women at nssr

by newschoolphilosophy

Recently there has been some public recognition – unusual for our discipline – surrounding the situation women face in academic philosophy. Indeed both women and minorities are strikingly underrepresented in the field. Why has the public suddenly taken an interest in something in that is in… the public interest? The proximate cause seems to be a sexual harassment scandal, though the discussion within philosophy has been going on for years and years. But regardless of the immediate source of this publicity, it should serve as an opportunity for academic philosophers and students of philosophy to reflect on ourselves as professional and as thinking communities.

I have already reported on and indulged in some speculation about why women and minorities are grossly underrepresented in the field in general. Yet the point of this blog is not to indulge a theoretical interest (there is ample opportunity for that in philosophical writing) but to share information that is public but has been incoherently formulated, insufficiently collated, or not made readily accessible. In this spirit I’m going to use this post to point readers toward some of that information concerning women at the New School rather than to express my own views.

Of the philosophy department’s 11 full-time, non-Emeritus faculty, four are women. Nancy Fraser, who has a joint appointment with the department of Politics, works on social and political theory, contemporary continental philosophy, and feminist theory. A sample of her work on feminism is available here. Here is a recent article against anarchismAlice Crary works on moral philosophy, philosophy and literature, feminism and philosophy, and Wittgenstein. A recent interest of hers has been philosophy and animals – here is one piece on that theme.

Two female professors have come to the New School relatively recently. Cinzia Arruzza studies Plato, focusing especially twentieth century interpretations of Plato’s political thought, and is working on a Marxian critique of women’s oppression and social reproduction. Chiara Bottici teaches and writes on the topics of myth, imagination, and social and political philosophy. One of her current interests is “imaginal politics” (rather than trying to give an explanation in my own words, here is a description of her new book).

A major figure, Ágnes Heller, is now a professor emerita, and no longer teaches courses. Nevertheless, her influence is widely felt at the New School. Doing justice to even a piece of her work is far beyond what I can do here – but read her Wikipedia entry to get a feel for the breadth and depth of her work and life.

In addition to full time faculty, the new school has lots of visiting professors and scholars. Julia Kristeva, Maria Pia Lara, Judith Butler have spent semesters teaching at the New School. There is also, of course, a broader community of philosophers in New York, which can be a great resource. An important group in this community is the New York Society for Women in Philosophy.

Since I am not a woman, I’m not going to try to describe the experience of women at the New School (indeed how could there be a single “woman’s experience,” when there are as many different experiences as there are different people?). Nevertheless, for new or prospective students interested in gender dynamics at the New School, it might be beneficial to contact with get in touch with People in Support of Women in Philosophy (PSWIP). PSWIP is a publication group consisting of both female and male graduate students that meets once a week and publishes an annual journal of papers. The general goal of the group is “the advancement of women and minorities in philosophy via professional development” and the weekly meetings are intended to be a forum in which “women’s voices are privileged and rigorous discussion of women’s philosophical work can take place.” From time to time, PSWIP also hosts excellent conferences. The group can be contacted at pswip@newschool.edu.

To summarize: the philosophy faculty at the new school is majority male, especially the senior faculty. However, if the numbers quoted in the my previous post on women in philosophy are correct, the New School comes out looking relatively good when compared to some of its peers. Furthermore, as I have tried to show with my extremely short summaries of the female professors’ research interests, the philosophical work being done by women at the new school is remarkably rich and diverse. Finally interested prospective students should get in touch with PSWIP, which is both a good intellectual and social resource and a consistently welcoming community.