Saturday, May 20, 2017

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - A Defense of ŒTransracial¹ Identity Roils Philosophy World

The problem with Tuvel's "thought crime" lies not in its daring to take on the ("taboo") question of a defense of transracialism (as the so-called feminist-philosophy Hypatia journal editors indicate in their apologetic Marxist responses) but more so in the article's failure to defend its (in)defensible premises that all transpeople are equal in the context of stereotypically defined biological ancestries. 

On May 20, 2017, at 7:37 AM, Toyin Falola <> wrote:

Rachel Dolezal, a former N.A.A.C.P. official, whose claim to be black stirred widespread ridicule and outrage. Credit Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Academic philosophy has resembled a battleground in recent years, and not just because of its famously bare-knuckled argumentative style.

A series of sexual harassment scandals has engulfed prominent male scholars, while feminist philosophers and others have pushed to diversify what remains, far more than the other humanities, an overwhelmingly white, male field.

Now, an article in a leading feminist philosophy journal has touched off a firestorm of criticism and countercriticism, illuminating a divide within feminist philosophy itself and raising a thorny question: Just what counts as good philosophy where sensitive issues of identity are concerned, and who gets to decide?

The article, called "In Defense of Transracialism," by Rebecca Tuvel, appeared in the spring issue of the journal Hypatia. Ms. Tuvel, an assistant professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, asserts that the arguments that support transgender identity also support the possibility of transracial identity.

Continue reading the main story

"Society," she concludes, "should accept such an individual's decision to change race the same way it should accept an individual's decision to change sex."

Ms. Tuvel, who is white, is not the first scholar to raise the subject, or to contrast the reaction to Rachel Dolezal, the white former N.A.A.C.P. official whose claims to be black drew widespread ridicule and outrage, with the more accepting treatment of Caitlyn Jenner, who came out as transgender around the same time. But the response to her article was swift and furious.

An open letter signed by more than 800 academics, including many from outside philosophy, called for the article to be retracted on the grounds that it "falls short of scholarly standards" and that "its continued availability causes further harm." Some members of the magazine's 10-member associate editorial board, which has no role in selecting articles for the journal, posted a "profound apology" on Hypatia's Facebook page, declaring that "clearly, the article should never have been published."

Adding to the drama, the journal's editor, Sally Scholz, released a statement standing behind the article, calling it "utterly inappropriate for editors to repudiate an article they have accepted for publication."

Caitlyn Jenner, who revealed her identity as a transgender woman in 2015. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

To Ms. Tuvel's critics, the paper, despite her declarations of support for transgender rights, contained "egregious levels of liberal white ignorance and discursive transmisogynistic violence," as one scholar put it on Facebook. To supporters, she was the victim of an online mobbing. One philosopher declared in an online comment thread that the associate editors had abandoned "the fundamentally critical stance that has defined philosophy since Socrates" in favor of "ideological and political advocacy."

But underneath the hyper-charged war of words lies a wonkier but no less significant battle over philosophical method.

"In terms of quality, it's a very normal paper," Justin Weinberg, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina and the editor of Daily Nous, a philosophy news website, said in an interview. "But some people will say that's part of the problem."

Hypatia, named for a female ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician who was murdered by a mob of Christian zealots, was founded in 1986 as a home for feminist scholarship that was often dismissed by the philosophical mainstream. In a statement issued on Thursday, the journal's board of directors stood behind the publication of Ms. Tuvel's article and reaffirmed its commitment to "pluralist inquiry," which it called "simultaneously a core feminist value and a core academic value."

Ms. Tuvel's paper is squarely in the tradition of analytic philosophy, an approach that focuses on clarifying concepts and that relies on blunt logical analysis and sometimes outlandish-seeming hypotheticals and analogies. (Do justifications for eating meat also support cannibalism? Are unwanted fetuses akin to rapists?) But it's an approach, some of her detractors say, that is unsuited to the subject at hand.

"That's fine when you are looking at abstract metaphysical questions," like "whether trees exist, or things that exist in the past exist in the present," said one of the signers of the open letter, Talia Mae Bettcher, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles. "But when you start philosophizing about racial oppression or trans oppression or other contemporary social issues, different methodologies need to be employed."

Ms. Bettcher, who in 2009 was co-editor of a special issue of Hypatia dedicated to transgender issues, said Ms. Tuvel's article was part of a long tradition of researchers' treating transgender people as objects of inquiry without adequately taking into account what they say about themselves.

"This is basically an argument that thought, 'I can just swashbuckle in and cite a few articles,' but didn't really reflect on these deeper issues," she said. Ms. Tuvel's conclusions, she added, "are false."

The journal Hypatia published a paper asserting that the arguments that support transgender identity also support the possibility of transracial identity.

Tina Fernandes Botts, an assistant professor at California State University, Fresno, and the editor of the book "Philosophy and the Mixed Race Experience," also strongly criticized what she called the article's insufficient engagement with work by transgender and nonwhite scholars.

"The content is objectionable, and the conclusions are objectionable, but that's not the really offensive part," said Ms. Botts, who delivered a critique of an earlier version of Ms. Tuvel's paper at a conference last month. "The really offensive part is that the perspectives of scholars working in these areas were treated as nonexistent or irrelevant."

Ms. Tuvel, whose paper cites some work by transgender scholars, including a paper by Ms. Bettcher, declined to comment for this article. In a statement posted by The Daily Nous shortly after the controversy began, she said the call for more citations of transgender and nonwhite scholars was "a valid reproach," but stood by her arguments.

Other scholars who have weighed in have questioned whether the idea that only people with a certain identity have authority to speak about it amounts to a kind of "epistemological insiderism," as Rogers Brubaker, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of the recent book "Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities," put it in an Op-Ed article about the controversy in The New York Times.

Debra Satz, a professor of philosophy at Stanford, and one of the first senior female philosophers to criticize the call for retraction, said that it was important for feminism "to be associated with the free exchange of ideas."

"If the agenda is more papers by women, and more papers about feminist issues, that's great," she said. "But if it turns out it's a really narrow conception of what that is, that's not so good."

Suzanna Danuta Walters, a professor of sociology at Northeastern University and the editor of Signs, an interdisciplinary feminist journal, called the call for retraction "an attack on scholarly peer review." Ms. Tuvel's critics had attacked her citations and conclusions, Ms. Walters said, without engaging her reasoning. "Could Tuvel have cited different people, or made different arguments?" she said. "Yes. But you could say that about every article."

The president of Hypatia's board of directors, Miriam Solomon, a professor of philosophy at Temple University, said the critics of the paper had "legitimate concerns" about the marginalization of transgender and nonwhite voices in philosophy. But she reiterated that philosophical pluralism was an important value, too.

Ms. Tuvel's paper is "a very competent example of a certain style of philosophy," she said. "I think Hypatia should publish such things as well as other things."


Listserv moderated by Toyin Falola, University of Texas at Austin
To post to this group, send an email to
To subscribe to this group, send an email to
Current archives at
Early archives at
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "USA Africa Dialogue Series" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to
For more options, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment

Vida de bombeiro Recipes Informatica Humor Jokes Mensagens Curiosity Saude Video Games Car Blog Animals Diario das Mensagens Eletronica Rei Jesus News Noticias da TV Artesanato Esportes Noticias Atuais Games Pets Career Religion Recreation Business Education Autos Academics Style Television Programming Motosport Humor News The Games Home Downs World News Internet Car Design Entertaimment Celebrities 1001 Games Doctor Pets Net Downs World Enter Jesus Variedade Mensagensr Android Rub Letras Dialogue cosmetics Genexus Car net Só Humor Curiosity Gifs Medical Female American Health Madeira Designer PPS Divertidas Estate Travel Estate Writing Computer Matilde Ocultos Matilde futebolcomnoticias girassol lettheworldturn topdigitalnet Bem amado enjohnny produceideas foodasticos cronicasdoimaginario downloadsdegraca compactandoletras newcuriosidades blogdoarmario arrozinhoii sonasol halfbakedtaters make-it-plain amatha