Show The Graduate Center Menu
 
 

Diversifying Syllabi

Overview

It remains all too easy to take a course in philosophy where the entire syllabus is composed of Western white cisgendered men. Until a student-led initiative, a student could graduate from our department without reading an author who isn’t a white male. The same remains true in many philosophy departments. This greatly delimits exposure to ideas, disvalues many voices, and strongly discourages members of other groups from joining the profession. Therefore, diversifying syllabi is one of the main fronts on which one can work towards a more inclusive field. Diversity, in this context, can include many dimensions, including  race, ethnicity, gender, sexuaity, ability, and class, as well as voices reflecting colonial experience and philosophical work from the Global South. Syllabi should be both diversified and decolonized. Here we link to some of the many resources that can help in achieving this end. (Additional suggestions are welcome.)

Two Kinds of Diversification

Diversification can involve both including authors from underrepresented groups and including topics that explicitly relate to representation, which have been traditionally excluded due to systemic biases (e.g., Africana philosophy, philosophy of race, comparative philosophy, disability theory, feminist philosophy, and queer theory). That is, one can diversify authors or include diversity as a topic.


CUNY’s “Meta-Requirement”

Beginning in 2021, the Philosophy Program at the CUNY Graduate Center requires that every student take at least one course that meets a diversity threshold along one of the aforementioned dimensions. In particular, each student in the MA and PhD programs must take a course (ideally many!)  that meets one of the these two criteria:
 

EITHER

(i) that it include a treatment of anti-racist or BIPOC or feminist-related themes for a total of 4 weeks during the semester.

OR

(ii) that 30% of course readings represent contributions by hitherto marginalized philosophers, most notably BIPOC and women, including authors from non-Western philosophical traditions.
 


Keep Both Kinds of Diversity In Mind

Diversity-of-authors and diversity-of-topics are each important, and they also complement each other. Consider these pitfalls:
 

Intellectual ghettoization: imagine a syllabus on which all texts by authors from underrepresented groups focus exclusively on diversity as a topic. This can give the false impression that members of such groups have not contributed, or are not capable of contributing, to all areas of a field.

The view from nowhere: imagine a syllabus where authors from different groups are included, but there is no discussion about how identity can impact perspectives, experiences, or opportunities. By ignoring social position, we may miss opportunities to correct hegemonic perspectives imposed by dominant groups.

The totalizing orientation: imagine a syllabus that presents one portion of a field (as all classes must necessarily do) but claims to be representative of all that is of value within that field. To address this, we must include both a range of voices and a range of topics that have  been hitherto marginalized. Without both, we fail to address the misimpression that dominant groups and certain topics exhaust the field.


For these reasons, EDIC recommends keeping both kinds of diversification in mind when constructing syllabi.
 

External Resources 

APA Diversity and Inclusiveness Syllabus Collection
Diversity Committee York University: Diversify Our Syllabi
Chinese Philosophy Etext Archive
Chinese Philosophy
Readings in Theravāda Buddhism
Resources for Teaching Race and Ethnicity, Immigration, and Marginality in Classical Antiquity (Rebecca Futo Kennedy)
Ann Waters Native American Philosophy Syllabus
Decolonizing American Philosophy (SUNY Press book)
Zoe Drayson’s all female philosophy of mind syllabus
A living reading list which features the work of BIPOC philosophers
Nicholas Whittaker’s Black Studies Reading List for Philosophers of Art
MAP International’s resource page
Diversifying Syllabi Weebly
Decolonizing Political Theory Readings
Queer Theory Reading List (Brown)
Indian Philosophy

 

SEP Entries

Africana Philosophy
Race
Critical Disability Theory
Feminist Philosophy
Analytic Feminism
Continental Feminism
Interactions between Analytic and Continental Feminism
Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science
Latin American Philosophy
Latinx Philosophy
Philosophy in Mexico
Comparative Philosophy: Chinese and Western
Daoism
Chinese Ethics
Epistemology in Classical Indian Philosophy
Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy
Japanese Philosophy

 

Syllabus Repository  

This resource is under development. It is a repository of syllabi and reading lists contributed by members of our community. We include these examples here to spark ideas, and to draw attention to work, both recent and classic, that can broaden the range of voices and topics covered in our classrooms. As should be clear, every area of philosophy can be taught in ways that are inclusive. New submissions are welcome.

Aesthetics
Epistemology
Ethics
Feminist Philsophy
History of Philosophy
Introduction to Philosophy
Metaphysics
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Mind/Psychology
Philosophy of Race
Philosophy of Science
Social/Political Philosophy

For more examples, please consult the syllabi and other pedagogical resources developed by the CUNY chapter of MAP:

MAP Syllabus Repository
https://cunymap.weebly.com/pedagogy-resources.html