AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

DIVERSIFY YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF ART READING LIST WITH THESE 60+ BIPOC AUTHORS

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If you’re prepping a syllabus for the fall, you’re probably thinking about how to make your reading list more diverse or even how to decolonize your own and your students’ thinking about aesthetics and philosophy of art.

In an effort to help people do this, I’ve compiled the below list of suggested pieces by BIPOC authors, members of racial and ethnic groups that have often been marginalized in Western, Anglo-European philosophy, especially in the analytic tradition.

When multiple pieces are available, I have selected based on topic and suitability for teaching at the undergraduate level.

I hope that this list will aid efforts to build better syllabi, as well as expand your own personal reading and research!

Authors below are listed alongside a suggested piece. To keep the list manageably short, I’ve limited it to one piece per author. All of these authors have written more than the selected piece, so I encourage you to look further into their work. Currently only some are linked; more is coming.

For those looking to include a wide variety of diverse authors, square brackets indicate the underrepresented racial or ethnic group(s) the author belongs to.

Key:
[A] = Asian
[B] = Black or African-American
[I] = Indigenous
[L/H] = Latinx or Hispanic

I have approximated US Census categories for this list (also inspired partially by the UPDirectory), but any list of this kind is necessarily imperfect. Racial and ethnic categories are too coarse-grained to represent the nuance and complexity of social histories, and there is no unproblematic way to draw these boundaries.

Note also that these are English language suggestions. And while the below list focuses on race, we have another list to help build a more gender-inclusive syllabus. I’m hoping to create more of these in the future.

Finally, although I’ve done my best to correctly identify these authors, there might still be mistakes. If you have any corrections or amendments, please email me at aestheticsforbirds@gmail.com.

The List

Collections

Rather than list all of the pieces in edited collections or already carefully curated reading lists/syllabi suggestions, I thought I’d point to some here. There are some notable edited volumes, as well as the diversity reading lists that the American Society for Aesthetics has sponsored.

Diversity reading lists, organized and with helpful descriptions and teaching tips (see the full list here):

The Diversity Reading List, a collectively assembled listing of many, many more pieces by female and BIPOC authors, often including information relevant for pedagogy (difficulty level, abstracts, etc.).

The AFB archives. Many BIPOC authors have also contributed pieces to AFB. I encourage you to look through our archives to find relatively short, accessibly written pieces that many faculty already use in their teaching.

An Additional List

This list includes authors who are not members of underrepresented racial groups, but who have written pieces of special relevance to those looking to create anti-racist reading lists.

  • A.W. Eaton & Ivan Gaskell, “Do Subaltern Artifacts Belong in Art Museums?”
  • Monique Roelofs, The Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic
  • Elizabeth Burns Coleman, Aboriginal Art, Identity and Appropriation

Additions? Suggestions? Comment below or email me!

Image credit: Rawpixel Ltd

Author: Alex King

AFB Editor-in-Chief. Associate Professor of Philosophy at Simon Fraser University, working in ethics, metaethics, and aesthetics.

7 thoughts on “DIVERSIFY YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF ART READING LIST WITH THESE 60+ BIPOC AUTHORS

  1. Thanks a lot for this; very helpful! I’ll bookmark this tab and return it many times, no doubt.

    I would suggest, though, that the absence of Jewish writers here is an extremely serious lacuna. Though Jews are not exactly a systemically underrepresented minority at the moment, Jews up to WWII were… well, we all know that long history of oppression. (And anti-Semitism’s resurgance in the last few years should remind us how precarious Jews’ whiteness is.)

    So to that end I would suggest adding Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (or perhaps “The Task of the Translator”?) and Adorno’s “How to Look at Television” or “Free Time.” Would also be great to include Arendt, who had a solid aesthetic sensibility that pervaded her politicsal and philosophical outlook, but I don’t think it was ever a primary topic. Might also be worth including Derrida if possible, who as well as being Jewish was born and raised a colonial subject, but of course he writes in a different tradition that philosophy undergrads would need training in before they could productively read him.

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  2. Thanks for compiling this wonderful list, most of which I have not read.

    In case it’s helpful for others, I will add one title: /Our Aesthetic Categories/ by Sianne Ngai.

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  3. Thanks for this great list!
    Another anthology to consider is Race, Philosophy, and Film (Routledge, 2013), which I co-edited. Six of its essays are authored or co-authored by BIPOC writers. The other essays might be of interest as well.

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  4. This is a great list. Thanks, Alex. To the “Additional List” of non-BIPOC authors on anti-racist writings, I’d also suggest adding Anderson’s Calliope’s Sisters: A Comparative Study of Philosophies of Art, and Hallen’s The Good, he Bad, and the Beautiful: Discourse about Values in Yoruba Culture.

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  5. • Bracey, John H., Jr., Sonia Sanchez, and James Smethurst, eds. SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2014.
    • Cai, Zong-qi, ed. Chinese Aesthetics: The Ordering of Literature, the Arts, and the Universe in the Six Dynasties. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai῾i Press, 2004.
    • Chari, V.K. Sanskrit Criticism. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1990.
    • Diagne, Souleymane Bachir (Chike Jeffers, trans.) African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson and the Idea of Negritude. New York: Seagull Books, 2011.
    • Egan, Ronald. The Problem of Beauty: Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center/Harvard University Press, 2006.
    • Elias, Jamal J. Aisha’s Cushion: Religious Art, Perception, and Practice in Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.
    • Lippit, Yukio. Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute, 2017.
    • Marra, Michael E. (trans. and ed.) A History of Modern Japanese Aesthetics.
    • Masson, J.L. and M.V. Patwardhan. Śāntarasa and Abhinavagupta’s Philosophy of Aesthetics. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1969.
    • Sartwell, Crispin. Six Names of Beauty. New York: Routledge, 2004.
    • Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Random House, 1983.
    • Winfeld, Pamela D. Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism: Kūkai and Dōgen on the Art of Enlightenment. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
    Unless one is attempting to studiously avoid “religious art,” I would recommend looking at two of my bibliographies: (i) Buddhist Art: https://www.academia.edu/42310114/Buddhist_Art_a_basic_bibliography and (ii) Islam, the arts, and aesthetic experience: https://www.academia.edu/37096182/Islam_the_Arts_and_Aesthetic_Experience_A_Basic_Bibliography

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