Recent data on the representation of women in anglophone philosophy journals published in a 2018 article reveal that the percentage of women authors has remained an extremely low 14-16% over the past decade.[i] A 2013 study of 1.8 million articles published between 1665 and 2011 in the JSTOR network shows that only 21.9% of all publications and only 9.4% of all publications in philosophy are authored by women.[ii] Citation practices reflect these disparities. Within 500 most cited articles in four journals, 3.5% of citations are to women authors.[iii] Only 2% of the 50 “top-cited” authors in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy are women.[iv] Isaac Wilhelm, Sherri Lynn Conklin, and Nicole Hassoun, authors of the 2018 article, note that women in philosophy fare the worst across all disciplines.[v] Articles authored by women on average receive .94 citations, while those authored by men on average receive 1.12 citations.[vi]
The percentage of women authors is less than the percentage of women faculty across various types of institutions and ranks.[vii] At most, women compose 20-25% of all philosophy faculty. At 98 ranked and unranked institutions, women make up 19.7% of all full professors, 30% of associate professors, and 39.7% of assistant professors. Wilhelm, Conklin, and Hassoun do not track these disparities along different axes, such as race, sexuality, and ability.[viii] However, in 2016, Myisha Cherry and Eric Schwitzgebel note that women receive around 28% of philosophy PhDs in the United States, while 86% of philosophy PhDs are non-Hispanic White.[ix]The American Philosophical Association reports in 2014 that, out of a total of 11.89% of “racial and ethnic minorities” PhDs in philosophy, 3.3% are Indigenous, 3.96% are Latinx, and 4.9% are Black.[x] The National Science Foundation reports in 2016 that of the total philosophy PhDs awarded in 2014, 128, none was awarded to an Indigenous person, 1 was awarded to a Black person, and 4 to Latinx people.[xi] In 2013, of an estimated total of 141 Black philosophers, 50 were women.[xii]
It is from this concrete situation that the status of peer review should be interrogated. This is the context that provides content to the very notion of a peer. Peer review is a key site for the reproduction of the field of philosophy, its distinctive body of knowledge, the specificity of its disciplinary world view.[xiii] It should thus be assessed as a practice by what it does, produces. We ought to interrogate, then, the histories that in effect articulate who are peers by specifying how who counts as a peer is established. We should interrogate, that is, the practices and norms by which specific ideas of who counts as a peer are instituted and maintained. The notion of a peer establishes a community of insiders and outsiders in a way that is not necessarily consciously accessible to the people engaged in it, although this is not to say that the notion of a peer ought to be developed as a matter of mere subject position. Reflecting on the implicit and explicit imperatives that guide the norms of peer review allows us to address philosophy’s strikingly narrow community of peers, its consistently poor track record in matters of diversity and inclusivity, aspiring to better perhaps even truer horizontal practices of assessment.
In her 2012 essay “How is This Paper Philosophy?” Kristie Dotson argues that professional philosophy in the US “bears symptoms of a culture of justification, which creates a difficult working environment for many diverse practitioners.”[xiv] Distinctive of this culture is the practice of “making congruent one’s own ideas, projects, and . . . pedagogical choices with some ‘traditional’ conception of philosophical engagement.”[xv] This points to a process of vetting that takes the form of “judging whether some belief, practice and/or process conforms to accepted standards and patterns.” Such a culture develops practices of vetting as processes of legitimation that normalize projects, methods, and experiences at the expense of others. It is thus key to the constitution of a community of peers. Guided by the imperative to “make congruent,” legitimation necessarily entails the delegitimation hence exclusion of a plurality of methods, topics, and experiences. Guided by this imperative, justification becomes a practice of exclusion of diverse practitioners.
Dotson traces two forms of exclusion: “exceptionalism” and “sense of incongruence.” Exceptionalism involves the “unfounded, exclusion of large bodies of investigation based upon the privileging of one group (or set of groups) and their investigations over others.”[xvi] The point here is that excluded bodies of work “might actually meet many of the demands imposed by operative, justifying norms,” but because they are not recognized as part of the canon, for instance, they are not deemed legitimate. A sense of incongruence, in contrast, involves the sensation that current justifying norms “hinder one’s ability to argue for the positive philosophical status of one’s projects.”[xvii] Here, an individual might be pursuing a problem or examining a text included in mainstream philosophy, but the method or style, pedagogical or scholarly, deviates from the norm or expectation. What is delegitimized is the mode of engagement. In both cases, vetting practices reproduce not only a narrow view of philosophy, but a narrow community of practitioners.
With varying degrees of success, Hypatia has historically thematized its role in setting the agenda for feminist agitation or compliance within the academy. It has addressed matters of disciplinary pluralism and its role in demographic exclusion and marginalization through, for instance, the creation of a “diversity advisory group,” “Musings” and a “Comment/Reply” section. Hypatia is currently finalizing new governance structures and guidelines for publication ethics, a process shepherded by the Task Force constituted in November 2017. The journal’s commitment to the development of feminist philosophy, drafts circulated within the Task Force affirm, is a commitment to “actively reflect and engage the diverse experiences and situation of women,” including the “diverse forms that gender takes across the globe.”[xviii] This requires editorial and assessment practices that produce good scholarship by avoiding a culture of justification guided by the imperative to make congruent.
Key here is keeping in mind that “publication is something we do.”[xix] This entails awareness of the “potential to affect people in a variety of social locations who are differently located with respect to academic institutions.”[xx] Such awareness requires generating practices that challenge norms that reproduce a narrow view of what counts as a philosophical method, body of literature, writing style. Avoidance of harmful epistemic practices, pursuit of sound citational practices, openness to the internal normativities of diverse experiences and methods require modes of assessment that resist the imperative to make congruent. Knowledge of the histories that generate and sustain disparities in the field, awareness of the fraught disciplinary and political terrain in which judgments about philosophical work are made, attention to questions of power at every juncture of the editorial task are vital. Determining what is relevant literature, for example, indeed engagement with “existing contributions to the discussion including those who have been excluded from the academic literature but whose lives and experiences are at stake in the discussion” is crucial.[xxi]
The new Editorial Team (Bonnie Mann, Erin McKenna, Camisha Russell, and myself) is eager to help finalize and implement newly developed guidelines for publication ethics, which will address peer review. We hope to continue Hypatia’s longstanding tradition of aiming to open up philosophy’s community of peers. We strive for an ongoing critical interrogation of who is recognized as a peer within the philosophical community when reaching for horizontal modes of assessment, thematizing the work that editorial practices and norms do.
Rocío Zambrana is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon, coeditor of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, and columnist for 80grados (San Juan, Puerto Rico). She is the author of Hegel’s Theory of Intelligibility (University of Chicago Press, 2015), and Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico (under contract, Duke University Press). Her work examines critiques of capitalism and coloniality in various philosophical traditions, including contemporary feminisms in the Américas (Latinx, Latin American, Caribbean).
[i] Isaac Wilhelm, Sherri Lynn Conklin, Nicole Hassoun, “New Data on the Representation of Women in Philosophy Journals: 2004–2015,” Philosophical Studies 175 (2018), pp. 1441–1464.
[ii] Ibid., p. 1444.
[vii] Ibid., p. 1443.
[viii] Regrading disability, see Shelly Tremain “Introducing Feminist Philosophy of Disability,” Disability Studies Quarterly (2013).
[ix] Myisha Cherry and Eric Schwitzgebel, “Like the Oscars, #PhilosophySoWhite,” Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2016, accessed February 19, 2019: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0306-schwitzgebel-cherry-philosophy-so-white-20160306-story.html.
[x] See chrome-extension://oemmndcbldboiebfnladdacbdfmadadm/https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.apaonline.org/resource/resmgr/data_on_profession/minorities_in_philosophy.pdf. Cf.: https://blog.apaonline.org/2018/03/26/tell-us-how-to-fix-the-lack-of-diversity-in-philosophy-journals/. Thanks to Eli Portella for help gathering this information.
[xi] See http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SED.htm.
[xii] Tina Fernandes Botts, Liam Kofi Bright, Myisha Cherry, Guntur Mallarangeng and Quayshawn Spencer, “What Is the State of Blacks in Philosophy?” Critical Philosophy of Race 2: 2 (2014). Cf. Robin Wilson, “Black Women Seek a Role in Philosophy,” Chronicle of Higher Education 54: 5 (2007) and Kathryn Gines, “Being a Black Woman Philosopher: Reflections on Founding the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers,” Hypatia 26:2 (2011).
[xiii] For a discussion of peer review in Wilhelm, Conklin, and Hassoun, see ibid., p. 1459.
[xiv] Kristie Dotson, “How is this Paper Philosophy?” Comparative Philosophy 3: 1 (2012), p. 6.
[xvi] Ibid., p. 12.
[xvii] Ibid., p. 13.
[xviii] Task Force drafts for discussion of ethical guidelines for authors and reviewers.