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Faculty Activity

Many of our faculty engage in teaching, research, and service in areas supportive of institutional diversity and inclusiveness. Below are some examples.

Robert Bernasconi is a continental philosopher who works primarily in the tradition of phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existential philosophy broadly conceived. He employs those tools together with a genealogical orientation indebted to Foucault, in his work in critical philosophy of race. For a brief account of what critical philosophy of race looks like when done in this way, see his “Critical Philosophy of Race” in Routledge Companion to Phenomenology, eds. Sebastian Luft and Søren Overgaard, New York: Routledge, 2011, pp. 551-562. One of his major research interests in critical philosophy of race is a critical examination of the formation of the philosophical canon, beginning with his essay “Philosophy’s Paradoxical Parochialism: The Reinvention of Philosophy as Greek,” Cultural Readings of Imperialism. Edward Said and the Gravity of History, eds. Keith Ansell-Pearson, Benita Parry and Judith Squires, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1997, pp. 212-226. This interest gave rise to a series of essays in which he questioned the complicity of such canonical philosophers as Locke, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Arendt with racism. He is currently engaged in a long term extension of this project that examines the largely appalling record of canonical seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers on the issue of slavery and it has led him to propose that Ottobah Cugoano and his book Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery should be given a prominent place in the study of the history of political philosophy. Among the other Black philosophers on whom he has written and whom he believes belong to a reconstructed canon are Douglass, Firmin, Du Bois, Alain Locke, and Fanon. Another of his interests is the history of the scientific concept of race. This is reflected in an essay on Kant entitled “Who Invented the Concept of Race?” in Race, ed. R. Bernasconi, Oxford, Blackwell, 2001, pp. 11-36. He has written extensively on the place of race in Kant’s philosophy. He has also edited 27 volumes of primary source material on the history of the concept of race. His current work is directed toward a genealogy of the concept of racism. Early sketches of some aspects of his work in this area can be found in “The Policing of Race Mixing: The Place of Biopower within the History of Racisms,” Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 7, 2010, pp. 205-216, and “Where is Xenophobia in the Fight against Racism?” Critical Philosophy of Race, vol. 2, no. 1, 2014, pp. 5-19. He is a founding and current editor of the journal Critical Philosophy of Race (2012– ) and co-edits with T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting a SUNY Press book series, “Philosophy and Race.”


John Christman regularly teaches courses in contemporary political philosophy at all levels, virtually all of which contain significant discussions of identity, culture, race, and gender issues. His book The Politics of Persons: Individual Autonomy for Socio-historical Selves contains a chapter on claims of identity. His survey book, Social and Political Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction, contains sustained discussions of issues relating to identity and diversity, including individual chapters on feminism and critical philosophy of race. He currently co-coordinates the Penn State Social Thought Program, a unit that organizes events and conferences that relate to contemporary social issues, many of which connect to issues of race and identity.


Emily Grosholz co-edited W. E. B. Du Bois on Race and Culture: Philosophy, Politics, Poetics with James Stewart and Bernard Bell (Routledge, 1997), which includes her essay “Nature and Culture in Du Bois's Quest of the Silver Fleece.” She also edited The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir (Oxford University Press, 2004 / 2006), a collection of essays inspired by the 50th anniversary of The Second Sex. Other essays on Beauvoir appeared in the Journal of Speculative Philosophy and PMLA; another is forthcoming in The Blackwell Companion to Simone de Beauvoir (Wiley-Blackwell) in 2017.

Her teaching has often focused on related issues. With James Stewart, she was awarded grants from the Fund for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (PSU) and the Office for Educational Equity (PSU) for a proposal entitled “The Cost of Philosophy: Martin Luther King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer” in 1999. They and the students created a multi-media record of the intersection of two courses (one on ethics, and the other on African American philosophy) and a conference on Bonhoeffer’s influence in America and South Africa. She presented this course at the 8th Annual Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium (April 1, 2000) at Penn State. Christine Clark-Evans joined in to help with its development and they received further funds from FELT to add new material. She developed a three-credit service learning course, “Children and Social Justice,” presented at the symposium, “A Blueprint for the Public Scholarship of Service Learning at Penn State” (March 29, 2003). This course took place during Fall 2003 and Spring 2004, and included guest speakers from UNICEF, the Human Rights Institute at the University of Iowa, and the Campaign for Child Survival; Penn State specialist David Post; a Humphrey Fellow who works for Save the Children in Myanmar (Burma); and the rector of a mission church in the Chaco region of Argentina. It also included field work in the Dominican Republic for some students, supported by the Schreyer Honors College, and service learning at the local elementary schools in State College. Collaborating with Christine Clark-Evans, she developed a new course Philosophy / AAAS 469, African American Philosophy, and was awarded a grant from the Institute for Arts and Humanities (PSU) to support a lecture series to accompany it. They invited Lewis Gordon (Temple), Joy James (Williams), Harvey Cormier (SUNY/Stony Brook) and Koffi Maglo (University of Cincinnati) to lecture, as well as James Stewart and Thomas Poole, in Spring 2008. She also developed a new course Philosophy 497A, “Science, Women and Traditional Knowledge,” which combined recent work in the philosophy of biology with case studies of projects that successfully integrate Western scientific knowledge with traditional knowledge, to solve problems of poverty and environmental degradation. In Spring 2010, it included lectures by colleagues from the departments of Women’s Studies, Rural Sociology, STS, Geography, and AAAS at Penn State, as well as the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern, Switzerland. In 2013, with support from the Schreyer Honors College, she brought in Sheila Malovany-Chevallier and Constance Borde to discuss their new translation of Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.

Sarah Clark Miller regularly teaches graduate ethics seminars (503) on “The Ethics and Politics of Violence” and “Feminist Ethics” and an advanced undergraduate course (458) on “Global Ethics.” She has recently published The Ethics of Need: Agency, Dignity, and Obligation (Routledge, 2012); “Relational Ethics,” with Thaddeus Metz, The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, ed. Hugh LaFollette (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), “The Moral Meanings of Miscarriage,” Journal of Social Philosophy 46:1 (2015): 141-157; “A Feminist Account of Global Responsibility,” Social Theory and Practice 37:3 (2011): 391– 412; “Cosmopolitan Care,” Ethics and Social Welfare 4:2 (2010): 145–157; and “Moral Injury and Relational Harm,” Journal of Social Philosophy 40:4 (2009): 504–23.

This summer (2017) she will be a visiting scholar for the NEH Summer Institute on “Diverse Philosophical Approaches to Sexual Violence” as well as for the Gender and Philosophy Summer School Program on “Care Ethics and Conflicts” at the University of Oslo. Since 2014 she has been on the advisory board of the Feminist Philosophical Quarterly and during 2005–2007, and since 2010, on the board of PIKSI.

Talks this year include “Transnational Sexual Violence: A Matter of Global Public Health?” to be presented at the 26th Annual Conference of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, Dallas, TX, February 23-26, 2017, and “The Epistemology of Sexual Violence,” the 2017 Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Baltimore, MD, January 4-7, 2017.

Paul Taylor is now (Spring 2017) running a special topics course on sports and ethics, where at least a third of the course will focus on the politics of sport in relation to sex, gender, and race. His newest book, Black is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics (2016) is in the middle of a run of author-meets-critics sessions (e.g., American Society for Aesthetics, Nov 2016; Eastern and Central APA meetings, 2017). He is co-editing The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race with Linda Alcoff and Luvell Anderson. He runs the “Pluralist Guide to Philosophy” website with Linda Alcoff and Bill Wilkerson. At Penn State, he sits on the College Climate Committee, chairs the search committee for the new director of Latina/o Studies, and chairs the College’s ad hoc committee on post-election climate issues. He is on the diversity committee of the American Society for Aesthetics, and is working with a group in South Africa on a Mellon-funded project on diversifying the philosophy professoriate. 


Nancy Tuana is a feminist philosopher who works at the intersections of issues of sex, sexuality, gender, race, and class. She has particular expertise in the field of feminist science studies and has developed an intersectional approach to anthropogenic climate change. See, for example, her "Viscous Porosity: Witnessing Katrina," in Material Feminisms, ed. Susan Hekman and Stacy Alaimo, Duke University Press, 2007. She is lead organizer and editor (with Robert Bernasconi, Achille Mbembe, and Sarah Nuttall) of a series of workshops (at Penn State and the University of the Witwatersrand) and a special issue of Critical Philosophy of Race focusing on the topic of Race and the Anthropocene. She is also working to enrich current work on gender and climate change by identifying gendered conceptualizations in climate change knowledge (sciences, including the social sciences) and practices (policy and activist responses).  These gendered constructions are often less visible than the differential impacts of climate change on the lives of women and men, but as they permeate what we know and do not know, what we value and value less, as well as how we do and do not act, they are essential to gender justice in the context of climate change. See, for example, "Climate Change through the Lens of Feminist Philosophy," in Meta-Philosophical Reflection on Feminist Philosophies of Science. Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science Volume 317. Maria Cristina Amoretti, Nicla Vassallo (Eds.)  Dordrecht: Springer Press, 2016, pp. 35-54, and "Gendering Climate Knowledge for Justice: Catalyzing a New Research Agenda," in Research, Action and Policy: Addressing the Gendered Impacts of Climate Change, Margaret Alston and Kerri Whittenbury (Eds.) Springer Press, 2013. See also her lecture on Gender and Climate Change.

She works in the field known as epistemology of ignorance, including introducing this new field in her NEH Summer Seminar (co-taught with Shannon Sullivan) in 2003 and organizing the 2004 conference on Ethics and the Epistemologies of Ignorance.  Her work in this field includes "Coming to Understand," Hypatia 19 (2004), pp. 194-232; "The Speculum of Ignorance," Hypatia Special issue on Ethics and Epistemologies of Ignorance, 21.3 (2006): 1-19 (and the entire issue, ed. with Shannon Sullivan); and Race and the Epistemologies of Ignorance, ed. with Shannon Sullivan, SUNY Press, 2007.

In her role as founding Director of the Rock Ethics Institute she helped to organize the Global Approaches to Intersectionality within the Critical Philosophy of Race Initiative. As part of this initiative, she co-organized with Gabeba Baderoon and Robert Bernasconi, a series of workshops at Penn State and at Wits University in Johannesburg on the topic of race and racialism. This work led to two special uses of the journal Critical Philosophy of Race: South African and U.S. Critical Philosophies of Race, with Robert Bernasconi, vol. 4.2 (2016), and Non-racialism, Color-blindness, and Post-Racialism: Critical Reflections from South Africa and the US, with Robert Bernasconi, Gabeba Baderoon, Kathryn Gines, and Melissa Steyn, vol. 4.2 (2017). 

Her current work is also focused on bringing feminist and queer theory to the domain of corporeal and genealogical temporality.  This work is co-authored with Charles Scott and was the topic of a recent course at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum (2016). 

She also publishes in the field of feminist history of philosophy.  See, for example, "The Forgetting of Gender and the New Histories of Philosophy," Teaching the New Histories of Philosophy, 2005; The Less Noble Sex: Scientific, Religious and Philosophical Conceptions of Woman's Nature, Indiana University Press, 1993; and Women and the History of Philosophy, Continuum/Paragon House, 1992.

She established and serves as series editor of the Re-Reading the Canon Series with Penn State University Press, now in 38 volumes, which offers feminist re-interpretations of the writings of major figures in the Western philosophical tradition. Devoted to the work of a single philosopher, each volume contains essays covering the full range of the philosopher's thought and representing the diversity of approaches now being used by feminist critics.

Tuana’s work on issues of diversity includes recent work on how best to integrate traditional knowledge with climate science. This work is a theme of the NSF funded CNH-L: Visualizing Forest Futures Under Climate Uncertainty: Integrating Indigenous Knowledge into Decision-Support Tools for Collaborative Decision Making, for which she serves as co-PI.  This interdisciplinary research project will examine how human values and practices impact preferences about natural systems and influence the trade-offs made in decision making about forest resources and sustainability.

Tuana has developed particular expertise in integrating philosophy into research in the sciences.  She is part of an interdisciplinary research team at Penn State that has developed a robust model of research ethics that includes attention to diversity in order to more adequately reflect the impacts of ethical issues in scientific practice.  Building on this work, she is examining coupled ethical-epistemic issues in the field of climate science.  She is doing this work as part of an NSF sponsored research network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management that links a transdisciplinary team of scholars at 19 universities and 5 research institutions across 6 nations to answer the question, "What are sustainable, scientifically sound, technologically feasible, economically efficient, and ethically defensible climate risk management strategies?"