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.
[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 email@example.com.
- Abhinavagupta [A], The New Dramatic Art in A Rasa Reader
- heather ahtone [I – Choctaw/Chickasaw], “Considering Indigenous Aesthetics: a non-Western Paradigm“
- Luvell Anderson [B], “Racist Humor”
- Kwame Anthony Appiah [B], “The Case for Contamination“
- Gemma Argüello Manresa [L/H], “Towards a Philosophy of Installation Art”
- Paloma Atencia-Linares [L/H], “Fiction, Nonfiction, and Deceptive Photographic Representation”
- GerShun Avilez [B], Radical Aesthetics and Modern Black Nationalism
- Lawal Babatunde [B], “Some Aspects of Yoruba Aesthetics“
- William C. Banfield [B], “Cultural Codes: Makings of a Black Music Philosophy”
- Shahidha Bari [A], “The Puzzle of Beauty“
- Richard Bell [I – Kamilaroi], “Bell’s Theorem – Aboriginal Art: It’s a White Thing“
- Bharata Muni [A], The Nāṭya Śāstra (suggested translation here)
- Wangheng Chen [A], Chinese Environmental Aesthetics
- Meilin Chinn [A], “Race Magic and the Yellow Peril”
- Jinhee Choi [A], “Fits and Startles: Cognitivism Revisited”
- Adriana Clavel-Vazquez [L/H], “Sugar and Spice, and Everything Nice: What Rough Heroines Tell Us About Imaginative Resistance”
- Maria del Guadalupe Davidson [B, L/H], “Black Silhouettes on White Walls: Kara Walker’s Magic Lantern”
- W.E.B. Du Bois [B], “Criteria of Negro Art”
- Johnathan Charles Flowers [B], “How Is It Okay to Be a Black Nerd?”
- Francisco Gallegos [L/H], “Seriousness, Irony, and Cultural Politics: A Defense of Jorge Portilla“
- David Garneau [I – Métis], “Indigenous Art: From Appreciation to Art Criticism“
- Robert Gooding-Williams [B], “Literary Fiction as Philosophy: The Case of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra”
- Lewis R. Gordon [B], “Race in Film”
- Jorge J.E. Gracia [L/H], Painting Borges: Philosophy Interpreting Art and Literature
- James B. Haile III [B], The Buck, the Black, and the Existential Hero: Refiguring the Black Male Literary Canon
- Byung-Chul Han [A], “Why, in China and Japan, a Copy Is Just As Good As an Original“
- C. Winter Han [A], “From ‘Little Brown Brothers’ to ‘Queer Asian Wives’: Constructing the Asian Male Body”
- Phillip Brian Harper [B], Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture
- Leonard Harris [B], “The Great Debate: W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke on the Aesthetic”
- bell hooks [B], “The Oppositional Gaze” from Black Looks: Race and Representation
- Langston Hughes [B], “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”
- Zora Neale Hurston [B], “Art and Such”
- Amir R. Jaima [B], “Literature Is Philosophy: On the Literary Methodological Considerations That Would Improve the Practice and Culture of Philosophy”
- Chike Jeffers [B], “The Ethics and Politics of Cultural Preservation”
- Richard A. Jones [B], “The Politics of Black Fictive Space: Utopian Archetypes”
- Hannah Kim [A], “Art Beyond Morality and Metaphysics: Late Joseon Korean Aesthetics”
- Alex King [A], “The Virtue of Subtlety and the Vice of a Heavy Hand”
- Barry Lam [A], Hi-Phi nation episodes (e.g., “Cover Me Softly“)
- Shen-yi Liao [A], “Bittersweet Food“
- Alain Locke [B], “Art or Propaganda?”
- Audre Lorde [B], “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”
- Dominic McIver Lopes [A], “Nobody Needs a Theory of Art”
- Eva Kit Wah Man [A], “Female Bodily Aesthetics, Politics, and Feminine Ideals of Beauty in China”
- Mohan Matthen [A], “Art Forms Emerging: An Approach to Evaluative Diversity in Art”
- Fred Moten [B], In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition
- Mozi [A], “A Condemnation of Musical Performances”
- Mark Anthony Neal [B], “Freedom Gaze: Explicating the African Freedom Aesthetic“
- C. Thi Nguyen [A], “Agency as Art” in Games: Agency as Art
- Nkiru Nzegwu [B], “African Art in Deep Time: De-race-ing Aesthetics and De-racialing Visual Art”
- Amy Abugo Ongiri [B], Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic
- Mariana Ortega [L/H], “Othering the Other: The Spectacle of Katrina for our Racial Entertainment Pleasure“
- Elliot Samuel Paul [B], “Naturalistic Approaches to Creativity” (co-authored with Dustin Stokes)
- Kymberly Pinder [B], “Black Representation and Western Survey Textbooks”
- Adrian Piper [B], “Critical Hegemony and Aesthetic Acculturation”
- Jorge Portilla [L/H], “Fenomenología del relajo” (English translation here)
- Kevin Everod Quashie [B], “The Trouble with Publicness: Toward a Theory of Black Quiet”
- Dylan Robinson [I – Stó:lō], Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies
- Yuriko Saito [A], Everyday Aesthetics
- George Schuyler [B], “The Negro-Art Hokum”
- Moonyoung Song [A], “The Nature of the Interaction Between Moral and Artistic Value”
- Shirley Anne Tate [B], Black Beauty: Aesthetics, Stylization, Politics
- Paul C. Taylor [B], Black Is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics
- Michael L. Thomas, “Resisting the Habit of Tlön: Whitehead, Borges, and the Fictional Nature of Concepts”
- Loretta Todd [I – Métis], “Notes on Appropriation“
- Saam Trivedi [A], “Artist-Audience Communication: Tolstoy Reclaimed”
- Rebecca Tsosie [I – Yaqui], “Just Governance or Just War: Native Artists, Cultural Production, and the Challenge of Super-Diversity”
- Emine Hande Tuna [I – Crimean Tatar], “A Kantian Hybrid Theory of Art Criticism: A Particularist Appeal to the Generalists”
- Diego A. von Vacano [L/H], “The Citizenship of Beauty: José Vasconcelos’s Aesthetic Synthesis of Race”
- Tunde Wey [B], “Who Owns Southern Food?” (co-authored with John T. Edge)
- Kyle Whyte [I – Potawatomi], “Food Sovereignty, Justice, and Indigenous Peoples”
- Daniel Wilson [I – Maori], “The Japanese Tea Ceremony and Pancultural Definitions of Art”
- Mabel O. Wilson [B], “Dancing in the Dark: The Inscription of Blackness in Le Corbusier’s Radiant City”
- Ajume H. Wingo [B], “African Art and the Aesthetics of Hiding and Revealing”
- Xunzi [A], “Discourse on Music”
- George Yancy [B], “White Embodied Gazing, the Black Body as Disgust, and the Aesthetics of Un-Suturing”
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.
- Race-ing Art History, ed. Kymberly Pinder
- The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art, ed. Arindam Chakrabarty
- Special Issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism: Aesthetics and Race
- Special Issue of Contemporary Aesthetics: Aesthetics and Race: New Philosophical Perspectives
Diversity reading lists, organized and with helpful descriptions and teaching tips (see the full list here):
- Asian Aesthetics, written and compiled by Meilin Chinn
- Exploring the Aesthetics of African-American Classical Music, written and compiled by Christopher Jenkins
- Black Studies Reading List by Nicholas Whittaker
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!
August 24, 2020 at 5:08 pm
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.
August 24, 2020 at 8:45 pm
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.
August 25, 2020 at 3:17 pm
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.
August 25, 2020 at 5:55 pm
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.
August 28, 2020 at 1:15 pm
• 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
September 20, 2022 at 12:17 pm
Hi, thank you for this great list. Another recommendation: Tommie Shelby’s “Impure Dissent: Hip Hop and the Political Ethics of Marginalized Black Urban Youth”