PHIL 482; SOAN 450: Discourse and Diversity

Earlham College, Spring Semester 2001-2002
Wednesday 2:20-3:50; Carpenter 320
Instructor: JoAnn Martin, Ferit Güven
Office: JoAnn: Tyler 207; Ferit: Carpenter 328
Office Hours: JoAnn: by appointment; Ferit: Monday, Friday, 1:00-2:00 and by appointment
Office Phone: JoAnn: 983-1226; Ferit: 983-1399 (voice mail)
web page:

Course Description: The aim of this course is to approach to the question of diversity (multiculturalism) from an anthropological and philosophical perspective.

Since the late 1980s aspirations for diversity have been voiced from a variety of perspectives.  Colleges and universities "measure" diversity, corporations sensitize workers to diversity, parents seek out diverse playmates for their children and so on.  At the same time, in the United States according to the latest census data, neighborhoods are becoming more segregated according to race and income and fewer citizens participate in social networks marked by racial, ethnic, or sexual diversity.   Social planners advocate diversity but usually their attention is focused on making minority neighborhoods more diverse i.e. redevelopment while ignoring the lack of diversity in suburbs.  Clearly questions need to be raised about these calls for diversity.  What promise lurks in the discourse of diversity and why is that promise so seductive to so many sectors of society?  What political and strategic possibilities are fostered by a discourse of diversity?  Do all calls for and against diversity issue from the same set of aspirations?

Initially we will sketch the conceptual problems associated with the issue of diversity.  On the one hand, we will raise questions concerning the paradoxical nature of diversity as a value.  Is there a problem with the idea of diversity if it happens to be the desire of a particular group rather than the shared aspiration of all?  If diversity is the aspiration of only a certain group, can this group claim any priority, superiority to other groups?  If diversity is already assumed to be the value of a group, how does this group relate to others (as well as to its members) if they do not share the same aspiration?  Does diversity aspiration necessarily undermine the very value it sets out to achieve?  On the other hand, we will raise questions concerning the very meaning of diversity.  Does diversity simply mean different characteristics on the basis of categories (such as race, gender, sexuality, nationality etc)?  Is there a difference between diversity of race, gender etc, and intellectual diversity?  Can diversity be achieved by representing the groups that are traditionally underrepresented or not represented at all?  Is the question of diversity one of representation in the broadest sense of the term?

Is it possible for the aspiration of diversity to escape or overcome the paradoxes raised in these questions?  In other words, can diversity as a social value go beyond representation and become a commitment that tries to avoid the presupposition of an overarching unity, or community?  In short, is it possible to embrace diversity without becoming caught up in the demands of an overarching unity?  These questions will lead our discussion to issues concerning various forms of relativism (cultural, moral, epistemological), of democracy and of intellectual imperialism. The course will consist of fairly close readings of certain texts as well as discussions concerning the diversity issues in public discourse.

Course Requirement and Evaluation: There will be no paper assignments during the semester.  Students are required to keep a journal throughout the semester and submit them on the last day of class. Your grade will be a combination of class participation and journals.  The success of this coursedepends on your contribution.  You need to come to class prepared (having read the assigned readings, and ready to answer questions) and ready to participate in the discussions.

There may be some modifications to this calender. It is your responsibility to be aware of these changes. These changes may be announced in class. If you miss a class you should make sure that you are informed about the assignments for the next session.

January 16: Introduction

I. Managing Diversity:
January 23: Jürgen Habermas, "An Alternative Way out of the Philosophy of the Subject: Communicative versus Subject-Centered Reason." in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Chapter XI, pp. 294-326.
January 30: Iris Marion Young, "Social Difference as a Political Resource," in Inclusion and Democracy, Chapter 3, pp-81-120.

II. The Problem of Speaking:
February 6: Linda Alcoff, "The Problem of Speaking for Others," Cultural Critique, Winter 91-92, pp.5-32.
February 13: Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol I. An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1978.
February 20: Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol I. An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1978.
February 27: Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences." in Writing and Difference. Translated by A. Bass. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978, pp.278-293.
March 6: Gayatri Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?"in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Cary Nelson and Larry Grossberg, eds. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988, pp. 271-313.
March 13: Homi Bhabha, "The Other Question: Stereotype, discrimination and the discourse of colonialism." in The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994, pp. 66-84

March 20: Spring Break

March 27: Laclau, Ernesto:  "Universalism, Particularism and the Question of Identity" in The Identity in Question. Ed. John Rajchman. New York: Routledge. 1995, 93-108.

April 3: TBA
April 10: TBA
April 17: TBA
April 24: TBA
May 1: TBA