Graduate Studies in Latin American Philosophy

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Graduate Studies in Latin American Philosophy

 

Every year I get a few emails from students who are interested in studying Latin American philosophy. Elsewhere on this website I have started cobbling together some resources to provide something of a guide to the study of Latin American philosophy, though that project is in its infancy. This page is concerned with graduate studies in Latin American Philosophy, and in particular, those interested in getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, specializing in Latin American philosophy.

 

This guide presumes that (1) you are interested in Latin American philosophy and a graduate degree in philosophy, and (2) you want the option of employment in the academic world of the United States after you have finished your studies. Effectively, that means going to graduate school in the United States (though I imagine it is at least possible elsewhere). You can, of course, study philosophy in various places in Latin America where you would be in the thick of things. However, it is extremely difficult to get a job in the United States (at least in philosophy) if your degree comes from a university in a country where the predominant language is Spanish. So, these thoughts presume an interest in graduate programs in philosophy in the United States.

 

Topics discussed below:

What are job prospects like for people who work in Latin American phil?
Where can I study Latin American phil?

Where should I go to school?
Other considerations

How to study Latin American philosophy

 

What are job prospects like for people who work in Latin American philosophy?

The bad news is that there are comparatively few postings of jobs that are explicitly looking for someone who works on Latin American philosophy (as opposed to, say, ethics). But that isn't the important figure, because the overall situation is comparatively good. Over the past 10 years or so, there have been more jobs advertising an interest in hiring someone who works in Latin American philosophy, or with a job description friendly to Latin American philosophy, than there are people who specialize in Latin American philosophy. This does not include general open area jobs, or jobs that specify "non-Western" (though I suspect that many people would be happy to think of Latin American as non-Western, even though that is a conceptual error). Hardly any fields in philosophy have anything like that ratio of jobs to candidates. (My anecdotal conviction about this was born out by some data. Carolyn Dicey Jennings and crew found that "Philosophy of the Americas"—AKA Latin American Philosophy—had the highest permanent placement rate of any field of specialization in philosophy). Philosophers with demonstrated ability to teach Latin American philosophy disproportionately tend to be able to find employment somewhere in the academic world, because the need outstrips the supply of competent teachers.  

 

That said, there are several things to know about these jobs. First off, very few of these jobs will be in departments with Ph.D. programs. That's true of nearly any subfield in philosophy, but it is more true than usual in this case. Second, what jobs there are will frequently be in state schools, and often in regions where the Latina/o population is particularly large, although your mileage may vary.

 

There are other upsides to studying Latin American philosophy. If you are willing to work outside of a philosophy department, you may have  more job options than the average philosophy job-seeker. You are also likely to be in a better position to get grants and the like from various sources. Finally, demand for Latin American philosophy is only going to go up, so other things equal, your job options are comparatively likely to increase over the course of your career.

 

 

Where are Ph.D. programs with people who work in Latin American philosophy?

At the time of writing (2017) there are at least 7 U.S. Ph.D. programs (if I'm overlooking a program, please email me!), where at least one tenured faculty members teaches and/or publishes with some regularity in Latin American philosophy. Here they are, in no particular order, with the relevant faculty members with appointments in philosophy. I don't list places that have faculty that would be relevant to a dissertation committee but that haven't been publishing in the field (Clinton Tolley, UCSD), that aren't in the philosophy department (for example, Rutgers with Nelson Maldonado-Torres in Comparative Literature), nor departments where the only specialists are untenured faculty members, nor departments with faculty members who have retired or are unlikely to take on advising of new graduate students.

 

DePaul- Elizabeth Millán

Hunter College/CUNY Grad Center- Linda Alcoff
Penn State- Eduardo Mendieta, Mariana Ortega

Texas A&M- Gregory Pappas

Vanderbilt- José Medina

University of California, San Diego- Manuel Vargas
University of Oregon- Alejandro Vallega, Rocío Zambrana

 
Note: Once tenured, Grant Silva will make Marquette an attractive place to pursue Ph.D. studies in Latin American Philosophy.



Where should I go?

Recommendations by people who don't know the details of your life and interests are always to be taken with a grain of salt, maybe even a whole box of salt. That said, here are some recommendations based on considerations solely driven by what would tend to maximize a population of average candidates' chances of getting a job at a place with a reasonable teaching load in a geographically and culturally desirable part of the world. (So yes, there can be good reasons to disregard everything I say below).

 

For someone with an analytic bent, I recommend that you go to the best analytic program you can get into where (1) you can pursue Latin American phil without being actively hindered by the department and (2) there is a reasonable chance that you will be able to get financial support for studying Latin American philosophy in Latin America (e.g., during summers, or for a year abroad).


I strongly reject the claim that is sometimes made that the only sensible place to study Latin American philosophy is in a department with strong "pluralist" credentials, where "pluralist" is understood as suggesting a department that is not analytic. Resources, institutional prestige, and toleration can sometimes be more advantageous to you than merely moral support, no matter how genuine the support. That said, pluralist departments can be wonderful places—I say this as someone who spent 15 years working in a happily pluralist department.


There are obvious drawbacks to the "if analytic phil-inclined, go analytic" approach. You typically won't have anyone to work with, you will likely need to write a dissertation in another field, and you will need to be strongly self-motivated to keep up a real area of specialization or concentration in a field often not serviced by your department. At this stage in the development of the field and its status with respect to the larger profession, the overwhelming benefit is that you will be maximally employable after it is all over, more so than nearly any other option. That was my path. It would have been a disaster, though, if my graduate program didn't have the money for me to go abroad ever summer and didn't tolerate my teaching classes in Latin American philosophy.


If you are allergic to analytic-oriented departments, or have some special interest in Continental (or other non-analytic) philosophy, then the particulars of the advice above surely does not apply to you. However, analogous considerations about comparative resources and institutional prestige should be similar, within the cohort of schools that you are considering.


Having said all of the foregoing, if you are facing a choice of where to go between roughly comparable schools, but one has someone who works in Latin American philosophy and another doesn't, you should probably go to the one where there is faculty who work on Latin American philosophy. 

 

 

Other considerations

When deciding where to go to school, you should  look into whether or not the school has a Latin American Studies program, center, major, etc.. If they do not these sorts of academic clusters, you should think of this as a very big negative. Why? Latin American Studies groups will typically bring with them resources and opportunities that might otherwise be lacking, including visiting faculty, grant and/or travel support, perhaps language program support, and various other things that can make your studying Latin American philosophy easier to do. Similarly, if one is interested in the Caribbean branches of Latin American philosophy, places with faculty working in Africana thought or a good Caribbean Studies faculty would be a major plus. Depending on your interests, you could find that there are terrific resources outside of philosophy to study the kinds of things you are interested in (e.g., Romance Languages departments, or a Religious Studies department or Comparative Literature). This could give you reason to go to grad school in some field other than philosophy, but be aware that it is very difficult to get back in to philosophy if you have been outside of it or if you get your degree in some other field in the humanities.

 

How to study Latin American philosophy

Since Latin American philosophy is field with very limited visibility in the profession, you have two main options:

1.     Be a two-headed beast (Latin American as an second AOS or a really strong AOC), or

2.     Write a dissertation that is both a piece of Latin American philosophy and something more recognizable to U.S. conceptions of philosophy (Brazilian para-consistent logic! History of biology in Mexico! Race in Brazil! Metaethics and Positivism in Argentina! German Romanticism and Latin American Liberalism!)

 

You could write a straight up dissertation in Latin American philosophy (on Vasconcelos' aesthetic monism, for example). In recent years, this has become more viable than it used to be. However, my suspicion is that given the current situation in philosophy, you will likely have better overall job prospects if you do (1) or (2), because you will be able to apply to other jobs as well.


For what it is worth, my sense is that most of the philosophers in the U.S. who do work in Latin American philosophy went the first route, or worked outside of Latin American philosophy and then later acquired an interest in it. However, this may be starting to change.


Last updated:  06/07/17.