John Dewey, Race, and Colonialism Workshop
October 17-19, 2024 • Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Call for Papers
We invite paper submissions for a three-day workshop at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, hosted by the Center for Dewey Studies, on the topic of John Dewey, Race, and Colonialism. This workshop welcomes papers that investigate and reevaluate the work and legacy of John Dewey as concerns race, racism, and colonialism, and in doing so, make use of recently published primary source documents by American philosopher and educator John Dewey, as well as recent research on Dewey and in philosophy of race, postcolonial and decolonial theory, critical race studies, the history of American philosophy, and environmental pragmatism and ecofeminism. The goal is neither hagiography nor condemnation of Dewey as an individual, but rather to explore two interrelated goals. First, we seek to investigate Dewey, the influential public intellectual, as a central node in networks of thought and action as concerns opposition to racism and colonialism, as well as networks that entrench white ignorance and imperialism. Second, we seek to take Dewey, the pragmatist philosopher and social thinker, alone and in dialogue with others, as an imperfect but valuable resource and starting point for theory and scholarship on race and antiracism, post- and decolonial theory, and cultural pluralism. To fulfill these goals, the workshop will be organized into three specific themes as the focus of each day of the workshop: Dewey and the African Diaspora, Environmental Pragmatism and Coloniality, and Education for a Global Future.
Our eventual goal is for the papers presented at this workshop to be revised and published as an edited collection.
- Corey Barnes (Northwestern University)
- Tommy J. Curry (University of Edinburgh)
- V. Denise James (University of Dayton)
- Erin McKenna (University of Oregon)
- Amato Nocera (North Carolina State University)
- Bryan G. Norton (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Dewey and the African Diaspora
For the first day, we invite papers that engage scholarly questions of Dewey’s life and thought in relation to race, racism, Blackness and anti-Blackness, as well as theories of social and global (in)justice as they pertain to Africa and the diaspora. This part of the workshop attempts to challenge scholars to go further in understanding Dewey’s pragmatism in light of Africana philosophy and the African diaspora, including not only Africa, the Caribbean, and North America but also the global contexts in which Black people live, think, and work, including Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Dewey’s own engagement with these areas has been criticized as being incomplete or even racist, while his pragmatic development of theories of democracy, education, aesthetics, and nature have been central to understanding the connection between theory and practice for the globally Black world and recovering from some of the most devastating effects of colonialism. We welcome scholars to draw on Dewey’s connections to, engagement with, parallels and conflicts with the thought of W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Ida B. Wells, contemporary thinkers such as Cornel West, Angela Davis, Sylvia Wynter, and other African and Afro-descended thinkers. We also encourage scholars to bring their scholarship of Dewey into conversation with issues that bear on contemporary thinking for the study of global oppression and the needs for global forms of inquiry, flourishing, or ethics.
Environmental Pragmatism and Coloniality
For day two, we invite papers that discuss both the resources and the limitations of an environmental/ecological approach centered in Deweyan intellectual resources to the topics of the workshop. In Dewey’s thought, there are insights and tools that lend themselves to environmental philosophy, such as his emphasis on the continuity between human organisms, other living creatures, the ecosystems we inhabit, and the built environment. The Deweyan conception of inquiry proffers an adaptable experimental approach to problem amelioration that does not rely rigidly upon one’s intuitions or one undisputable moral principle. Contemporary Deweyan approaches to environmental philosophy see knowledge as anti-foundational, fallible, and plural; knowledge is scientific in nature, relying upon efficaciousness, experimentation, replication, and corroboration. Additionally, Deweyan conceptions of democracy and cooperative intelligence have been useful in (i) conceiving ways to build coalitions across difference, (ii) creating methods and procedures by which to critically hash out shared (sustainable) goals, and (iii) instituting educational programs to raise consciousness about pressing environmental issues. There are also concerns. Dewey’s philosophy bears the legacy of European settler colonialism, and contemporary Deweyan approaches sometimes fail to recognize that the lifestyles of the Global North depend upon the exploitation and expropriation of women, Indigenous populations, and land in the Global South. These approaches are often ethnocentric, focusing on the problems articulated by upper-middle class racially white theorists in the Global North. The aim of this session is to bring together environmental philosophers of various stripes—Deweyan pragmatists, feminist pragmatists, ecofeminists, agrarian philosophers, decolonial philosophers, and Indigenous philosophers—to explore these issues.
Education for a Global Future
We seek papers for day three that examine Dewey’s writings on pluralism and the broader intercultural education movement he helped to inspire. Dewey’s international fame—both today and in his lifetime—is in large part due to his work on the philosophy of education. When he made the cover of Time magazine in 1928, it was because of a visit to Russia in which he toured schools and spoke with educators. He had visited both Turkey and Mexico a few years before and lived for two full years in China from 1919 to 1921, arriving just before the student protests and strikes of the May Fourth Movement. Although scholars have documented the global reach of Dewey’s ideas, due in large part to influential students such as Hu Shih (in China) and B.R. Ambedkar (in India), a related topic has received less attention: What role do diverse global and cultural perspectives play in the classroom, according to Dewey’s educational philosophy? General Education programs at many American universities treat “intercultural competency” as something they expect all students to develop. Philosophers working in a broadly pragmatist tradition, such as Alain Locke and William Heard Kilpatrick, were directly involved with the “intercultural education” movement of the 1930s and ’40s. To what extent was Dewey himself committed to intercultural education? Did the later discussions of Locke, Kilpatrick, and others represent a break with Dewey’s approach? To what extent did Dewey adopt the goal of Americanization of immigrants, as did some progressive education theorists of his time? Does pragmatist philosophy offer tools for global and intercultural approaches to education today? The aim of this session is to bring together historians of philosophy, philosophers and historians of education, and education researchers to explore these issues.
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