Project Vox: Conducting Philosophical Research on the Margins (2022-2023)

Background

The standard canon in philosophy focuses exclusively on European male figures. The 2018 “Norton Introduction to Philosophy” contains nothing written by women between Plato and the 1950s, and the 2019 “Modern Philosophy” anthology, while including short snippets from women, subordinates them to male writers. These two sources feature a single essay by a philosopher outside of the European tradition. Hence, the voices of figures marginalized by gender, race, class and geography are almost entirely neglected, despite contributing to philosophy in their own time. This fact hampers the introduction of marginalized figures into educational curricula as instructors often cannot conduct original research to expand their syllabi.

Under-representation of marginalized figures in philosophy’s canon is not merely a problem of historical inaccuracy. Philosophy ranks lower than other humanities and social science disciplines, and even some sciences, in its ability to attract women to the field. Studies exploring the origins of this gender gap have found that women’s abandonment of the field is most profound in the period between participating in an introductory philosophy course and selecting philosophy as one’s major. In essence, women are at the greatest risk of opting against philosophy as a field of study when they are being introduced to its canonical thinkers – none of whom represent them.

In response, Project Vox provides instructors, students and scholars with open-access, peer-reviewed guides to early modern women philosophers. Through cross-institutional, international collaborations and an interdisciplinary team of students, scholars and libraries staff, Project Vox has researched and published biographical, bibliographical and pedagogical content on seven philosophers to date. 

Project Description

Building on the work of previous teams, the 2022-2023 project team will expand Project Vox beyond individual philosophers, highlighting philosophical ideas that arose through conversation and collaboration. The emphasis on the idea over the figure will help unearth voices lost to the archive.

Team members will also expand the philosopher archive by producing a new philosopher entry and develop monthly blog posts and visualizations of philosopher networks. Each philosopher entry is a scholarly, peer-reviewed research page that makes information about a marginalized figure broadly available. Team members will create a feasibility study, research and write the entry text (shepherding the entry through internal and external peer review), conduct images research and copyright negotiations, stage and publish the entry, and conduct outreach and assessment.

The team will also continue to work to expand the network of scholars committed to supporting the ongoing work of Project Vox.

Anticipated Outputs

New scholarly, peer-reviewed philosopher entry; monthly blog posts; visualizations of philosopher networks; feasibility research and recommendation for additional philosopher; research documentation

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this team will include 4 graduate students and 4 undergraduate students from a wide range of disciplines. Students will gain an immersive education in researching, publishing and promoting scholarly works for a global public audience. From gathering and synthesizing information to assessing audience engagement, students will build translatable skills (e.g., managing a project, digital publishing, developing research processes) while extending their existing skills. Graduate students will have the opportunity to mentor undergraduates and gain experience outside their discipline.

Students will work in four subteams:

  1. Research: This subteam will conduct basic research (e.g., develop biographies from existing scholarship) and other work as their skills allow (e.g., transcribing and translating). The subteam lead may direct research, synthesize findings and interpret primary sources.
  2. Images: This subteam will locate historically accurate depictions of the person and era, provide relevant metadata and identify permissions necessary for using an image. The subteam lead will acquire images and permissions and ensure descriptions are accurate, filenames are applied and image use is documented.
  3. Outreach & Assessment: This subteam will run social media campaigns, gather analytics data and conduct assessments. Familiarity with social media, assessment tools and publishing platforms are skills that can be learned or applied. The subteam lead will run the blog and liaise with community partners.
  4. Visualization: This subteam will conduct research on philosopher networks, input data in spreadsheets, use visualization software (Kumu) and create documentation. The subteam lead facilitates meetings, updates project plans and coordinates and reviews deliverables.

Collaborative research will be facilitated by weekly team meetings, as well as weekly subteam meetings. The larger meetings will begin with updates from team members on progress. Subteams will meet independently to establish specific goals and identify what needs to be communicated with the whole team. 

A graduate student will be selected to serve as project manager, and will facilitate communication among subteams and team leaders. The incoming project manager will onboard over the summer, working 12 hours per week for 8 weeks.

See the related Story+ project for Summer 2022; there is a separate application process for students who are interested in this optional component.

Timing

Summer 2022 – Summer 2023

  • Summer 2022 (optional): Conduct research; identify philosopher for feasibility study; consult external stakeholders
  • Fall 2022: Finish researching new philosopher entry; submit entry for review; continue feasibility research; create visualization in tandem with new philosopher
  • Spring 2023: Address reviewer comments, stage, publish and promote new philosopher entry; continue research for next entry; stage new visualization project with philosopher publication
  • Summer 2023 (optional): Continue research for new entry; begin collaboration with new remote teams

Crediting

Academic credit available; summer funding available

See related Story+ project Visualizing Philosopher’s Networks with Project Vox (2022), and earlier related team, Project Vox: Training a New Generation of Collaborative Scholars (2021-2022).

 

Image: Statue of Sor Juana outside the Universidad del Clautro de Sor Juana in Mexico City, by Thelmadatter / Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Statue.

Team Leaders

  • Andrew Janiak, Arts & Sciences-Philosophy
  • Elizabeth Milewicz, Duke Libraries

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • William Shaw, Duke Libraries
  • Cheryl Thomas, Duke Libraries