SAAP Annual Meeting 2015

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Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Saturday, 7 March 2015
09:00 - 10:40

Ottawa Room

Panel Session: Society for Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Unsustainable Empire:

Rocio Alvarez
Texas A&M University
Department of Philosophy

“Non-Violent Civil Disobedience: Perpetuation of Oppressive Ideology and Institutions?”

On November 8, 2014, Mexican protestors demanding transparency over the disappearance and probable slaughter of 43 students, burned down the door of the Presidential Palace out of outrage at what they believed to be the Mexican government’s complicity in cartel violence. The following day, President Enrique Peña Nieto stated, “It is unacceptable that someone should try to use this tragedy to justify violence. You can’t demand justice while acting with violence”. When protests and outrage at social and political injustice turns violent, words like President Nieto’s are not only commonplace, but viewed as rational and obvious. This response hinges on the sacrosanct (and liberal) belief that, within democratic/liberal societies, non-violent responses to injustice are the only one’s worthy of serious attention, and that when people resort to violence their causes can be dismissed.
Liberalism’s grip on defining “acceptable” forms of civil disobedience has informed this response, and so this paper seeks to address and challenge that belief by arguing that non-violent civil disobedience is not only an ideology whose justifications need to be questioned, but also to demonstrate that in sustaining this particular caveat of morally “acceptable” civil disobedience, we also sustain oppressive ideology and institutions. Towards this end, the paper will first identify leading theories on acceptable civil disobedience, particularly those of John Rawls. I will then look at authors like Frantz Fanon, and others, for a critique of non-violence. Finally, I would like to assert that when oppressed people are ingrained with the notion of supporting non-violent means of civil disobedience, they are in effect told to wait, to hold out, and endure oppression. To make this point I will compare the ideology of non-violence with the ideology of colorblindness found in the work of Ian Haney López. Like colorblindness, non-violence has become an ideology that perpetuates oppression and inequality, and thus warrants our critique.

Christian Matheis
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Departments of Philosophy and Political Science

“Sacred mission or greatest efficiency? Notions of sustainability and emancipation in the works of Maria Eugenia Echenique and Mary Parker Follett”

Abstract: At the turn of the 20th century, Argentinian feminist Maria Eugenia Echenique, and U.S. American philosopher Mary Parker Follett contributed to public discourses on emancipation, democracy, and social relations, each revealing her respective conceptions of sustainability and unsustainability. For Echenique, women educated in science and domestic labors provide their societies with a form of sustainability as a “sacred mission” which runs counter to ignorance and individualism that undercut emancipatory efforts. For Follett, “progressive integration” stems from sustainable social relations that provide for “greatest efficiency” and can, therefore, counter unsustainable distributions of power and authority. I trace the collection of concepts that inform Echenique and Follett, showing important similarities and differences, and propose that their concerns remain unresolved at present in worldwide efforts for liberation from nation-state empires. In conclusion, I suggest how activists and scholars may need to address both the notion of the sacred mission and the desire for greatest efficiency when organizing post-state liberation among populations with different moral traditions and political interests.
Keywords: Echenique, Follett, sustainability, unsustainability, emancipation, integration, liberation, empire.

Jose-Antonio Orosco
Oregon State University
School of History, Philosophy, and Religion

“Mirrors of Empire: William James and Jose Enrique Rodo on Imperial America”

In this paper, I argue that Latin American thought can be useful for understanding what historian William Appleman Williams terms “empire as a way of life.” For Williams, this concept means the way in which social norms and traditions in the United States are structured to support imperialist political policies. I will focus on James’s critique of US foreign policy during the Spanish American War of 1898 and the occupation of the Phillipines starting in 1899 (and eventually continuing until 1946). I maintain that even an ardent anti-imperialist such as James fails to grasp the nature and extent of “empire as a way of life.” I explain the basis of James’ position against US imperialism and then contrast his view with that of his Uruguayan contemporary, Jose Enrique Rodo, who finds evidence of aspirations for global political and economic domination early on in the culture of the United States. This examination by Rodo suggests that empire as a way of life is a much more difficult condition to diagnose, and to cure, than James imagined and demonstrates the usefulness of Latin American philosophy in providing an avenue for US American self-understanding and political reform away from unsustainable empire.

Andrew Soto
Texas A&M University
Department of Philosophy

“Pick My Crops, Wetback! The Impact of Josiah Royce’s Philosophy on Mexican Immigrants in the U.S.”
The United States has historically held an imperial grip in Latin America. In 1767, seeking economic and political advancement, Benjamin Franklin and U.S. policy makers sought U.S expansion into Mexico. Based on supposed racial and cultural superiority, Manifest Destiny touted the divine right of white Americans to territorial expansion. In 1847, the New York Herald stated: “universal Yankee nation can regenerate and disenthrall the people of Mexico in a few years; and we believe it is part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country.” Throughout the 19th and 20th century, the U.S. depicted Latin America as inferior and racialized “others,” who were prone to uncivilized behavior and undeserving of self-government.” Years following, in need of filling labor demands for the California Gold Rush, skilled Mexican immigrants labored the mines and farms of white Americans. Receiving very little compensation for their work, they became the backbone of the U.S. economy. Despite their dedication and physical and mental prowess to sustain the U.S. economy, U.S. white Americans exploited and marginalized Mexican immigrant bodies. U.S. policies such as the: Gentleman’s Agreement, 1917 Immigration Act, The Bracero Program, Operation Wetback and NAFTA, have Mexican immigrants today constrained to the powers of the United States. Despite this history, American philosophical projects remain extricated in thought and policy from the conceptual and geographic imposition of the U.S. upon Latin America.
Revered American philosopher, Josiah Royce, in his 1906 article “Race Questions and Prejudice,” viewed Blacks as a backward race with innate mental deficiencies. He proposed “keeping the negro in his proper place, as a social inferior-who, then, as an inferior, should, of course, be treated humanely, but who must first be clearly and unmistakably taught where he belongs.” In this paper, I will show how the assimilationism proposed by Josiah Royce still operates within the imperialist policies of the United States to Mexico, and how the disciplinary practices that demand “community,” “equality,” and “discursive exchange,” facilitate the erasure of Mexican-American identity and anti-colonial perspectives. Utilizing the works of Ernesto Che Guevara, Subcomandante Marcos, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales and the historical interventions of John Edward Bruce, I will introduce an ethnic framework resisting assimilation and the ongoing disciplinary tendencies towards Americana thought. Focusing on the Mexican immigrant, I will argue that Americana assumes coalescence rather than opposition – assuming compatibility despite history and geopolitical location overlooks and silences the realities of Mexican ostracization and oppression.


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