MAP Utrecht exists for the simple reason that many of the people involved in academic philosophy, and many of the people for whom philosophy matters, do not find themselves reflected in the field, nor their concerns and lives in the philosophy and ways of thinking they encounter. Through running events that promote underrepresented philosophical perspectives and the works of philosophers from underrepresented social groups, we want to provide a visible example to those within our philosophical community, and those who may be looking to it, that this can be otherwise.
Academia, and academic philosophy, are not outside anything- they too are subject to strong hegemonies, practices and cultures with a history that shape expectations of who gets to say what, what gets to be said and how, and who is expected to be included into this at all. Consequently, as part of our activities we want to encourage meaningful encounters between staff and students wherein we can reflect together on what this looks like here in Utrecht and what kind of knowledge is produced as a result. Additionally, what does the coming together of staff and students in the university itself even mean– what does it do and what could it do in shaping the institution, the directions of the research and how we practice research within it? Hopefully, through stimulating critical reflection and conversations on these issues we can better understand our own respective positions and roles in this, to be able to then think about how we could do things differently– that is, to think together about what philosophy and the philosophical culture here is and what it can be.
Yet, beyond engendering this critical reflection, this chapter is just as much about community and practices of care within our academic culture. To give an opportunity to students and junior scholars to express and share with others in more informal settings their ideas and experiences, what they find interesting, what they find difficult, and to give a chance if it is then wanted to find ways to reflect this back into our activities and discussions within the department to show that what they are concerned with matters. And for those who feel a disconnect from the stereotypical representation and practice of philosophy and philosophers, we hope they find in this chapter of MAP a community through which they can feel encouraged to express themselves, and so feel supported to pursue philosophy in the ways that are meaningful to them.
In short, belonging is not a matter of being tolerated, or merely “included”, but comes from knowing that people value your presence and care for what you have to say because they value it as what you, in all your difference, have to say. Ultimately, through our activities we hope to build a community that shows people that their difference is welcome, that they can come as they are, to show themselves as they want, and that philosophy is just as much for them and what they care about- not something beholden by a few they have graciously been allowed ‘access’ to.
Philosophy flourishes in difference – and we hope that this chapter of MAP will do so too.