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Friday, July 2, 2010

On the Road

I'm taking this show on the road! I'll be presenting a paper on all of this nonsense (the theme of the Blog, that is) in Oregon (Society for Philosophy and the Contemporary World) in two weeks. Here's the "Outline"--the paper itself is long and more nuanced, with arguments and such.

"Philosophy and the Post-Immigrant Fear"


• The specific purpose of this paper is to explore and then expand on Jorge Gracia’s reasons for the apparent lack of Hispanics in US philosophy (i.e., in his 1999 book: Hispanic/Latino Identity: A Philosophical Perspective). I will narrow my focus to a specific sub-group of the philosophical Hispanics Gracia considers, namely, “homegrown” US Hispanics. This group, Gracia says, are entirely missing from the “established” ranks (Gracia mentions 6 established Hispanic philosopher in the US, all foreign born). Introducing a first-person phenomenological perspective, I propose an explanation which I think captures my experience as a homegrown US Hispanic, one which has given rise to a sense of identity which I can only describe as “post-immigrant”; those who share in this identity, I suggest, desire but hesitate engaging philosophically with their own experience as post-immigrants, particularly when the post-immigrant is one who is also a degree-bearing member of the philosophical profession. The reason for the absence of homegrown Hispanic philosphers who are also willing to engage issues related to their circumstance as Hispanics boils down to what I call, “the post-immigrant fear.”

Section 1: From Marginalization to Avoidance: Gracia on Hispanics in US Philosophy

• Of 316 philosophy programs surveyed in 1992, the number of Hispanics who are either full or part-time faculty members is 55; in 1995, there are 68 full time and part time Hispanics in those programs. Generalizing to the number of programs represented in the American Philosophical Association, this means that in the mid-1990’s, 2.2% of all philosophers teaching in the US are Hispanics; the Hispanic population in the US at that time is roughly 10%.

• Gracia: “First, why is it that there are so very few Hispanics who have become established in the profession in the United States? Second, why is it that those few who have become established are foreign born? Third, why are there so very few Hipsanic Americans in the profession at all? Fourth, why is Hispanic philosophy ignored in the philosophy curriculum? And fifth, why is it that Hipsanics-American philosophers are not attracted by, and perhaps even avoid, areas that have to do with their identity as Hispanics, whereas African Americans and women do not?”

• For ease, I call the first question the establishment question; the second question is the foreign vs. homegrown question; the third is the numbers question; the fourth is the curriculum question; and the fifth is avoidance question.

• Gracia: “My suggestion is that one reason behind all these facts is that Hispanics in general are perceived as foreigners; we are not thought to be “Americans.”..[Moreover] Hispanic philosophers are marginalized in the profession, and Hispanic issues and philosophy are regarded as alien to the interest of American philosophers.”

Section 2: Homegrown Hispanics and the Post-Immigrant Experience

• The concept of “post-immigrant” refers to individuals who are not themselves immigrants but for whom the immigrant experience itself is a historical, epistemological, cultural, or in any way existential reality. That is, a post-immigrant is the son, granddaughter, niece, or brother of immigrants who were born in Latin America, suffered the migration North, and settled as immigrants in the US. Thus, post-immigrants will usually be the children of immigrants, and not immigrants themselves who have somehow overcome their situation—thus, a post-immigrant is not a person who was once an immigrant and has left that label behind through the proper legal procedures, and is now a citizen or resident.

Section 3: The Post-Immigrant Fear

• The post-immigrant fear is the fear which keeps homegrown Hispanics in the profession, especially those who have come north and have crossed the socio-economic lines which define our immigrant experience, from writing, speaking, and teaching about Hispanic issues or Hispanic philosophy—it is what justifies our “renunciation” of the possibilities of such engagement. It is the fear of disenfranchisement, of exclusion, of arrest. It might be unconscious, or not something of which we are always aware, but it structures our very experience. Some of us will not admit the fear, since the admission says that we lack the intellectual courage which philosophers require in order to pursue truth to the bitter end.

Section 4: Conclusions

• The situation which Jorge Gracia described in 1999 has not changed much over the past 10 years. According to the National Science Foundation, 103 Hispanics received a doctorate in some field of the Humanities in 1988; this number doubled in 2008 to 206. These numbers are slightly higher when compared to Asians, African-Americans, and Native Americans. However, they are dismal when compared to Whites, who received 2564 PhDs in 1988 and 3009 in 2008. This means that just a couple of years ago, in 2008, Hispanics made up only 6.8% of all PhD recipients in the Humanities. The numbers of Hispanics who received a doctorate in philosophy are much lower. According to the same data, out of the 401 philosophy doctorates awarded in 2008, 10 went to Hispanics—that’s 2.5% as opposed to 2.2% almost 20 years ago! So, 10 years after Gracia published those alarming numbers, Hispanics in philosophy are still largely underrepresented in proportion to the numbers in the overall population.

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