This course is a seminar that focuses on two themes or subfields in feminist theory. The first theme is political philosophy and political economy. We will study feminist analyses of private property. These analyses touch on key issues in feminist theory, such as: personhood, the public/private distinction, consent, marriage, work, neoliberalism, and race. The second theme focuses on feminist and queer methods in the discipline of sound studies, and touches on many of the same issues as the first theme. Students will do a literature review of recent research in feminist theory on a topic closely related to their own research/thesis project, and will write a seminar paper addressing course material.
MA Research Paper Seminar, PHIL 6999, Tuesdays 11-1:45, Dr. Lisa Rasmussen
In this course, students will begin with a previously submitted course paper and spend the semester revising it. The goal is for each student to produce a polished, professional paper worthy of submission to a philosophical journal. Additional reading and research on the topic will be conducted, and multiple steps of revision and presentation of work in progress will be included.
Race, Gender, and Prison Abolition, PHIL 4990.001/5050-002 and WGST 4050, Tuesdays, 5:30-8:15 p.m., Dr. Andrea Pitts
This course focuses on what prison studies scholars have described since the late 1990s as the “prison industrial complex.” Accordingly, we will examine systems of incarceration as transnational networks of cultural, political, and historical materials that have supported the maintenance and operation of prisons, jails, and detention facilities worldwide. Our analysis will also address how patterns of incarceration, criminalization, and law enforcement have worked in tandem with a number of forms of structural oppression, including racism, sexism, nativism, xenophobia, ableism, heteronormativity, and transphobia. Lastly, to further develop our understanding of the prison industrial complex, the course will include a study of a series of projects that seek an end to penal institutions and the corresponding networks that support them. Previous coursework/experience in political theory, feminist theory, postcolonial/decolonial studies, disability theory, critical race theory, transgender studies, queer theory, or prison studies is strongly preferred but not required.
Ethics and Public Policy, PHIL 6250, Wednesdays, 2-4:45, Dr. Gordon Hull
In many ways, modern policymaking might appear to be a technical matter, concerned with scientifically or economically provable matters of administration. Aside from local conflict of interest concerns, cases of inappropriate employee conduct, and compliance with statutory law, ethics might appear to be irrelevant. That appearance is an illusion, and the primary goal of this course is to think about how policy decisions, even at a micro level, are deeply value-laden. Even the decision to pursue economic efficiency – the central move in the modern welfare economics that dominates policymaking circles – is itself a decision with moral implications.
In this course, we will use an extended case study – intellectual property (IP) law – to pursue the ways in which public policies both express and advance some sets of values over others. The course combines theoretical reading (some of it classic moral philosophy: Mill, Locke and Kant) with current literature developing that theory as it applies to IP. Why IP? IP turns out to be one of the more complicated areas of national policy, and one with tremendously far-reaching implications: there is a truth to statements like “copyright policy is cultural policy” or “patent policy is science policy” (there’s even a good argument to the effect that current patent policy in particular developed as a trade policy).
W. E. B. Du Bois, PHIL 4190/5050-001 (Topics in Philosophy), Wednesdays, 5:30-8:15pm, Dr. Trevor Pearce
W. E. B. Du Bois is one of the most famous activists in American history, serving as founding editor of the NAACP magazine The Crisis from 1910 to 1934 and giving voice to both Marxism and Pan-Africanism until his death in 1963. Du Bois has been claimed by many disciplines: his book The Souls of Black Folk has been studied as literature and philosophy; Black Reconstruction is still seen as a watershed in the history of that period; and he founded the first American school of sociology at Atlanta University. In this course, we will try to do justice to this broad range of intellectual interests, examining not only Du Bois’s theories of race—the usual focus of philosophers—but also his sociology, his views on education and evolution, his polemics on the role of art, his novel Dark Princess, his treatment of Reconstruction, and his account of Africa and colonialism. Along the way, we will read all three of the autobiographical works that Du Bois published in his lifetime, each of which combines personal narrative with philosophical history.
Ethical Theory, PHIL 6110, Thursdays 2-4:45, Dr. Ruth Groenhout
What does it mean to be a self or an agent? And how do various understandings of the nature of the self generate commonly accepted accounts of basic ethical concepts? This class will offer an examination of an issue that crosses normative and meta-ethical boundaries, looking at various constructions of the self and their relationship to concepts such as responsibility, freedom, or agency (here we’ll read Bernard Williams Making Sense of Humanity), their historical roots (Charles Taylor’s Ethics of Authenticity will offer some guidance here) the extent to which they are or are not up to the individual (Linda Alcoff’s Visible Identities) and the broader meaning of the ways we construct our understanding of the selves of others (Judith Butler, Frames of War).
French Existentialism, PHIL 5050-003, Spring break in Paris, Dr. Phillip McReynolds
The goal of this program is to introduce students to French existentialism and to help them understand the historical and political circumstances in Paris following WWII that helped give birth to French existential philosophy. Coined by Jean-Paul Sartre in the 1940s, the term "existentialism" fundamentally - and somewhat infamously - means that existence precedes essence. Human beings create the "essence" of humanity in and through their choices; there is no natural or God-given form of humanity to which they must conform. As a result, human freedom and responsibility, which often are accompanied by bad faith as people avoid their freedom, are central components of human existence. Co-developed by Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and critically modified by Franz Fanon and Albert Camus, French existentialism influenced many philosophers, scholars, and artists in the 20th century and continues to be an important and influential theory today. Classes on the development of postwar existentialism will take place in a local cafe and daily afternoon excursions will include the Eiffel Tower, the Catacombs, a climb up the Arc de Triomphe, a visit to the Champs Élysées (upscale shopping district), a walking tour of the area to visit sites of significance to the development of French Existentialism, a visit to the Shoah (Holocaust) memorial, and a river cruise along the Seine.