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February 06, 2010


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There may be some discussion of this conference at:

We have a campaign going which seeks to make the community awake of the very wide-spread practice of holding conferences at which only men are keynote speakers.

We might hope that gender is irrelevant to philosophical excellence, but the choices made by conference organizers strongly suggest that, in their view, this is not so.

I'm not an organiser of this conference, but I would like to give a wholehearted support for your campaign. Yes - all conferences should have both male and female speakers given that there are excellent philosophers from both genders working on pretty much any area of philosophy conceivable. I also know that the organisers of this conference, despite their choice of speakers for this small workshop, think that gender is completely irrelevant to philosophical excellence.

I'm dismayed that the entirely legitimate criticism of patronage & preferment in philosophy should take place only under the descriptor of (only ‘qua’) gender injustice. The massive prevalence in philosophy of invitation only conference speakers (a prevalence that in my experience is considerably greater than most other academic disciplines) is a basic injustice. It is not an injustice only, or chiefly, against women, it is an injustice against any and all who are outside of the self-sustaining charmed circle. So, plenty of women are the beneficiaries of such injustice and plenty of men are the victims of such. The solution isn’t to invite more women to speak at such invitation-only conferences, it’s to have (preferably blind) submissions not invitations to speak at such conferences. Even non-blind ‘CFP’ submissions are better than invitation only conferences (and the subsequent published proceedings, and invitation-only edited special editions of journals, and invitation-only edited book collections, and ‘shoo-in’ I’ll scratch-your-back publications generally). Oligarchy, patronage, preferment (and their obverse: marginaliztion, exclusion and worse) genuinely seem like meritocracy from the phenomenological standpoint of those who are the beneficiaries of such treatment. I’d like to see a general critical scrutiny of such practices throughout academic philosophy and not a gender-specific criticism thereof.

Couple of things:

First, as a young academic, I'm all for more open calls for papers.

Second, I'm not completely against key-note speakers. It just happens to be a fact that some people have reliably interesting ideas to present and, for this reason, they will get bigger audiences for the conferences. This will be also an advantage for those whose papers have been selected through a refereeing process. For this reason, the invited speakers should include both men and women who have interesting things to say and who can draw bigger audiences.

So, all in all, yes, we should have both open calls and equality in the key-notes. These ends are not incompatible.

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