by Yena Lee
Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) began in 2013 as a handful of grad students who wanted to discuss issues related to diversity in philosophy. Three years later, MAP is an international organization with 60 chapters in 5 regions—US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand—that have organized over 200 events and projects worldwide. Broadly, these events address issues around underrepresented groups in the discipline, theoretical issues in philosophy of gender, race, etc., and philosophy done from minority perspectives.
So why the precipitous growth? Timing is part of it: it’s obvious to anyone who’s read a philosophy blog that a lot of philosophers are thinking and writing about diversity and inclusiveness in the discipline right now. Students and faculty have used MAP largely as an effective way to make sure that conversation keeps going in their departments.
Graduate students, for example, may find it difficult to lobby independently for minority-focused initiatives. But having a MAP chapter can ease the pressure of these situations: it fits into a familiar pattern of committees or working groups people are interested in. And importantly, it comes with financial and institutional support, as well as a wider community and network. Members don’t need to start from scratch for each initiative, and they’re more likely to organize ongoing (instead of one-off) events and activities.
Cartographers—what we call MAP members (we have some punners among us; alas, no organization is perfect)—also note that informal discussions around MAP-related topics have become easier as their chapters became part of the department norm. “I have an idea for a MAP event” is an easy lead-in to a chance conversation in the lounge; “Let’s talk about diversity” is more difficult.
People also want community: philosophy departments are small, and the group of interested folks in those departments can be even smaller. So some Cartographers have collaborated across chapters for larger projects and events like the Best Practices for the Inclusive Philosophy Classroom website and the So-Cal Regional Workshop (UCI, USC, UCSB, UCLA, and USC) on ‘Philosophy and Inclusive Pedagogy’. Members also use our Facebook page to ask questions, share answers, and share events. And at the end of each year, chapter representatives meet in a series of Skype meetings to discuss major successes and challenges. It’s incredibly encouraging and fun to hear directly what other Cartographers have been up to in their respective pockets of the world. These meetings also give us a good look into what’s going on across the discipline so that we can identify trends, share common problems, and crowd-source solutions. We package that information along with feedback from Cartographers into an annual report published each summer. Members tell us they feel a greater sense of community, solidarity, and support from participating in the MAP network.
Another reason MAP has grown so quickly is that a lot of great people have put their time and energy into it. The reading group on race and gender from which the concept of MAP sprung was organized by three (then) grad students, Sara Protasi, Julia Jorati, and Eric Guindon at Yale starting in 2010. I tagged along as an undergrad. Visiting graduate programs in 2013, I found myself wishing for similar groups at the different departments that could then all collaborate. When I arrived at Princeton as a grad student, Michael Smith, the chair of the department, and Charles Beitz, the director of the University Center for Human Values, offered support for starting such a group. From there, Liam Kofi Bright (CMU) and Maegan Fairchild (USC) came on board as the two other Organizers. Our Faculty Advisory Board consists of Anthony Appiah (NYU), Tamar Gendler (Yale), and Sarah-Jane Leslie (Director; Princeton). The UK region has grown into a semi-autonomous region with its own Board: Natalie Ashton (Edinburgh), Saloni De Souza (Oxford), and Sophie Stammers (KCL; Director). Since our first semester, we’ve been generously supported by the Marc Sanders Foundation.
Finally, I think MAP has likely grown because people feel it tangibly helps and supports them. Or at least, that’s the sentiment many members have passed on, and that has been squarely my own experience. As an undergrad, I felt vaguely terrified from what I read online about academic philosophy and uneasy about what my syllabi and classrooms looked like—but the reading groups were singularly encouraging: I remember almost none of the specific content, but seeing grad students and faculty sitting around talking about the issues made the landscape seem less bleak. That sentiment has been amplified for me as a grad student through the people I’ve met and conversations I’ve had through MAP.
But don’t take it just from me! Over the next few months on this blog, you’ll hear about what various Cartographers have been up to. Hopefully these chapter profiles may encourage some departments to consider starting MAP chapters themselves. You can download the application form here and our website has tips on how to start the application. If your department already has a chapter, we encourage you to participate in its events—especially if you’re faculty.
Yena Lee is the Director of MAP. She’s currently a PhD student in philosophy at Princeton but will be at Yale for her JD this fall. Her main interests are in ethics and pragmatism.
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