A British Society of Aesthetics Connections Conference
May 19th and 20th, 2015 – Leeds, UK
AIM AND THEMES
Nearly 100 years ago, the two founding giants of the academic field that became philosophy of race—W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain Locke—debated the proper social and artistic conception of black aesthetics. Since then, there has been impressive growth in both philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics. Unfortunately, the advances in each of these philosophical fields seemed to have gone unnoticed by the other (with a few exceptions). Our aim with this conference is to reunite philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics.
To return the spirit of Du Bois and Locke to contemporary discourse, we have invited philosophers who tackle philosophical problems related to race from diverse perspectives and philosophical aestheticians with demonstrated interest in race. We have chosen three intersections between race and aesthetics to focus on: psychology, politics, and methods.
Race, Psychology, and Aesthetics
Both philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics are now increasingly connected to sciences of the mind. For example, aesthetic concerns have been central to a substantial literature on imagination, and racial concerns have been central to a substantial literature on implicit biases. Yet, there has been little dialogue between the fields regarding these psychological mechanisms. For this conference, we propose to explore questions such as:
- Are there implicit racial biases that affect assessments of aesthetic virtues, such as creativity? What is the significance of such biases for philosophical assessments of aesthetic evaluation?
- Are imagination, empathy, and engagement with artistic representations effective methods for reducing or eliminating structural racial inequalities?
- Does racial oppression function via aesthetic psychological mechanisms, such as the mechanisms that underlie our judgments of taste and attractiveness?
- How do artworks contribute to the experience of being racialized in contemporary society? For example, how might racist tropes in artistic representations—even when they are intended as subversive—contribute to the internalizations of stereotypes that are harmful to members of subordinated racial groups?
Race, Politics, and Aesthetics
Both philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics are now increasingly intertwined with moral and political considerations, broadly construed. For example, one of the liveliest debates in philosophical aesthetics in the last few decades concerns the legitimacy of criticizing art on ethical grounds. For this conference, we propose to explore questions such as:
- What explains the underrepresentation and ghettoization of non-whites in the art world? Are racialized art curations—such as an exhibit that explicitly focuses on black artists only—ethically or aesthetically justified?
- Can art projects that aim to reclaim racist tropes by using those racist tropes—such as the controversial contemporary restaging of Norway’s 1914 human zoo exhibit—ever be justified on moral or aesthetic grounds?
- It is commonly assumed that racialized aesthetic preferences, for people and for artifacts, are immune to moral criticism because they are “merely aesthetic”. How is this assumption problematized by recent debates in philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics?
Race, Philosophical (Self-)Conceptions, and Aesthetics
The traditional conception of philosophy is one that privileges the Western canon, dominated by white males, and marks certain areas of inquiry as “core”. This traditional approach has not only marginalized women and people of color, but also fields such as philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics. For this conference, we propose to explore questions such as:
- Are fields such as philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics marginalized due to the traditional self-conception of philosophy?
- How can the modes and topics of inquiry in philosophy of race and philosophical aesthetics together inform alternative conceptions of philosophy that allow for the flourishing of diverse intellectual projects?
- Are there links between demographic diversity and cognitive diversity? How can philosophical studies of race and aesthetics clue us to the contours of such links, if they exist?
Alia Al-Saji (McGill University)
Nathaniel Adam Tobias C̶o̶l̶e̶m̶a̶n̶ (University College London)
Kristie Dotson (Michigan State University)
A.W. Eaton (University of Illinois – Chicago)
Sherri Irvin (University of Oklahoma)
Ron Mallon (Washington University in St Louis)
Charles W. Mills (Northwestern University)
Jennifer Saul (University of Sheffield)
Paul C. Taylor (Pennsylvania State University)
find out more…