Faculty

Jane Gordon: “Post Rosa: Letters Against Barbarism”

Check out affiliate professor Jane Gordon's contribution to Post Rosa: Letters Against Barbarism edited by Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn.

***

Post Rosa: Letters Against Barbarism is a collection of letter exchanges in conversation with Rosa Luxemburg, in the year of her 150th anniversary. Twenty “Luxemburgians” from across the globe engage in vivid correspondence, with reference to and reflections about Luxemburg and the times we live in, as understood through their own bodies and geopolitical locations, and informed by an epistemology of both head and heart.

Conceived in the midst of a barbarous(ly handled) pandemic, this life-affirming book aims to be a source of affective-intellectual inspiration and encouragement to commit our words and lives to the struggle against barbarism and for socialism.

Cover of the book "Post Rosa"

Lewis Gordon: Most Anticipated Book of 2022

Congratulations to Professor and Department Head Lewis Gordon, whose upcoming book Fear of Black Consciousness (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) has been named to Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2022.

***

Professor Lewis R. Gordon, the Philosophy Department Head at the University of Connecticut, offers an expansive nonfiction work that critically examines the historical roots of “racialized Blackness” and how this school of thought is shaped by the institution of whiteness. Gordon includes personal experiences, striking a fine balance between the searing imprint of memory and the accumulation of learned knowledge. Gordon points out how anti-Blackness is not only a global commodity but a weaponized form of oppression that even members of the Black community can perpetuate through colorism. His take on the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther raises questions about the world’s view of Africa and the legacy of colonial violence. This book is certainly not a light, breezy read, but Gordon’s surprising observations crack open the mind to connect various creative disciplines.  –Vanessa Willoughby, Associate Editor

Dorit Bar-On: “How to do things with nonwords” (Biology & Philosophy)

Check out Dorit Bar-On's recent article in Biology & Philosophy, "How to do things with nonwords: pragmatics, biosemantics, and origins of language in animal communication." This article features Ruth Millikan’s biosemantic framework, and benefited from several ECOM-based collaborations.

***Abstract***

Recent discussions of animal communication and the evolution of language have advocated adopting a ‘pragmatics-first’ approach, according to which “a more productive framework” for primate communication research should be “pragmatics, the field of linguistics that examines the role of context in shaping the meaning of linguistic utterances” (Wheeler and Fischer, Evol Anthropol 21:195–205, 2012: 203). After distinguishing two different conceptions of pragmatics that advocates of the pragmatics-first approach have implicitly relied on (one Carnapian, the other Gricean), I argue that neither conception adequately serves the purposes of pragmatics-first approaches to the origins of human linguistic communication. My main aim in this paper is to motivate–and begin to articulate–an intermediary conception whose scope is narrower than Carnapian pragmatics but broader than Gricean pragmatics. To do so, I first spell out what I take to be the key insight offered by proponents of the Gricean approach concerning the emergence of linguistic communication, namely, its being communication ‘from a psychological point of view’ (Tomasello, Origins of human communication, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2008). I then develop this insight using key elements from the anti-Gricean ‘biosemantic’ account of linguistic communication due to Ruth Millikan (Millikan, Language, thought, and other biological categories: New foundations for realism, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1984, Millikan, Tomberlin (ed), Philosophical Perspectives 9, Ridgeview Publishing, Atascedero CA, 1995, Millikan R (2006) Varieties of Meaning. Mass.: The MIT Press (paperback edition), Cambridge, Millikan, Beyond concepts: unicepts, language, and natural information, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK, 2017, and elsewhere). I argue that the intermediary pragmatics-first approach that I propose, which draws on both Gricean and Millikanian resources, would be better equipped to serve the purposes of those who search for potential precursors of human linguistic communication in animal communication.

Tracy Llanera: “The Misogyny Paradox and the Alt-Right” Accepted by Hypatia

Assistant Professor Tracy Llanera's article, "The Misogyny Paradox and the Alt-right," has been accepted for publication in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.

***ABSTRACT***

This essay offers a philosophical analysis of the misogyny experienced by women in the alternative right (alt-right) movement. I argue that this misogyny takes on a paradoxical form: the better alt-right women propagandists promote hate, the greater hostility they experience from their fellow racists and critics; the more submissive women alt-right members become, the harsher the impact of misogyny on them. I develop this argument in four parts. Part I introduces the alt-right movement and the presumed role of white women in racist hate groups. Using Louise Richardson-Self's work on social imaginaries, I explain how dominant images in racist propaganda could be used as resources for exploring the self-conception of racist white women. Part II offers a description of three dominant images in the racist social imaginary: the goddess/victim, wife and mother, and the female activist. These images accord white women a revered status in virtue of their gendered subordination to white men and the white cause. I present the white power barbie and the tradwife as the contemporary iterations of these social images in the alt-right movement. Part III explores the misogyny paradox as experienced by alt-right women. Beginning with a description of gender relations in the racist patriarchy, I show how alt-right women could be seen as both misogynists and victims of misogyny; in other words, as perpetrators and recipients of misogynist harms. It then moves to a twofold discussion of misogyny through the lens of contemporary feminist philosophy. The first section engages Kate Manne’s writings on the dynamics of misogyny to explain hostility against women propagandists, while the second section discusses Manon Garcia’s Beauvoirian argument of the concept of submission to explain the misogyny hurled against conformist women. Part IV briefly reflects on the absurdity of the alt-right’s dependence on women’s economic labor, a feature that may make the movement vulnerable to political intervention.

Lewis Gordon: Philosophy and Global Affairs, Vol. 1 Issue 2

Check out the second issue of Philosophy and Global Affairs, co-edited by Lewis Gordon and Jane Anna Gordon. You can also read their contributed articles, linked below.

 

"A Forum on Creolizing Social and Political Theory" by Lewis Gordon

The author discusses Jane Anna Gordon’s proposal, in the 2006 international meeting of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, of creolizing theory. He summarizes the research it generated, including Gordon’s monograph on creolizing political theory, and the set of articles in this forum on creolizing social and political identities and theory.

 

"Creolizing as a Method, Creolizing as a Politics, and the Relationship" by Jane Anna Gordon

Using Juliet Hooker’s explicit criticisms as a frame, this essay first explores creolizing as a method and then creolizing as a politics, drawing on the contributions of Bernal, Bose, Lindsay, and Valdez to address questions including whether creolizing offers any advances for non-European and non-canonical figures whose worlds and thought are already understood and embraced as creolized; whether creolizing methods are of any use in the project of epistemic decolonization; and whether we can assume a prori that political or philosophical projects defined by an open orientation to mixture are necessarily normatively superior to others. It concludes by considering how Monika Brodnicka and T.D. Harper-Shipman’s essays focused on Africa put the methodological and political questions into productive relationship with one another.

 

Lewis Gordon: The Crime Without a Name

Can new language reshape our understanding of the past and expand the possibilities of the future? Barrett Holmes Pitner seeks better words to reframe discussions about race and culture and to change the way we understand our diverse and rapidly evolving political climate. In his new book, he examines ethnocide in America, the systematic erasure of a people's ancestral culture, and its particular impacts on Black Americans, who have endured that erasure for generations. A compelling analysis of our nation's ethnocidal foundation, The Crime Without a Name posits that activating this concept within our discourse, as we continue to reckon with our wrongs, can help sustain the richness of our diverse cultures in perpetuity.

Holmes speaks with Lewis R. Gordon about the historical origins of ethnocide in the U.S., and examines the personal lived consequences of existing within an ongoing erasure—and how to combat it.

Ayanna De’Vante Spencer: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Check out the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” written by Ann Gary, where Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Ayanna De’Vante Spencer, is recognized for her piece of work entitled “Say Her Name: Maladjusted Epistemic Salience in the Fight against Anti-Black Police Brutality.” Ayanna De’Vante Spencer is among those writing about the missing narratives of Black women and girls who have been victims of police brutality

 

Ayanna De’Vante Spencer: New Faculty Bring Antiracism and the Environment to the Forefront

Check out UConn Today’s recent article “New Faculty Bring Antiracism and the Environment to the Forefront,” where they introduce the new CLAS faculty, including our newest member to the department Ayanna Spencer who will work across disciplines to advance Antiracism and Human Interactions with the Environment. 

***Excerpt from article***

Ayanna De’Vante Spencer is an incoming assistant professor in philosophy jointly appointed with Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, with a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. As a survivor-scholar and Black feminist epistemologist, Spencer’s research weaves Black feminist theory, epistemology, sexual violence literature, settler colonial studies, and feminist anti-carceral studies.    

Through her work with Girls for Gender Equity, the Firecracker Foundation, and the ‘MeToo’ Movement, Spencer saw first-hand a problematic intersection between criminalization, how Black girl sexual violence survivors are expected to respond to violence, and how the state determines what they know about their own experience(s) of violence. Her research examines structures of knowledge verification that contribute to what is called the “sexual abuse to prison pipeline.” Spencer has long focused on gendered anti-Black racism and state violence, including her noteworthy ‘Say Her Name’ chapter published in The Bloomsbury Companion to Analytic Feminism (2018).  

As a first-generation college graduate and former UNCF/Mellon Mays fellow, Spencer is committed to equity and inclusion in her classes and is a strong proponent of undergraduate research.