UPDirectory Highlighted Philosopher of November 2016: Linda Martín Alcoff

Linda Martín Alcoff

Professor, City University of New York: Hunter College and the Graduate Center


2016-03-18 18.54.56AOS: 19th & 20th Century Philosophy, African American Philosophy, Contemporary Continental Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Critical Theory, Epistemology, European Philosophy, Existentialism, Feminist Philosophy, Hermeneutics, Indigenous Philosophy, Metaphysics, Phenomenology, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Intersectionality, Philosophy of Gender, Philosophy of Race, Philosophy of the Americas, Post-Structuralism, Social and Political Philosophy

My recent scholarly work has concerned questions of social identities, such as race, ethnicity and gender, in terms of their status as social kinds and their epistemic and political relevance. I argue for a post-positivist realist approach to identities in general, and have looked extensively at the specific issues concerning gender identity, the concept of race, the formation of white identity, mixed race identities, and pan-Latino or Hispanic identity. I argue against eliminativism in regard to each of these, and address the idea that white identity should be abolished, and the differences between race and gender. The theory of social identity I develop includes both hermeneutic and phenomenological components, and argues that identities are organic, historically emergent formations in constant flux, incorrectly understood as created wholly by language or as ‘markers’ with little purchase on lived experience that can be transcended or repudiated. Some of the main philosophers that inform my work on identity are Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, Marx, and Gadamer. My work on identity overlaps with my recent concerns in feminist and social epistemology, including the epistemology of ignorance. I also work on the issue of sexual violence and questions concerning how to understand the experience of sexual violence given the social constitution of experience, the question of sexual norms and the limitations of consent, and also how best to foment effective collective resistance to sexual violence. This work has been an engagement with Foucault, both making use of his ideas as well as arguing against some aspects of his approach. I teach and write in the area of Latin American philosophy, particularly on the work on Enrique Dussel, Walter Mignolo, and José Carlos Mariátegui. This interest overlaps with general work I have been doing in decolonial philosophy, with a focus on what it would mean to decolonize epistemology and philosophy in general. The decolonial turn has helped to bring the category of race and colonialism into the center of our understanding of class formation and the emergence of capitalism as well as modern social philosophy. This requires a more intensive intersectional and contextual approach to ideas of all sorts to assess their genealogy, meanings, and effects. More information about my publications, including forthcoming ones, can be found on my website, as well as a number of my papers.