After 45 minutes of wandering around campus, asking if anyone knew where some “FPF” lecture would be, I ended up somehow stumbling into the right building. Finally, I was in Bowden hall at around 4:00 PM, but this wasn’t any type of lecture hall I’d ever been to, it was just a series of classrooms. After another 10 minutes, I finally found my way to the right one, Bowden 216.
As I enter and take a seat at one of the outer chairs, I see a few people unloading a few 12 packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon bear beer along with some crackers, raisins, grapes, bread, chips, cheese and some wine. I began to wonder whether I was in the right place or not. However, looking up at the board in the center of the room, I saw in chalk writing “Canon Fodder: Exploring the Challenges of Decolonization and Canon Reform”
As I took my seat, one of the graduate students asked: ” Are you here from Lauren?” to which I said, “No, I’m just an undergraduate student here at Emory University, I’m here for a blog post for Professor Highsmith’s expository class”. At least a few people in the room laughed. At first, I didn’t understand why, but then it clicked Lauren=Professor Highsmith.
Before we begin with the lecture, let me introduce what this post is about. According to their website, the FPF, which stands for Friday Philosophy Forum, “facilitates philosophical research, discussion, and collaboration among Emory graduate students in philosophy and other disciplines.” So essentially, they provide graduate students to share current research and paper drafts for the purpose of provoking dialogue and eliciting feedback that might strengthen works intended for future publication. All this is also a part of a bigger organization called The Graduate Philosophy Society at Emory (GPSE) which is “the body for representation and self-organizing of the graduate students in the department of philosophy.”
I realized soon that this wouldn’t be a lecture, it would actually be just a weak presentation of the very first draft of a paper regarding diversity in philosophy. Andrea, one of the presenters soon pulled up her partner from Canada, Emily, on FaceTime so that they could begin their presentation. “We realize that we are going to say some stupid things here, but please give us as much feedback as you can” were the first words uttered by both partners. Before beginning on the actual reading out loud of their draft, they pointed out that it would only take a maximum of 25 minutes.
What follows is essentially a direct flow of the presentation as it went: Andrea provided the introduction of the paper saying that Philosophy has a serious problem with diversity and that various different proposals had to be put in place to change that fact. Both Emily and Andrea, all throughout the paper would mention about 10-15 times that a major factor of change would be a transformation of the syllabus for philosophy as well as the diversification of the list of philosophers. They said that more indigenous philosophers have to be included in the syllabi all around the world. Emily took over right after saying that people fear change but that Philosophers having different perspectives is what the world needs. She said that white male supremacy had completely dominated Philosophy for years, starting from the belief that white male Greeks were the first Philosophers. After providing no evidence whatsoever to back it up, they said that just was not true and that it was only designed to amplify white supremacy. Emily said philosophy is just one tool they love that could be used for diversification, others included the recognition of indigenous sovereignty over lands, decolonizing mines, nations, and schools. That’s where I got lost, I no longer knew what the paper was about, was it about decolonization? Diversification of Philosophers? White male supremacy?. They both then began to talk about how it was wrong of white people to go down to local tribes in Hawaii trying to help them out because the only thing that did was force them to assimilate to white culture.
After providing little to no evidence to any of their claims, and throwing around quite a few authors, philosophers and hard philosophical terms with little to no context, they were finally done. It was now time for questions.
I realized that I wasn’t the only one confused by their paper when I only saw 5 hands fly up for questions with over 17 members of the forum. When asked about the some of the topics within their paper such as decolonization and the diversification of the syllabus as well as the evidence surrounding their claims, their answers were very subpar. They were either unable to answer some questions or were only able to answer them partially. Leaving me as well as the forum very underwhelmed.
Essentially, after an hour and thirty minutes of utter and pure confusion on my part, it was finally over, I got up and left as soon as I could. Since I’d recorded the whole presentation I gave it another listen in my room hoping to get something more out of it. Nothing.
Besides touching base on so many things with little to no evidence to support their claims, the overall first draft was pretty much torn apart by the members of the forum, the facetime called ended by Emily saying again that they knew many stupid things would be said but that was the point, to receive feedback and do it better the next time. Apart from being a completely un-engaging and very uncomfortable experience for me, both Andrea and Emily left with just what they needed, some awesome feedback to make their paper better and actually presentable. Oh, and I got to see some pretty sweet beards on 2 members of the forum and that’s always a plus.
Graduate Philosophy Society at Emory, scholarblogs.emory.edu/gpse/. Accessed 18 Sept. 2017.