Resources on Kant, Race, and Racism 

Introduction

Sample syllabi

Online workshops, colloquiums, conferences, etc.

Bibliography

Introduction

On May 19th, 2021, we kicked off the Virtual NAKS workshop series with a session titled Kant and Race: (How) Should We Teach Kant’s Views on this topic? The session featured three speakers:

·      Jameliah Shorter-Bourhanou (College of the Holy Cross), “Must I Teach Race?”

·      Elvira Basevich (U-Mass, Lowell), “Teaching Kant: How to Welcome a Racist into the Philosophy Classroom”

·      Patrick Frierson (Whitman College), “Teaching Race in the Groundwork” (handout)

Bennett McNulty (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities) chaired the session. The session was well attended and the discussions were rich and edifying. Afterwards, Bennett and Patrick suggested that we host a webpage of resources for teaching (as well as studying) Kant’s views on race and his relation to racism. After a long delay, here we finally have the beginning of such a page.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations that pertain to any of the following three categories, please contact Huaping Lu-Adler (Vice President of NAKS) at hl530@georgetown.edu. Syllabi and information about upcoming ONLINE workshops on Kant, race, and racism (any combination of these three terms) are especially welcome. For now, we will only list resources in English.


Sample syllabi

Each of the following syllabi includes at least one unit on Kant’s racial views. May these give you some ideas and inspirations for how to design your own. The syllabi are listed by the alphabetical order of the instructors' last names. 


Online workshops, colloquiums, conferences, etc. (on or related to the topic of Kant, race, and racism; latest at the top)

April 29, 2022. 9:45am-6pm EDT. The Life and Work of Charles Mills (in-person conference with live streaming) 

Host institution: CUNY Graduate Center (see this link for further information, and this link to register)

Abstract: This conference is to honor the philosopher Charles W. Mills, who taught at the CUNY Graduate Center during the last years of his career, and who passed away on September 20, 2021. Mills’ influence, especially on political philosophy, Black philosophy, and Caribbean philosophy, was monumental, and will undoubtedly have a permanent effect on the interpretation of such figures as Kant and Rawls as well as the way race, racism and colonialism are now seen as necessarily central to any adequate social theory. Mills’ critique of what he called “ideal theory,” his analysis of the epistemologies of ignorance that allow Western societies to function, and his concept of the “racial contract” have expanded our understanding of our current challenges as well as the necessary features of viable solutions.

April 7, 2022. 9-11am EDT (2-4pm BST; 3-5pm CET). Kant and Slavery–Or Why He Never Became a Racial Egalitarian (online) 

Speaker – Huaping Lu-Adler, Georgetown University

Commentator – Lucy Allais, Johns Hopkins University and University of the Witwatersrand

Host institution: The ECPR Standing Group on Kantian Political Thought (flyer)

Abstract: According to an oft-repeated narrative, while Kant maintained racist views through the 1780s, he changed his mind in the 1790s. Pauline Kleingeld constructed this narrative out of passages from Kant s Metaphysics of Morals (1797) and Toward Perpetual Peace” (1795), which allegedly show that he categorically condemned slavery (as well as colonialism) and thereby became more racially egalitarian. This turned out to be baseless. The passages in question, once contextualized, either do not pertain to modern chattel slavery at all or at best suggest that Kant mentioned it as a cautionary tale for labor practices in Europe. A more systematic and historically informed analysis reveals that Kant never considered slavery as a moral problem to be evaluated on its own. Rather, he consistently presented it as primarily a non-moral issue to be assessed in terms of its role in human history. If he ended up expressing some qualms about certain practices of slavery and the slave trade, he did so from the recognition that they could deepen intra-European power struggles and thereby erode the hope for perpetual peace. The wellbeing, dignity, or freedom of the enslaved/traded Negroes” never entered the equation. This was not just an unfortunate oversight on Kant s part. Rather, it reflects the extraordinary complexity of his philosophical system: everything he did or did not say about slavery begins to make perfect sense once we take into account his views on human history and on the relation between morality and political conditions as well as how he racialized Negroes.

March 24 – 25, 2022. The Legacy of Enlightenment Race Theory (hybrid)

Host institution: Penn State, organized by Daniel Purdy

Description:  In this conference we will explore how eighteenth-century German theories about race connected with later discourses on race, colonialism and settler communities, both within and outside Europe. We will ask a series of questions about the history and epistemology of racist discourse. Which concepts and configurations were transferred across the nineteenth century? Which Enlightenment arguments were overlooked, ignored, or rejected by later Völkisch racists? Given the many, often contradictory, positions developed in the Enlightenment, we want to explore how later race thinkers responded to these first formulations.  How do Enlightenment debates prefigure later anti-racist positions? Do fin-de-siecle and Nazi racisms assert a lineage with Enlightenment anthropology? ...... The conference will explore possible continuities and reversals from eighteenth-century debates about race involving Immanuel Kant, Georg Forster, Gottfried Herder, along with numerous Göttingen professors, to broader nineteenth-century writing about German settlers across Asia, Africa, and the Americas. ...... (see conference website for full description)

February 24-25, 2022. Kant and Racial Discrimination (online)

Host institution: Ruhr-Universität Bochum, organized by Reza Mosayebi 

Description: Kant’s discriminatory statements and implications in some of his works, such as on physical geography, anthropology, and especially in his continuous theory of race, might shock those who are rather acquainted with or inspired by his prominent egalitarian universalism in moral and, in part, legal philosophy. Kant’s defense of racial hierarchy, his condoning of race-based chattel slavery (at least until the middle of the 1790s), as well as his account of various forms of racial, ethnic, sex- or gender-based and economic discrimination harshly contrast with his conceptions of equality, autonomy, and dignity of all human beings. In the last years, a growing number of philosophers and historians have focused on these contrasts and their systematic significance for egalitarian moral and political theories. Within the framework of this workshop, we will analyze some of these contrasts as well as how Kantians might deal with them. (online advertisement)


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Lu-Adler, Huaping. 2022a. “Kant’s Use of Travel Reports in Theorizing about Race—A Case Study of How Testimony Features in Natural Philosophy.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 91: 10-19.

Lu-Adler, Huaping. 2022b. “Kant on Lazy Savagery, Racialized.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 60: 253–75.

Lu-Adler, Huaping. 2022c. “Kant and Slavery—Or Why He Never Became a Racial Egalitarian.” Critical Philosophy of Race (forthcoming).

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Mills, Charles. 2017. Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Müller-Wille, Staffan. 2014. “Race and History: Comments from an Epistemological Point of View.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 39: 597-606.

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