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01/24/2017

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Manuel Vargas

Hi Axel-

Thanks for raising this really interesting issue, and for the link to the Hurtado piece.

I'm really sympathetic to the idea that lots of good philosophy has been written in Spanish and other languages neglected by the Anglophone-dominant academy. I wonder about the feasibility of assigning texts in Spanish (or other languages) in grad seminars in the U.S., though. First, even if you assume students have foreign language reading competence (which is increasingly rare in US grad programs, I suspect), I don't think we can assume that they will all have competence in the relevant language. Some might have Greek, or Latin, or Spanish, but we can't assume that they will all have that language.

Second, given the small size of grad programs and grad seminar, and the pressure to meet enrollment thresholds, I'd imagine there are going to be strong reasons to try to be inclusive as possible about how many students can follow along. And that creates pressure to appeal to a common familiar language (English). A concern for access for our students seems to have a collateral effect of marginalizing other languages, but I'm not sure I see a feasible solution.

Third, even if we stipulated that all students had to have reading competence at Spanish, so that we could assign them texts in Spanish in our grad seminars, I worry that we just re-inscribe the basic problem of epistemic injustice, where work in (say) classical Chinese, or Arabic, or what have you, gets excluded. Indeed, this wasn't far from the basic situation when I first started graduate school, where certain languages were permissible options for the language requirements, but Spanish wasn't.

For my own part, I'm inclined to think that getting translations from Spanish (etc.) to English is perhaps the easiest initial "fix" for some of the basic problem. But it is obviously imperfect in lots of ways, too.

Do you have any thoughts about how, practically speaking, it might go in the U.S. context to require texts in a foreign language? Is the idea that the foreign language text need not be regarded as required reading, but that their presence would be important as symbolic of the need for philosophers in the Anglophone dominant world to be competent at *some* other foreign languages?

Axel Arturo Barceló Aspeitia

Thank you Manuel for your thoughtful response. You are completely right that not all measures I propose are equally feasible, at least not in the short term. I also agree with you in that an increase in English translations might be the easiest first step in the right direction, but even that requires long term vision. A friend of mine pointed out the possible vicious circle of publishing houses not wanting to translate authors for which there is no audience, so we also need to start building an audience for authors who do currently not write or publish in English; your suggestion of including them as suggested readings in classes seems like a great idea in this respect. It would be great if indicatives like the ASA Curriculum Diversification existed throughout other fields and that it made space for readings in other languages besides English, even if only as suggested readings.

If this works, then there would be no excuse not to expect every research publication to make reference to at least some texts originating from non-native English speaking communities. Even now, I do not find unreasonable to demand journals stop publishing new research based only on research done in a single language.

I would also suggest journals publishing English précis of work not published in Spanish. The articles at the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy on or “Philosophy of Science in Latin America” are good examples, I think. This solution, of course, who'll also be extended to other philosophical communities.

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