The Rock Ethics Institute


2014 Symposium

This symposium was jointly hosted byThe Wits Centre for Diversity Studies (University of the Witwatersrand, RSA) & The Rock Ethics Institute. It took place from January 13-14, 2014 on the WITS Club, West Campus, University of the Witwatersrand.

The 21st century is increasingly described as “post-race.” Yet the signs and effects of “race trouble” are everywhere in evidence. The gradually diminishing hold of biological notions of race seems not to have significantly lessened the grip that the racial has on how society gets to be imagined and organized. How are we to understand this enduring power of “race?” How may our understandings have to shift in order to keep track with the apparent elasticity of “race” in the everyday world? What might not have been understood about “race” within the dominant epistemological traditions of the Western academy? Where are the conceptual blind spots? How might “race” be understood differently if the perspective from which it is theorized is not the prevailing world view within academia? How does the entry of scholarly interventions, and ways of knowing and being, that are not driven by elite, white, and male bodies and interests change the field?

The Critical Philosophy of Race consists in the philosophical examination of issues raised by the concept of race, the practices and mechanisms of racialization, and the persistence of various forms of racism across the world. Critical Philosophy of Race is a critical enterprise in three respects: it opposes racism in all its forms; it rejects the pseudosciences of old-fashioned biological racialism; and it denies that anti-racism and anti-racialism summarily eliminate race as a meaningful category of analysis.

This symposium explored philosophical and conceptual questions related to race, racism, and racialization in contemporary society. While the conference was expected to concentrate on how questions related to race arise within the South African/African context and include comparative analyses of race/racism in the U.S. and the South African/African context, the deliberations are by no means limited geographically. Papers with different disciplinary and interdisciplinary and philosophical orientations were welcome, provided they

  • Focused on the conceptual/philosophical underpinnings pertaining to racialised dynamics;
  • Employed what can broadly be understood to be a critical perspective, cognisant of the operations of power in constructing epistemologies, social dynamics and subjectivities.

We particularly welcomed papers that engage with some of the current concerns within social theory, such as affect, space, and intersectionality, as well as the various complexities of postcolonial contexts. We also sought out papers that present challenges to some of the thinking on these issues that are not often questioned.

This symposium was a platform in which U.S. and South African race scholars engaged with one another on the ways in which race and racialised ways of knowing and being shape our social world.

Since the symposium was intended to be an incubation forum for publications, participants whose abstracts were accepted were asked to submit a full working draft of their papers for circulation by December 15, 2013.  The papers were circulated to all symposium participants who will be asked to read papers beforehand so that meaningful conversation take place and feedback can be used to refine the paper.

Selected papers were published in a special edition of Critical Philosophy of Race.