by Axel Arturo Barceló Aspeitia
A lot has been written in the previous weeks in reaction to Jay L. Garfield and Bryan W. Van Norden’s opinion piece on May 11th’s issue of the New York Times on the lack of diversity in academic philosophy in the United States of America. This piece is part of growing concern with diversifying the philosophical canon, that includes, for example, the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy adding five entries on Latin American philosophy in quick succession this winter: from Philosophy of Science in Latin America, published this last December, to Skepticism in Latin America, published in February.
I applaud the growing recognition among American philosophers of Latin American philosophy; nevertheless, as a Mexican philosopher, I cannot fully endorse the idea of Latin American philosophy going mainstream in the United States of America. I am skeptic that it would substantially contribute to a significant improvement of the situation of Latin American philosophers in mainstream academic philosophy. And I believe this for two reasons mainly: First, that many – perhaps most – philosophers in Latin America do not do Latin American philosophy, and second, that Latin American philosophy crossing over into the mainstream might actually result in the displacement of Latin American philosophers from Latin American philosophy. In a future post I will write more about the first reason, but let me develop this second idea:
My main worry is that the mainstreamization of Latin American philosophy, if it ever happens, will not result in the substantial inclusion of Latin Americans into the American philosophical mainstream, but will result instead in the substantial inclusion of mainstream American philosophers (that is, mostly white and mostly male philosophers from American research universities) into the field of Latin American philosophy. Think of it as the gentrification of Latin American philosophy: As Latin American philosophy becomes more and more fashionable, American mainstream philosophers will be more attracted to it and will use their structural power to occupy prominent spaces therein, and displace actual Latin Americans. In the end, instead of more Latin American philosophers being recognised as part of canonical mainstream philosophy, we will have more American philosophers being recognised as part of canonical mainstream Latin American philosophy.
Some might say that this has already started to happen. In his 2010 review of Susana Nuccetelli, Ofelia Schutte, and Otavio Bueno’s A companion to Latin American philosophy, for example, C. Ulises Moulines noticed that “about two-thirds of [its contributors] have positions in US-American academic institutions” (p. 457), adding:
“By way of comparison, imagine a companion to Anglo-Saxon philosophy, two-thirds of whose contributors work in Latin America…: This could be an interesting editorial experiment, but it would nevertheless look somewhat awkward to many people.”
Another friend of mine, a prominent Mexican philosopher who has devoted her career to issues at the intersection of biology, race and Mexican national identity told me an anecdote of her work being rejected from an international journal because it did not include the perspectives of mainstream American authors writing on these topics.