square ¬†¬†SUMMER INSTITUTE > 2007


FMS 2007 Summer Institute
July 23 - August 3, 2007

Intersecting Identities
and Social Justice:
Realist Explorations

Seminar Leaders:

Linda Martin Alcoff Linda Martín Alcoff
Philosophy and Women’s Studies
Syracuse University
satya mohanty Satya P. Mohanty
Cornell University

Seminar Description:

Can social identities be studied "objectively"?  What are the philosophical and political differences among realist, essentialist, strategic-essentialist, and postmodernist approaches to identity?  Why is a realist theoretical approach important for or relevant to the quest for social justice?

This interdisciplinary seminar will address such questions and focus centrally on the ways our social identities "intersect," overlapping and often mutually constituting one another. Readings from a range of fields in the humanities and the social sciences, including such thinkers as Richard Boyd, Kimberle Crenshaw, W. E. B. Du Bois, Leslie Feinberg, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Robert Gooding-Williams, Ian Hacking, Daniel Little, Tobin Siebers and Iris Young.

Debates over the politics of identity sometimes ignore deeper questions about what identities are in the first place. In this seminar we will explore these deeper questions through some important recent theoretical work that considers the variety of ways that the "social construction of identity" can occur. We will also look at what is philosophically at stake in the debates between realism, essentialism, social constructionism, and postmodernist approaches to identity.  These discussions will then make possible a more informed debate over the politics of identity, for example, over the best conceptualization of certain kinds of identities, and the ways in which the multiplicity and internal heterogeneity of identities can best be represented.

Intersectionality has been an important challenge for accounts of identity. Some critics argue that the multiplicity of identity for any given individual makes it impossible to talk about having a coherent or politically meaningful identity at all. If what it means to be a woman cannot be defined except in relation to a long list of other specific identity markers (e.g. race, class, able-bodiedness, sexuality, religion, nationality, and so on), then does the identity "woman" have any meaningful relationship to reality or experience at all? Against this, others argue that the complex lived experience of social identities can be represented through intersectional identities, rather than forgoing the use of identity categories altogether. How does the concept of intersectionality work to represent a complex but coherent lived experience, and a complex overdetermined social position? Is the concept of intersectionality the best way to approach this, or are there alternatives? We will look at the formulation of intersectionality as well as some of the recent debates over its viability.  

The seminar will incorporate three workshops taught by:

Richard Boyd Richard Boyd
(Philosophy, Cornell University)
William Darity Jr. William Darity, Jr.
(Economics; Sociology; Institute for African American Research, U of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Duke)
Richard Boyd Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
(Women's Studies, Emory)
William Darity Jr. Tobin Siebers
(Comparative Literature, University of Michigan)

Seminar members will participate in the two-day colloquium organized by the Future of Minority Studies Research Project on July 27-28. 


Doctoral students who have completed at least two years of their Ph.D. work and junior faculty in temporary or tenure-track positions who are working on minority issues. Minority scholars and those who are at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions are especially encouraged to apply. For the twelve scholars selected to participate in the summer institute, subsidy will be available to cover room, board, and (if needed) travel costs. FMS does not charge tuition or fees.

Application deadline: January 30, 2007.

The 2007 FMS Summer Institute will be held at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


The FMS Summer Institute is funded through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation



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