Philosophy of ‘race’ and racism
University of Oxford
June 27, 2016 8:00 am — June 30, 2016 7:00 am
Contact Rachel Fraser for more information.
University of Oxford
27–29 June 2016
W. E. B. Du Bois famously wrote that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line”. All of us now are well into the twenty-first century, and for contemporary Europeans, Du Bois’ remarks may appear distant a second time over: off his spelling of ‘color’ we can read his Americanness. And yet the problem Du Bois’ addresses here is (despite his spellings) our problem too, on either side of the Atlantic, and beyond. Although his remarks on the “color-line” are most commonly associated with The Souls of Black Folk and its concern with black life in the United States, he in fact first offered them to a London audience at the first Pan-African Conference, in a speech entitled “To the nations of the World”. As he puts it here, “the problem of the color-line” is the question as to how far differences of race … will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization”. Hence, Du Bois took this problem to be not only of local, but, first and foremost, of global relevance and thus to affect most of those who are non-white. In different locations, however, the manifestations of this problem–that is, the contours of racial categories, the social meaning associated with those categories, and the pressing issues of racial injustice–may nevertheless be markedly different.
In light of this, there is something of a lacuna in the emerging literature on the historically neglected philosophy of ‘race’ which has seen a flowering of interest in the last twenty years: much of it assumes, either tacitly or explicitly, an US-American audience, and addresses the phenomena of race and racism primarily salient to a distinctively US-American context. In order to help close this lacuna, this conference aims to widen the conversation beyond the context of the US. We thus seek both to increase our understanding of race and racism in different global contexts, and to asses what the contextual variability of race and racism tells us about these phenomena.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Society for Applied Philosophy.