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Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and . Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time)

2010, WW Norton & Company.

Back matter: “A welcome attempt to resurrect an older tradition of moral and political reflection and to show its relevance to our current condition.” — John Gray “Cosmopolitanism is… of wide interest-invitingly written and enlivened by personal history… Appiah is wonderfully perceptive and levelheaded about this tangle of issues.” — Thomas Nagel “Elegantly provocative.” — Edward Rothstein “[Appiah’s] belief in having conversations across boundaries, and in recognizing our obligations to other human beings, offers a welcome prescription for a world still plagued by fanaticism and intolerance.” — Kofi A. Annan, former United Nations secretary-general “[Appiah’s] exhilarating exposition of his philosophy knocks one right off complacent balance… All is conveyed with flashes of iconoclastic humor.” — Nadine Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature “An attempt to redefine our moral obligations to others based on a very humane and realistic outlook and love of art… I felt like a better person after I read it, and I recommend the same experience to others.” — Orham Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Comment: The introduction provides a particularly good entry text to ethics, race and cosmopolitanism.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and . In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture

1992, Oxford University Press.

Back matter: Africa’s intellectuals have long been engaged in a conversation with each other, and with Europeans and Americans about what it means to be African. At the heart of these debates on African identity are the seminal works of politicians, creative writers and philosophers from Africa and its diaspora. In this book, Appiah draws on his experiences as a Ghanaian in the New World to explore the writings of these African and African-American thinkers and to contribute his own vision of the possibilities and pitfalls of an African identity in the late twentieth century. Appiah sets out to dismantle the specious oppositions between “us” and “them,” the West and the Rest, that have governed so much of the cultural debate about Africa in the modern world. All of us, he maintains, wherever we live on the planet, must explore together the relations between our local cultures and an increasingly global civilization. Combining philosophical analysis with more personal reflections, Appiah addresses the major issues in the philosophy of culture through an exploration of the contemporary African predicament.

Comment: Chapters 1 & 2 can be particularly useful in teaching on the social construction of race.

Demaria, Christina, and . The Performative Body of Marina Abramović Rerelating (in) Time and Space

2004, The European Journal of Women's Studies 1(3): 295-307.

Abstract: Can a performance be analysed as a textual practice? Starting from this question, the article tries to describe the effets du sens (meaning effects) of some of the work of Marina Abramović, a Serbian performer and visual artist. From the 1970s, when the so-called body art emerged as a visual genre, offering the artist’s body as a naked site of inscription, up to the present, when performing has become a more playful and direct transmission of energy between the doer and the viewer, the work of Abramović represents an effective and powerful example of the body-as-a-text in which subjectivity can be re-expressed and reinvented through the transformations of the relation between time and space. In the strong relationship created between the performer and the audience, what is enacted is a translation–transduction of material and cognitive meanings that results in a redefinition of a subjective and, simultaneously, collective experience of identity.

Comment: This is a prime example of feminist aesthetics and its treatment of the human body. Demaria's main contention is that performance art can be understood textually and representationally even if it does not lay an explicit claim to either type of content. She agrees with Judith Butler's notion of citationality as a perpetual re-inscription of power norms and codes onto the human body. Since bodily presence plays such an important part in most performance art, the question of the possibility of embodied meaning arises naturally. Demaria uses the art of Marina Abramović to show that the question should be answered in the affirmative. Abramović's body exercises discursive transgressions (of language and code) in ways that, according to Demaria, establish a new language of dissent.

Eva Kit Wah Man, and . Issues of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context

2015, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Publisher’s Note: This book discusses how China’s transformations in the last century have shaped its arts and its philosophical aesthetics. For instance, how have political, economic and cultural changes shaped its aesthetic developments? Further, how have its long-standing beliefs and traditions clashed with modernizing desires and forces, and how have these changes materialized in artistic manifestations? In addition to answering these questions, this book also brings Chinese philosophical concepts on aesthetics into dialogue with those of the West, making an important contribution to the fields of art, comparative aesthetics and philosophy.

Comment: A timely discussion of the influence of the last century’s political, economic, and cultural changes in China upon its philosophical aesthetics. Man’s book addresses a number of key neglected topics of comparative aesthetics between China and the West, contemporary aesthetics and art in Hong Kong, the relation of gender and art in the politics of identity, and the role of tradition in new creative practices. Chapter 4 introduces the leaders of the major schools of aesthetics in new China, including Li Zehou. This text is best used in a comparative aesthetics context, especially in discussions of contemporary aesthetic mediums.

Related reading:

Fusco, Coco, and . The Other History of Intercultural Performance

1994, The Drama Review 38(1): 143-167.

Summary: Fusco’s text chronicles the preparation, performance, and public reception of an artwork – “Two Undiscovered Amerindians” – she created in collaboration with Guillermo Gómez-Peña in 1992. The performance was intended as a critique of the contemporary artworld, whose shallow redemptive multiculturalism often sidelined important issues of racial difference and racialized aesthetic perception. It consisted of the two artists spending three days in a golden cage presented, in the manner of live ethnographic spectacles of the not so distant colonial past, as members of an exotic and newly discovered island nation in the Gulf of Mexico. Fusco contends that otherness is always performative and, as such, has held the entire history of performance art – from the Dadaists to the present day – captive. The resulting frequent gestures of appropriation, condescension and erasure discredit the social and intercultural consciousness most performance artists see themselves as representing. Ironically, the strange journey the “Two Undiscovered Amerindians” project has travelled has plentifully confirmed the iniquities the two artists set out to expose.

Comment: While not a philosophical text per se, this article is very helpful in discussions of the political dimension of the contemporary artworld, and the race dynamics within it.

Goldberg, RoseLee, and . Identities: Feminism, Multiculturalism, Sexuality

2004, In: Performance: Live Art Since the 60's. New York: Thames & Hudson. 128-145.

Summary: Goldberg provides a richly illustrated historical account of the intimate connection between identity and performance art. Starting from the feminist art of the 1960’s, the recognition and assertion of identity was a fundamental bid for social visibility. The next frontier was social recognition, which concerned ethnic and sexual minorities as much as it did women. The final frontier – political equality – is one that is still out of reach. Still, according to Goldberg, performance art continues to chart new territories of identification. In fact, while at the outset performance art used early feminist writing as inspiration, Goldberg recognizes a gradual reversal – today’s feminists are as likely to chart new philosophical directions as they are to follow the exploratory charge of their performance art counterparts.

Comment: This text provides a historical background on the relationship between identity politics and art. It would be useful in classes on performance art, on the social context of art, as well as classes focusing on philosophy or race, gender and sexuality and ways to achieve social visibility.

Roberts, Melinda A., and . The Nonidentity Problem

2013, E. N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy [electronic resource]

Introduction: The nonidentity problem focuses on the obligations we think we have in respect of people who, by our own acts, are caused both to exist and to have existences that are, though worth having, unavoidably flawed – existences, that is, that are flawed if those people are ever to have them at all. If a person’s existence is unavoidably flawed, then the agent’s only alternatives to bringing that person into the flawed existence are to bring no one into existence at all or to bring a different person – a nonidentical but better off person – into existence in place of the person whose existence is flawed. If the existence is worth having and no one else’s interests are at stake, it is unclear on what ground morality would insist that the choice to bring the one person into the flawed existence is morally wrong. And yet at the same time – as we shall see – it seems that in some cases that choice clearly is morally wrong. The nonidentity problem is the problem of resolving this apparent paradox.

The problem raises the question whether the (usually significant) good that an agent confers along with existence counterbalances the (usually limited) bad that an agent confers along with any unavoidably flawed existence in such a way that our existence-inducing act (usually) will be deemed permissible. And if it isn’t – if we think instead that obligations are left unsatisfied despite the good that comes with existence – is the moral of the story that moral obligation extends beyond what we must do for people? If we agree, in other words, that it is our obligation to create additional good, is it enough that we create additional good for each and every existing and future person? Or does the nonidentity problem show that our focus should instead be on creating additional good for the universe? As we query how to evaluate existence-inducing acts for their moral permissibility – as well as outcomes or possible futures or worlds, for their moral betterness against still other worlds – we find that some of our most deeply held intuitions regarding the nature and structure of morality are thrown into doubt.

Comment: This text offers a comprehensive introduction to the nonidentity problem and lists several illustrative thought experiments and examples used in the literature. It is a very helpful introductory or further reading for any topic which touches on the nonidentity problem.

Schechtman, Marya, and . The Narrative Self

2011, In Shaun Gallagher (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Self. OUP Oxford.

Abstract: This article examines the narrative approach to self found in philosophy and related disciplines. The strongest versions of the narrative approach hold that both a person’s sense of self and a person’s life are narrative in structure, and this is called the hermeneutical narrative theory. This article provides a provisional picture of the content of the narrative approach and considers some important objections that have been raised to the narrative approach. It defends the view that the self constitutes itself in narrative and argues for something less than the hermeneutical view insofar as the narrative is less agency-oriented and without an overarching thematic unity.

Comment: This chapter offers a good introduction to the concept of narrative self. It surveys a few different types of narrative self, and covers some representative objections. The article would be perfect in classes focusing on different concepts of self, and on personal identity in general.