or additions from readers who specialize in Philosophy, Political Theory, Critical Race Studies and the like.

Just leave your suggestions in the comments section to this post, and I will do my best to amend this draft version of a "Ferguson Syllabus for Philosophers" in a timely manner.  I've listed only books here-- no articles-- because an emphasis on primary material is the prevailing custom in the (somewhat limited) area of Philosophy in which I work.  But I've also included a separate list of anthologies that include many, if not most, of the seminal philosophical works in race theory and (broadly speaking) Enlightenment/democratic theory.  As anyone who has ever attempted to construct a "new" syllabus knows, crowdsourcing via social media--or just regular old flesh-and-blood social networks-- is a tremendous help when one finds oneself up against the daunting challenge of teaching new material (or teaching familiar material in new ways). I invite you all to help in this endeavor.

Following the lead of Sociologists for Justice, I will ask that you use the hashtag #philosophersforjustice when you share this syllabus on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.

Primary Readings (Monographs):
Primary Readings (Anthologies/Collections):
The texts above aim to familiarize students with the primary source material sufficient to understand the advent and history of the concept of "race," its development, maturation and mutation since the Enlightenment, its displacement by and yet continuing influence on "theory" (broadly speaking) and theoretically-oriented academic disciplines (like Philosophy) specifically, its critique and reformulation by and/or in the interest of people of color, and its deep and abiding connection with political, social, carceral and institutional power-regimes and empowered groups.

Supplementary Readings:
(The following texts are collected from readers' suggestions  in the comments selection below.  I will continue to update this section as more titles are submitted.)
One last solicitation: I'd like to especially encourage my friends and colleagues in History, Modern Languages and Literatures, Political Science and Economics/Political Economy departments to consider drafting their own versions of a "Ferguson Syllabus," in part because it serves my own interdisciplinary interests but in larger part because it serves academia.


Scu said...

I want to add stuff, but I am having real issues understanding how to limit what should be included (if that makes sense as a problem).

Saidiya Hartman: Scenes of Subjection (though this might be history instead of philosophy? This is part of my problem with limiting stuff).

Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony. Maybe also his essay on Necropolitics.

Sylvia Wynter: "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation--An Argument"

Nelson Maldonado-Torres: Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity (maybe technically theology?)

And then important for the entire project of creating syllabuses for ferguson, Roderick Ferguson's The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference.

And if we are going to be including works like Rawls' Justice as Fairness (which is probably an important contribution), maybe also Marion Iris Young's Justice and the Politics of Difference? (and I am now restraining myself from continuing to just comment with more and more suggestions). Thanks for putting this together, Leigh.

Scu said...

Okay, another comment. Considering this list cannot be all things, and some things have to be cut for other things to be added, I am officially suggesting the cutting of the Foucault. Not that biopolitics don't matter to all of this, but I am not sure I think they are the essential thing here for us to get our head around (I am sure that saying that officially means I get kicked out the biopolitics studies club. And probably the Foucault club as well).

Jairus Victor Grove said...

I would add Saidiya V. Hartman Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America; Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life; Robert Gooding-Williams, Look, a Negro!: Philosophical Essays on Race, Culture, and Politics; Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy (Essays by Foucault on the American Prison System and Jared Sexton on Racial Profiling and Societies of Control);

Scu said...

Oh, Racecraft. I should have added that. I also want to add Denise Ferreira da Silva's excellent Toward Global Idea of Race.

Verena said...

Leon Higginbotham, In the Matter of Color; George Yancy and Janine Jones (Eds.), Pursuing Trayvon Martin; Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well; Khalil Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness.

Scu said...

If one wants a Foucauldian analysis, I think Ladelle McWhorter's Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy would actually be more helpful for understanding the present situation than actually reading Foucault himself.

Other suggestions, something by Huey Newton, maybe To Die for the People, or Revolutionary Suicide.

And, in order to understand the demands and possibilities for philosophy thinking these problems, I would add Lucius Outlaw's On Race and Philosophy.

steventhomas said...

This is great stuff, and of course, I like the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown as a pedagogical topos for our students to begin thinking it through. The Open Society Foundations, which is actively working on prison reform and other projects to combat this sort of injustice has a blog post with recommended readings:

Lorenzo said...

Or we could make one simple, practical change: