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Keynes thought he was ugly. What does that mean for political theory?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/02/2021 - 2:52pm in


race, Racism

Throughout his life, John Maynard Keynes was plagued by the thought that he was ugly. In his diary, Keynes’s father notes that his six-year-old son “thinks no one ever was quite so ugly.” When he was 23, Keynes complained to Lytton Strachey that “I have always suffered and I suppose always will from a most unalterable obsession that I am so physically repulsive….The idea is so fixed and constant that I don’t think anything—certainly no argument—could ever shake it.”

Keynes didn’t lack for sexual partners. He kept a detailed list of his sexual experiences, and it’s long. Nor was he an unhappy person, prone to self-doubt. He was just convinced that he was ugly.

Interestingly, his lack of confidence in his physical attractiveness made no dent in his confidence more generally. In virtually every sphere of his life—academic, social, financial, political—Keynes had a sense of command.

It makes me wonder about the relationship between physical attractiveness and political authority. According to Annelien de Dijn’s new book Freedom: An Unruly History, the Greeks made a muchness out of the fact that the aristocratic ruling class was “kaloi” or beautiful and the people who were ruled were “kakoi” or ugly (kakoi also means bad). The aristocracy were the beautiful people. (There’s a connection between the fact that Socrates was low-born, the son of a mason, and constantly referred to as an appallingly ugly man.)

That idea survives today mostly in celebrity culture, less so in political culture. I mean, physical attractiveness can be a source of political charisma (see JFK or Obama; also see David Bell’s excellent book Men on Horseback), but it can also be a political liability. There’s a sense that someone who’s attractive may be a lightweight, and if the politician in question is a woman, the question of physical attractiveness gets caught up with all kinds of sexism and misogyny (see AOC).

It’s interesting to me that, outside of feminist political thought and maybe Nietzsche, modern political theory has so little to say on this question. It can’t be that that is due to any bias toward systemic or structural approaches to politics in modern thought. Aristotle, after all, was very much interested in the systems and structures of politics but was also interested in the relationship between a man’s physical bearing and his moral and political authority.

Actually, now that I think about it, the main place in modern political thought where you see issues of physical attractiveness come up is in racist thought, from the Enlightenment through fascism. These aren’t exactly structural theories in the way we ordinarily think of structural theory, but they do posit an underlying structure to physical beauty, and ascribe a political import to that structure.

Not sure what to make of it all.

Stop Redlining UCR!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/02/2021 - 9:38am in

An Open Letter to University of California President Michael V. Drake and the University of California Board of Regents

Dear President Drake and Members of the UC Board of Regents, 

We write to you today with our backs against the wall. As department chairs and program directors in the most racially diverse college at one of the two most racially diverse campuses in the University of California system, we in UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) and our staff and faculty colleagues across UCR have been struggling for years to make ends meet. Already chronically underfunded by the state, UCR was devastated by the budget decisions made by then-President Yudof and the Regents at the height of the Great Recession. We have worked in staggeringly understaffed and underfunded conditions since then. Yet on top of our chronic underfunding by the state, we now face an additional – and permanent – 11 percent budget cut. This is not just unsustainable financially, it is unsupportable on grounds of fairness, equity, and most importantly, of racial justice – pillars of the University of California’s mission. 

UCR’s budget is made up almost entirely of salaries and benefits – in CHASS, the proportion is 98 percent. Thus any permanent budget cut inevitably is a cut in people. We hemorrhaged staff and faculty during the Great Recession, and although we have been able to hire additional faculty in subsequent years, our student population has grown rapidly enough to largely outpace those gains, leaving us severely overcrowded and still struggling to rebuild. Our world-class research university already operates on a shoestring; further cuts would be devastating. For many of us, this pattern of systemic neglect and chronic underfunding of a university serving a student body composed of at least 85 percent students of color is troublingly reminiscent of redlining, the practices consolidated after the Second World War that devastated thriving neighborhoods made up predominantly of people of color. We are writing to implore you to stop the redlining of UCR. 

With roots stretching back to the turn of the twentieth century, UCR has a distinguished history in the UC system. A former agricultural experiment station, UCR was meant to serve as a flagship undergraduate institution in the UC system, serving the Inland region of Southern California. UCR is second only to UC Merced in the percentage of students of color, has one of the highest percentages of Pell grant recipients in the nation, and serves a student body that is well over 50 percent first-generation college students. Yet our increasingly brown and working-class campus has frequently been overlooked or sidelined within the UC system. 

This is not simply a symbolic move; even after a post-recession reconfiguration of the UC system’s distribution of state funds to its campuses, UCR currently receives approximately $8,500 per student, whereas UCLA receives closer to $11,500 and the Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, and San Diego campuses receive $10,000. Yet our student-to-faculty ratio is higher than the UC system average, and our student-to-staff ratio is fully 38% higher. We applaud the recent “re-benching” decision that will bring the funding of UCR and other under-funded campuses to within 95 percent of the systemwide per-student average by 2024. But as with redlined neighborhoods, the damage to UCR’s resources from decades of neglect cannot be reversed simply by bringing our support from the system up to an amount that is only slightly below average rather than grossly below average, nor will the phased-in implementation of this plan help us avoid devastation in the present moment. We were facing an 11 percent budget cut before the announcement of the re-benching; we are facing the same budget cut after its announcement, because rebenching is not enough. 

It takes more funding, not less, to create an educational environment in which first-generation college students and students of color can thrive. UCR has been lauded for closing the gap in graduation rates between white students and students of color, and for the past two years US News and World Report has ranked us the top US university for social mobility. We have an internationally renowned faculty that includes two Nobel Laureates, close to fifty Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellows, and nineteen Guggenheim Fellows. But in addition to being highly accomplished researchers, scholars, and artists, our faculty are something more: many of us came to and have remained at UCR because of our deep commitment to serving first-generation and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students. UCR educates Californians – 96 percent of our students are California residents – and in return, because we do not expand our budget with out-of-state tuition, we suffer. Were all UC campuses facing the same dire circumstances, we would weather the storm shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Instead, we are being left out in the cold yet again: when many colleges at other UC campuses are losing only two to three percent of their budgets, we are facing the stark decisions demanded by an 11 percent permanent budget cut. This abandonment by the President’s office and the Board of Regents is a demoralizing example of structural racism. 

For nearly a year, we have all witnessed the disproportionate impact of both COVID-19 and the pandemic-induced recession on BIPOC communities, some of them the same communities devastated by redlining and nearly destroyed by the Great Recession. Communities subjected to decades and, in many cases, centuries of systemic racism have few of the resources that have helped many white communities to remain safe and financially solvent during this crisis. Systematically deprived of resources through decades of neglect, our campus – with one of the brownest and poorest student bodies in the entire UC system – is facing economic devastation. How will staff who already do the work of two people take on more, if we have to cut our staffing even further? How will departments that are already stretched to breaking stretch further? Should we increase our teaching load even more, and destroy the stellar educational system we have built in favor of an impersonal factory model? Should we turn away from our research and creative production and deprive our students of the cutting-edge insights and opportunities afforded by a world-class faculty? With a globally engaged student body, should we meekly accept the elimination of UCR from the UCDC program and others like it? The UC system clearly believes that students at other UC campuses deserve these opportunities; are our students any less deserving? 

The correlation is glaring between the fact that we serve one of the highest numbers of BIPOC students in the system, the historic lack of systemwide investment in our campus, and the offer of a solution that brings the UC system’s support of us to less far below average over the course of the next several years. In a time of long-overdue attention to the destruction wreaked by systemic racism in the US, it should finally be clear that UCR’s students deserve a fully equal investment from the UC system, including support to correct for years of economic marginalization. It’s time to stop redlining UCR. 


Juliann Emmons Allison, Director, Global Studies

Sheila Bergman, Executive Director, UCR ARTS

Heidi Brayman, Director, Liberal Studies

Rogerio Budasz, Chair, Department of Music

Edward T. Chang, Director, Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies Christopher K. Chase-Dunn, Director, Institute for Research on World-Systems Walter A. Clark, Director, Center for Iberian and Latin American Music Derick A. Fay, Acting Chair, Department of Anthropology

Tod Goldberg, Program Director, Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts

Weihsin Gui, Director, Southeast Asian Studies Program

Sherine Hafez, Chair, Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Steven M. Helfand, Chair, Department of Economics

Rickerby Hinds, Chair, Department of Theater, Film, and Digital Production Tamara C. Ho, Director, California Center for Native Nations

Matthew King, Director, Asian Studies Program

Jacques Lezra, Chair, Department of Hispanic Studies

David Lloyd, Chair, Department of English

Tom Lutz, Chair, Department of Creative Writing

John N. Medearis, Chair, Department of Political Science

Yunhee Min, Chair, Department of Art

Jennifer R. Nájera, Chair, Department of Ethnic Studies

Daniel Ozer, Chair, Department of Psychology

Andrews Reath, Chair, Department of Philosophy

Ellen Reese, Co-Chair, Department of Sociology and Chair of Labor Studies Judith Rodenbeck, Chair, Department of Media and Cultural Studies

Jeff Sacks, Chair, Department of Comparative Literature and Languages Michele Salzman, Chair, Department of History

Joel Mejia Smith, Chair, Department of Dance

Glenn Stanley, Co-chair, Department of Sociology

Jason Weems, Chair, Department of the History of Art

Melissa M. Wilcox, Chair, Department of Religious Studies 

Cartoon: Race dismissed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 11:50pm in

If you are able, please consider joining the Sorensen Subscription Service!

Follow me on Twitter at @JenSorensen

American Slavery and Russian Serfdom in the Post-Emancipation Imagination

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 2:07am in

Photo Credit: Book Cover provided by UNC Press ————— Amanda Bellows is a Lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies...

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How Black Women Fight for Our Democracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 8:55am in

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons. A legal and cultural historian, Martha Jones has dedicated herself to telling the story of how...

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The Meaning of January 6 (message from the American Studies Association President)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 4:50am in

Letter from UC Riverside professor Dylan Rodriguez to the ASA community:

Dear Colleagues, Friends, and Loved Ones,


There has been an expected wave of statements from higher education administrators, academic departments, research centers, and prominent individuals affiliated with our fields of work regarding the armed deadly takeover of the United States Capitol by self-declared “patriots” on January 6, 2021.  I must be honest that i dread adding to this noise, which is why i have waited a few days to send this note.  I do not write on behalf of the ASA or its leadership body, but rather out of a humble sense of accountability to the communities of radical and abolitionist movement that nourish me.


Last week’s spectacular white nationalist coup attempt may have been exceptional in form, but (for many of us) was entirely familiar—utterly “American”—in content.  It is misleading, historically inaccurate, and politically dangerous to frame this event—and the condition that produced it—as an isolated or extremist exception to the foundational and sustained violence that constitutes the United States.  As the surging neo-Confederates in the Capitol building made clear, there is a long tradition of (fully armed) populist, extra-state, and (ostensibly) extra-legal reactionary movement that holds a lasting claim of entitlement on the nation and its edifices of official power. 


Further, the steady trickle of information from January 6 indicates that police power—including the prominent presence of (former) police and “Blue Lives Matter” in the coup itself—animated and populated this white nationalist siege.  Contrary to prevailing accounts, this event was not defined by a failure of police power, but rather was a militant expression of it. 


People in the extended ASA community have organized their lifework around practices of freedom, knowledge, and teaching that unapologetically confront this physical and figurative mob in, before, and beyond 2021.  I write as your colleague, comrade, and “ASA President” to urge you to invigorate and expand your scholarly, activist, and creative labors in this time of turmoil.  The ASA is but one modest apparatus at your disposal.


Finally, i encourage a collective embrace of an ethic and practice that is common to some, though underdiscussed by far too many:  collective, communal self-defense.  This robust ethic and practice is not only central to abolitionist, liberationist, Black (feminist, queer, trans) radical, and Indigenous self-determination traditions of mutual aid and community building, but is also a necessary aspect of “campus life” for many of us in the ASA.  The need to develop well-deliberated, mutually accountable forms of self-defense cannot be abstracted, caricatured, or trivialized in this moment of asymmetrical vulnerability to illness and terror.  Get your back, and get each other’s backs, in whatever way you can. 





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The Race and Gender of U.S. Philosophy PhDs: Trends Since 1973 (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 9:00pm in

The following is a guest post* by Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside) on trends in the race and gender of people earning Ph.D.s in philosophy in the United States over the past 47 years.

A version of this post first appeared at his blog, The Splintered Mind.

[detail of mixed media artwork by Ervin A. Johnson]

The Race and Gender of U.S. Philosophy PhDs: Trends Since 1973
by Eric Schwitzgebel

On December 1, the National Science Foundation released its data on demographic characteristics of U.S. PhD recipients for the academic year ending in 2019, based on the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED), which normally draws response rates over 90%. NSF has a category for doctorates in Philosophy (which is normally merged with a small group of doctorates specifically in Ethics). The primary available demographic categories are (as usual) gender and race/ethnicity.

For philosophy, I have NSF SED data back to 1973, based on a custom request from 2016. In a 2017 paper, Carolyn Dicey Jennings and I analyze those data through 2014. Today I’m doing a five-year update.


Carolyn’s and my main finding was that although women rose from about 17% of U.S. Philosophy PhDs in the 1970s, to 22% in the 1980s, to 27% in the 1990s, the ratios remained flat thereafter, averaging about 27-28% through the early 2000s to 2014.

How about the past five years? Has there been any increase? There is some reason to hope so: Women constituted about 30% of undergraduate philosophy degree recipients in the U.S. from the 1980s to the mid-2010s, but recently there has been a substantial uptick. Could the same be true at the PhD level?

NSF SED asks “Are you male or female?” with response options “male” and “female”. There is no separately marked box for nonbinary, other, or decline to state. Respondents can decline to tick either box, but the structure of the survey doesn’t invite that and those who decline to state are always a very small percentage of respondents (in Philosophy, only one among 2424 respondents in the past 5 years). Thus, nonbinary respondents might be underrepresented.

Here are the most recent five years’ gender results:

  • 2015: 494 total, 367 male, 127 female, 25.6% female
  • 2016: 493, 322, 171, 34.7%
  • 2017: 449, 326, 122, 27.2%
  • 2018: 514, 369, 145, 28.2%
  • 2019: 474, 312, 162, 34.2%

Here it is as a chart, going back to 1973:

Note the curvy trendline: In 2014, Carolyn and I found that a quadratic trendline fit the data statistically much better than a linear trendline—reflecting the visually evident rise from the 1970s to 1990s and then the flattening from the 1990s to the mid 2010s. For the current analysis, I added one degree of freedom so that the trendline could reflect any apparent increase or decrease since the mid-2010s. As you can see, there is now a gentle trend upward. In other words, the percentage of Philosophy PhDs in the U.S. who are women appears to be back on the rise after a long stable period. However, I think we need a few more years’ data before being confident that this reflects a genuine, long-term trend rather than being statistical noise or a temporary blip.


Race and ethnicity are more complicated, in part because the questions and aggregation methods have varied over the decades. As of 2019, race/ethnicity is divided into two questions:

Are you Hispanic or Latino?
Mark (X) one
( ) No, I am not Hispanic or Latino
( ) Yes, I am Mexican or Chicano
( ) Yes, I am Puerto Rican
( ) Yes, I am Cuban
( ) Yes, I am Other Hispanic or Latino – Specify

What is your racial background?
Mark (X) one or more
( ) American Indian or Alaska Native
Specify tribal affiliation(s):
( ) Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
( ) Asian
( ) Black or African American
( ) White

Summary race/ethnicity data provided by the NSF generally exclude respondents who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents (thus excluding 35% of respondents 2015-2019). Hispanic/Latino is aggregated into one category regardless of race, and numbers for the other races don’t include respondents identifying as Hispanic/Latino. Also Pacific Islander is aggregated with Asian. This leaves six main analytic categories: Hispanic (any race), Native American (excluding Hispanic), Asian (excluding Hispanic and including Pacific Islander), Black (excluding Hispanic), White (excluding Hispanic), or more than one race (excluding Hispanic). A further complication is that multi-racial data was not consistently reported for some of the dataset and the data on Asians for all PhDs appears to be goofed up in the mid-1990s, showing an implausibly large spike that suggests some methodological or reporting change that I haven’t yet figured out.

With all that in mind, here are graphs of race data in Philosophy back to 1973 for the six main analytic groups, with comparison lines for all PhDs to the extent I was able to find appropriate comparison data. (All graphs and numbers exclude participants for whom ethnic or racial data were unavailable, generally under 5% per year.)

Philosophy PhD recipients are disproportiately White, but there’s a long term roughly linear decrease in percentage White, both among PhDs as a whole and among Philosophy PhDs.

In 2019, among U.S. citizens or permanent residents who received PhDs in Philosophy, non-Hispanic Whites constituted 81% (285/352) of those for whom racial and ethnic data were available, compared to 71% of PhDs overall. (The sudden decrease in the mid-1990s is probably an artifact related to the complication about Asian respondents.)

As is evident from the next two figures, the decline in percentage White is largely complemented by increases in percentage Hispanic and Asian.

In 2019, among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, Hispanic students received 6.5% of Philosophy PhDs and 8.3% of PhDs overall (up from 3.7% and 4.5% respectively in the year 2000) while Asian students received 5.4% of Philosophy PhDs and 10.0% of PhDs overall (up from 3.1% and 7.8% in 2000).

Very few Philosophy PhDs were awarded to American Indians and Alaskan Natives. In many years the number is zero. Native Americans are generally underrepresented among PhD recipients—probably even more so in philosophy than overall (despite an interesting spike in 1999), and with no sign that the situation is changing. If anything, the trendline appears to be down. Over the past five years, Native Americans have received about 0.3%-0.4% of PhDs overall and 0.2% of philosophy PhDs (3/1843, including zero in the past three years).

As is evident from the chart below, multiracial students are relatively uncommon but rising fast—now about 3% of PhD recipients both in Philosophy and overall.

I save Black/African American for last. The situation is difficult to interpret. Like Native American students, Black students have long been underrepresented in Philosophy both at the Bachelor’s and the PhD level with little increase in representation over the decades. However, if we’re willing to squint at the data, and possibly overinterpret them, this looks like the percent of Philosophy PhD recipients who are Black might have recently started to increase. Thus, I’ve drawn not only a linear trendline through this graph but a third-degree trendline, similar to the one used for women, reflecting the possibility of a recent increase after a relatively flat period through the mid-2000s.

Whether that apparent increase is real I think we won’t know for several more years. But if so, that also fits with a trend that Morgan Thompson, Eric Winsberg, and I noticed for Black students to be increasingly likely to express an intention to major in philosophy and maybe also to complete the major. (Obviously, if so, it would not be those same students already completing their PhDs but rather something more general about the wider culture or the culture specifically in philosophy.)

The post The Race and Gender of U.S. Philosophy PhDs: Trends Since 1973 (guest post) appeared first on Daily Nous.

The View From Georgia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/12/2020 - 5:36am in

Will Georgia's communities of color come out in higher numbers for the senate run-off than they did for the main event? Continue reading

The post The View From Georgia appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

The AIDS Capital of the World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 11:00pm in

Photo Credit: Book cover provided by UNC Press / Author headshot by Douglas C. Lance In 1985 researchers and reporters...

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UK hostile environment immigration policy condemned

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/11/2020 - 9:59pm in

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has just published a report into the Windrush scandal. The report shows that policy makers ignored warnings about the likely impacts of the “hostile environment” policy on groups such as the Windrush generation. As a result of the policy, many people who had difficulty in proving their right to reside in the UK, often because the Home Office imposed a ludicrous evidential burden on them, lost their jobs, their homes, were denied access to vital health care, were detained in prison-like immigration detention centres or were deported and excluded from a country they had lived in all their lives.

The report makes grim reading, but what emerges clearly from it is that ministers and their civil servants, seeking to display a “get tough” message on immigration, were not disposed to listen to the people telling them about how things would turn out. They were already set on the policy and were going to stick to it whatever. Critics were to be ignored and rebutted and the UK government were not interested in finding evidence that would get in the way. Legal duties to promote equality and non-discrimination were not seen as goals that ought to inform policy but, at best, as obstacles to circumvented.

After the Windrush scandal broke in 2018, thanks to the work of activists and journalists, including Amelia Gentleman who wrote an excellent book about this, the Home Office pledged to put things right. But the compensation scheme for victims that the Home Office was forced to put in place has paid out a pittance to a very few of the victims, and a senior civil servant has resigned suggesting that racism is an important part of the explanation. Almost weekly new absurdities come to light, such as the case of a man who the Home Office illegally excluded from the country who has now applied for British citizenship, which the Home Office is denying him on the basis that he spent too long out of the country.

The British press, with the exception of the Guardian, has given little prominence to this story. Another report from the EHCR into anti-semitism in the Labour Party was all over the front pages, but one into the impact of immigration policy on the lives of thousands of people is, well, not. Too late to affect this report but ominously for the future, the UK government has now appointed David Goodhart, a prominent advocate of the hostile environment (who now says he was always against “abuses”), as one of the commissioners for the EHRC. As US Republicans have learnt from the experience of the Supreme Court, the answer to the problem of referees giving decisions against you is to appoint new, more pliant, referees.