Phil of Race course description


PHILO 394.68

Fall 2009

Mondays/Wednesdays 5:35-6:50


Course Syllabus


Linda Martín Alcoff

Department of Philosophy

1419 Hunter West




Course Description:


This course will explore some of the philosophical questions that arise in regard to the concept of race, such as the following:

            What is "race"?  Is it a valid biological category?  Is it a valid census category?  What is the relationship between the continued use of racial categories and the persistence of racism? Is race central to one's subjectivity, or sense of self?  What race is a mixed race person? How should questions of racial identity be decided, and by whom? Do specific cultures, or artistic forms of expression, express a racialized experience? How is racism best defined? Is racism primarily an emotion or a belief? Can people of color be racist? How can racism be reduced?

            This course will explore recent philosophical work on the concept of race, and the political effects of racial identities. However, this will not mainly be a course on the ethics of race, but on the question of the metaphysical legitimacy and social reality of racial designations, and their political effects. 

            Because of the significant variability of these issues across different parts of the globe, we will mainly draw from readings about the United States focusing on white, African-American, Latina/o, American Indian and Asian American racial categories.





Readings will include selections from: Fanon, DuBois, Cornel West, Anthony Appiah, Robert Gooding-Williams, Tommie Shelby, David Theo Goldberg, Patricia Williams, Maria Lugones, Charles Mills, Gary Okihiro, Maria P.P. Root, Ronald Sundstrum, bell hooks, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Tim Wise, Gloria Anzaldua, David Kim, Juan Flores, Ronald Takaki, and others.


Advance readings

If you’d like to read over the summer to prepare for this class, you can read:

Patricia Williams, Seeing a Color-Blind Future

Tommie Shelby, We Who are Dark

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin/White Masks

Richard Delgado, editor, Critical Race Theory