For nine years, Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) has been doing important work to transform the discipline of philosophy. The institute helps students from underrepresented groups develop the resources, community, and confidence necessary to pursue graduate school in philosophy. As the call for funding notes, “PIKSI aims to change philosophy’s status as the least diverse in the humanities. Only 16% of full-time academic philosophers of women. Of the 13,000 professional philosophers in the United States, only 156 are black. The experiences of members of diverse groups can cast light on traditional philosophical questions as well as raise new ones.”
Here at XCP, we have been talking about how diversifying the discipline will also mean diversifying philosophical practices. PIKSI makes these links explicit. They also demonstrate what it means to think broadly about diversity, i.e. not along a single-axis framework of gender, as they incorporate issues of ability, sexuality, race, and class.
This transformative work also extends beyond the student participants. I attended the institute as a graduate assistant several years ago, and it was key in my decision to stay in graduate school. PIKSI reminded me, and so many others, that I was not alone. “Diverse practitioners” need these institutional spaces for connection and support. We need to remember that the philosophical world is and can be larger than our particular institutions, where we might feel like “the only one.” During my time there, I heard from so many people—faculty, graduate assistants, and undergraduate students—that PIKSI served as a force of rejuvenation.
The subject matter of PIKSI is also crucial to its success. By focusing on the relationship between lived experience and philosophical reflection, the institute emphasizes the importance of students bringing their own concerns and questions to the table. Many students remark that the institute is the first time they learn there are “philosophers like them” and that they could have a role to play in philosophy. It is often the first time students participate in seminar discussions about anti-racist and feminist philosophical work. The testimonials in the PIKSI video also demonstrate the importance of this approach.
If you are a first generation college student, PIKSI could entail learning about what going to graduate school even means. If you are a low income student, it might mean learning concrete details about graduate stipends and having conversations with people who understand what it is like to have to support your family while in grad school. It involves talking to other people who get it about what it is like to be the only queer person of color, or woman with a disability, or first generation college student, and how to find the community that will allow you to not just get through, but thrive. It gives you email addresses and phone numbers and support networks.
We need PIKSI more than ever. If you haven’t already, please donate and spread the word!