PHI 750, Identity and Oppression, Spring 2007


PHI 750

Spring 2007

            Mondays 7:15-10:00

                                                                                                            538 Hall of Languages

Linda MartÌn Alcoff

Office: 208 Bowne Hall and 523 Hall of Languages

Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:00 - 4:00 in Bowne Hall

Phone: 443-0283

Mailbox: 208 Bowne Hall


Course Description:


            Social identity categories such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender are publicly recognized categories with a significant impact on individual lives. What is the status of these categories? Are they "real," and if so, in what sense? What is the relationship between these forms of identity and the self or subjectivity (i.e. is it correct to assume there is none?)? What is their relationship to experience, rationality, and embodiment?

            The above questions are essentially about the metaphysics of social identities. A second cluster of questions concerns the political implications of the categories. Why have social stigma and status been organized via these forms of identity? What can or should be done about this? If the genealogy of these categories involves histories of oppression and exploitation, as is the case most notably with race, should their use be continued? In the effort to overcome oppression, does it make sense to urge their re-evaluation or their dissolution?

            This course will cover some of the classic writings on these topics since Hegel but mostly we will cover recent philosophical debates.


Course Requirements:


            There are three types of assignments. The first type consists of a 2 page weekly essay on the week's reading. These will require students to explicate some of the principal points of the readings. The focus will be on explication here, not criticism, but at the end of the essays students may include their questions about and criticisms of the readings. These essays will be graded and inadequate essays will be returned with an option to rewrite. Students may drop one essay during any week they choose. They must be turned into my mailbox in 208 Bowne Hall, in hard copy, no later than 3:00 each Monday. I do not accept any papers by email.


            The second assignment requires students to write and present a precis of one of the required readings during the semester and lead a discussion on it. The presentation should be about 15 minutes, with discussion to follow. Students will have an opportunity to choose which reading on the first night of class.


            The third assignment is a 15 page paper due at the end of the term on some aspect of the course topics. By the last quarter of the course students will be expected to have a three to five page draft of this paper to turn into me for comment. No extra reading beyond what is already required in the course will be necessary for these papers. I will distribute a list of sample topics half way through the semester, and meet with each student during the last week of March to discuss your paper ideas.



Required Texts, ordered at the Orange Bookstore:


1. Identities: Race, Class, Gender and Nationality eds. Alcoff and Mendieta.


2. We Who Are Dark by Tommie Shelby.


3. Hipparchia's Choice by Michele Le Doeuff.


4. Feminism, the Family, and the Politics of the Closet by Cheshire Calhoun.


5. Visible Identities by Alcoff.


6. Cultural Identity and Social Liberation in Latin American Thought by Ofelia Schutte.


There will also be a Course Reader available by January 23rd at the Campus Copy Center in Marshall Square Mall. Ask for Reader no. 1088.



Schedule of Readings



Jan. 22 Introductory meeting.



Jan. 29 Theories of Social and Group Identity

From Identities, read the selections by Hegel, Marx, Mead, and Lukacs

Handout: Iris Young, "Five Faces of Oppression" and Mari Matsuda, "Identity Politics"

Optional reading: Introduction and Freud selection in Identities



Feb. 5 Race as a political and phenomenological identity

From Identities, read selections by Du Bois, Locke, Fanon, and Harris

From the Course Reader, read Shannon Sullivan, "Ignorance and Habit"

From Visible Identities read chapter 7

Optional reading: Sullivan, "The Appropriate Habits of White Privilege"




Feb. 12 Black Nationalism

Shelby, Introduction, chapters 1, 2, 3



Feb. 19 Solidarity based on race

Shelby chapters 4, 5, 6, and conclusion



Feb. 26 The Status of Sexual Identity

From Identities, read selections by Boswell, Halperin, and Wittig

Calhoun, chapters 1 and 2

Optional readings: Cromwell in Identities



March 5 The Political Effects of the Closet

Calhoun, chapters 3, 4, 5, 6,



March 19 Gender Identity

From Identities, read selections by de Beauvoir, Young, Crenshaw, Butler

From Visible Identities, read chapter 6

Optional readings: Visible Identities chapter 5



March 26 NO CLASS: I will be meeting with students this week to discuss final papers



April 2 Women in/and/of Philosophy

Le Doeuff, first and second notebook

From Course Reader: Grosz on LeDoeuff



April 9 Women and Liberation

Le Doeuff, third and fourth notebook



April 16 Cultural Identity and Oppression: Latin America

Schutte, Introduction, chapters 1, 2, 3 and conclusion

From Course Reader, selections by Vasconcelos "La Raza Cosmica," Ramos "Profile of Man and Culture in Mexico," Marti "Our America," Mariategui "The Problem of the Indian"



April 23 Latino and Latina Oppression

From Identities, selection by Flores

From Course Reader, selections by Schutte. "Negotiating Latina Identities," and Gracia "Can Hispanic Philosophy Flourish in the USA?"

From Visible Identities, chapters 10 and 11

Optional: Schutte, chapter 7



April 30 Identity and Citizenship

From Identities, selections by Said, Rosaldo, Featherstone, Cabral, Mohanty

From Course Reader, selection by Gooding-Williams "Race, Multiculturalism and Democracy"