Feminist Philosophies of Space, Time, and Evolution: Untimely Politics
University of Michigan
June 21 – August 1, 2020
Faculty: MD Murtagh and Annu Dahiya, Duke University
What is a “feminist” philosophy of space and time, and how is it different from other philosophies of space and time? Does being “feminist” mean something is inherently political? How could space and time possibly be “political” concepts? The purpose of this course is to challenge conventional ideas about what “politics” encompasses, and ultimately, to demonstrate that even seemingly abstract, philosophical concepts are never apolitical in and of themselves.
The course is divided into two main parts. First, we will carefully study a survey of primary texts within the history of Western philosophy ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Descartes and Newton. Paying attention to how each describes space and time, we consider the ways that assuming they are static categories lends itself to an oppressive modality: a world ruled entirely by the laws of cause and effect does not allow for chance eruptions, spontaneities, or creative evolutions to arise. The possibility for what happens in the future is always already given in advance: the same as the present. From this historical context, the second part of the course turns to contemporary feminist and anti-racist approaches to space and time. We work through the scholarship of Elizabeth Grosz, Emanuela Bianchi, Evelyn Hammonds, Sylvia Wynter, Brittney Cooper, Denise Ferreira da Silva, and others to explore how rethinking space and time through evolution has radical political potential. These thinkers give rise to a space and time that is dynamic, unpredictable, and open to unknowable indeterminacies for matter, life, and the universe itself. We will discuss how evolution, as a political concept, opens new ways of imagining a future that breaks with present systems of oppression and recurrent forms of violence, especially for women, people of color, queer and trans folx, animals, and the environment. The course ends by considering evolution as a tool for building more just socio-political futures, and how this kind of feminist philosophy of space and time could frame activist work in important and productive ways.