Philosophy, Race, and Racism

Key information

Year of study
Year 1
Term 1
Module code
School of History, Religions and Philosophies

Module overview


Of all the disciplines within the humanities, Philosophy has been one of the most reluctant to confront its own history of racism and the support that it has lent to racist practices and structures. This course will provide an introduction to the key questions, debates and challenges to current philosophical thinking on race and the opportunities for reform and revision offered by critical race, decolonial, and Black thought. We will begin by establishing key terms and the questions raised by the historical development and contemporary practices of the discipline, particularly focusing on processes of canon formation and the racism of canonical philosophers, as well as the marginalisation of non-European thought from its conceptual priorities and lexicon. The second half of the course foregrounds the critical challenges and opportunities offered by critical race and decolonial theory and Black thought to the discipline of Philosophy.

Module offered on the following degrees:

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • understand the history of racism in relation to the discipline of Philosophy.
  • think creatively and critically about core themes related to the history of racism in Philosophy.
  • demonstrate a solid grasp of anti-racist, critical race, and decolonial theory.
  • apply these theories to an assessment of the discipline of Philosophy.
  • evaluate critically a variety of books, journals and other sources of information relevant to the topics studied on the course.
  • build on core skills in evaluation, self-reflection, team work, and presentation.

Scope and syllabus

  • Introduction: Orientations, Debates, Opportunities
  • A Brief History of Racism
  • The Phenomenology of Race
  • Questions of Historiography: Racism in Philosophy
  • White Normativity and the Philosophical Canon
  • Epistemic Injustice and the Epistemology of Race
  • Black Thought: Subjects, Objects and Ancestrality
  • Intersections: Conceptual Coloniality and the challenge of Black Feminism
  • Africana Philosophy: New Beginnings
  • Decolonising Philosophy: Key Questions

Method of assessment

  • Weekly reflection pieces (submit every 2 weeks with quick turn-around feedback)
  • Peer review of 2 revised reflection pieces (week 4 and week 6)
  • Team exercises in seminars (every week)
  • Informal individual presentations (every week)

AS1 -Portfolio: Students will submit a combination of 5 reflection pieces. These can be either written (500 words), audio diaries, videos or powerpoint presentations (10 minutes each), or infographics/posters on assigned readings. The formative assessment (item 1) will enable students to produce this work. They can then revise and submit the strongest 5 pieces.

Suggested reading

  • Bernasconi, Robert, Anderson, Sybol Cook, eds. (2003) Race and racism in continental philosophy Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Eze, Emmanuel Chukwudi (1996) Race and the enlightenment: a reader Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Garner, S. (2007) Whiteness: An Introduction. London & New York: Routledge.
  • Heikes, Deborah K. (2016) Rationality, Representation, and Race London: Palgrave
  • Macmillan UK: Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lott, Tommy Lee, Pittman, John P., eds. (2003) A companion to African-American philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Mills, Charles W. (1998) Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
  • Park, Peter K. J. (2013) Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy: Racism in the Formation of the Philosophical Canon, 1780-1830 Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Taylor, Paul C. (2003) Race: a philosophical introduction. Oxford: Polity.
  • Taylor, Paul C., Linda Martín Alcoff, and Luvell Anderson (2018) The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race. Abingdon and New York: Routledge..
  • Ward, Julie K., and Tommy L. Lott (2002) Philosophers on Race: Critical Essays. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules