With the COVID-19 pandemic still limiting our ability to connect with colleagues and fellow classmates in person, the PHIL speakers committee have organized a bi-monthly department colloquium. Every other Friday from 2pm-3pm, we will meet on Zoom to learn about and discuss a faculty member's or grad student's recently finished projects or works in progress. In addition, once a semester we will be hosting a lecture and conversation with an invited scholar from outside the department.
Our hope is that this colloquium might provide an opportunity to get valuable feedback on work at a time when many of us have lost the opportunity to do this through various canceled or postponed conferences, provide virtual space to connect when we are all so physically disparate, be inspired by, and support the work of department grad students, faculty, and invited speakers.
All Colloquiums begin at 3pm unless specified below.
Spring 2023 Schedule:
4/28/23 ~Colloquium with Pedro Brea (ENV 125): "The Birth of Energy from the Spirit of Revenge"
4/7/23 ~Colloquium with Bárbara Pimentel Cruz (ENV 120)
3/3/23 ~Colloquium with Bernardo Vargas (ENV120)
Please join us for the first spring colloquium with Bernardo Vargas, "When Eating Fruits and Vegetables Hurts: Viewing Mexican, Latinx, and Indigenous Farm Labor as Racial Extractivism."
When Eating Fruits and Vegetables Hurts: Viewing Mexican, Latinx, and Indigenous Farm Labor as Racial Extractivism.
Although significant consumption trends of plant-based diets continue to increase due to various environmental and health concerns, such as animal factory farming and its environmentally destructive nature, a moral problem often unaddressed in the general public discourse is the mistreatment and extractivist logics entangled with the farmworkers that harvest and pick our fruits and vegetables (Bartashus and Srinivasan, 2021). The US's population of farmworkers consists primarily of liminally situated documented and undocumented Latinx and Indigenous immigrants, of which Mexicans constitute the highest population group, who often inhabit low visibility due to fear of deportation and experience racialization as "illegals," further exacerbating their well-being and continuing the removal of Indigenous communities (Gold et al. 2022, 4). The reality is that the increase in our consumption of vegetables and fruits, even if well intended toward environmental and ethical concerns, propagates the extraction of labor from Mexican, Indigenous, and Latin-American immigrants, succumbing workers to low-pay and harsh working conditions. Thus, given the dynamics of race, capitalism, and coloniality, this paper aims to provide a more dynamic analytical lens beyond the concept of exploitation to truly elucidate the issues by shifting the analysis to an analytic of extractivism.
Structurally speaking, exploitation is generally understood as an unfair compensation of labor that takes advantage of the worker and their labor. However, exploitation as a concept misses several significant domineering components in the case of farmworkers in the US, principally race, gender, neoliberalism, and the legacy of colonialism of México by the US imperial power. Generalizing these salient aspects into the concept of exploitation mitigates the acute circumstances and thus is a limited analytic. Rather than considering the dire circumstances of immigrant farmworkers as mere exploitation, the general argument in this essay is to make an analytical shift to reframing the current agricultural immigration problems to what Jen Preston identifies as racial extractivism, which "positions race and colonialism as central to extractivist projects under neoliberalism and underpins how these epistemologies are written into the economic structure and social relations of production and consumption" (Preston 2017, 356). Thus, racial extractivism elucidates the long history of labor extraction of farmworkers from México and Latin America by considering current coloniality as a component of racial capitalism, which goes beyond exploitation as it accounts for the centrality of race, colonialism, and neoliberalism. I argue that the influx of demand for immigrant farmworkers is a continuation of the US's long pattern of racial extractivism, which entangles the consumer as a participant in farmworkers' subjugation due to their consumption habits.
Two primary sites of extraction will be considered: first, the farmworkers' racialized expendable bodies, as they are used until no longer needed, and second, México as a continual geography of extraction of labor and as a reciprocal effect of the US's international dealings, particularly in the role of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and its causal effect on the displacement of primarily Mexican and Indigenous farmworkers. I also contend that consumers are being placed as conscious and unconscious participants in these dynamics due to various forms of epistemologies of ignorance (Mills 1997). These epistemologies of ignorance may be due to several conscious or unconscious productions of ignorance, such as the lack of knowledge of where their food comes from and who harvests it, the lack of awareness of the challenges farm owners face in finding documented workers and attaining H-2A visas, or political slogans like "illegals are taking our jobs," which will be analyzed in this essay.
I begin in section II by providing a synopsis of the history of US farmworker immigration from México, which provides the case study for this essay. This section displays the interconnectedness of demand for workers until they become expendable and how the racialization of Mexicans, and their denial of whiteness, remains integral to the US's consumption of their labor. In section III, building on emerging discourses of extractivism (Acosta 2013; Gomez-Barris 2017; Insko 2021), I make the analytic distinction between what Jen Preston has identified as "racial extractivism" (Preston 2017) and exploitation to elucidate that this distinction provides further insight into present coloniality. I also focus on Indigenous groups' low visibility (Parks 2021) and some of the disparities they experience, particularly when undocumented. I conclude this section by framing Mexican labor, their bodies, and the land of México as an extractive zone (Gómez-Barris). Section V analyses the epistemologies of ignorance present, particularly in slogans like "illegals are taking our jobs" and the epistemic responsibility of those that hire undocumented immigrants and the consumer. These anti-immigrant advocates propagate epistemologies of ignorance toward consumers by not accurately distributing equal blame toward farm owners who illegally hire undocumented immigrants, creating the consumer as an unknowing participant in such farming and consuming practices.
Preston's notion of racial extractivism builds upon the Black Radical Tradition exemplified by Cedric J. Robinson's articulation of racial capitalism (2005), which centralizes race as a principal structure in capitalistic economies. Although there is a plethora of significant historical, anthropological, legal, and medical literature regarding the long legacy of the experience of farmworkers, little philosophical analysis of racial capitalism and extractivism singularly focusing on Mexican, Indigenous, and Latin-American farmworkers in the US is available. However, the theoretical work of other scholars on racial extractivism is well exemplified by Preston (2017) in her analysis of Canadian Tar Sands mega-projects. This essay helps not only expand the limited philosophical literature concerning farmworkers in the US but also provides a better mode of analysis that considers the coloniality still present in the US's governance practices by further problematizing the colonial logics at a structural level and the entanglement of the consumer.
Acosta, Alberto, "Extractivism and neoextractism: two sides of the same curse." In Beyond Development: Alternative Visions from Latin America, edited by Miriam Lang and Dunia Mokrani. 1. transl. ed. Amsterdam Quito: Transnational Inst, 2013.
Bartashus, Jennifer, and Gopal Srinivasan. "Plant-Based Foods Market to Hit $162 Billion in Next Decade, Projects Bloomberg Intelligence | Press | Bloomberg LP." Bloomberg L.P., sec. Press announcement. Accessed January 27, 2023. https://www.bloomberg.com/company/press/plant-based-foods-market-to-hit-162-billion-in-next-decade-projects-bloomberg-intelligence/.
Gold, Amanda, Wenson Fung, Susan Gabbard, and Daniel Carroll. "Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 2019-2020," n.d.
Gómez-Barris, Macarena. The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives. Dissident Acts. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.
Insko, Jeffrey. "Extraction." In The Cambridge Companion to Environmental Humanities, edited by Jeffrey Cohen and Stephanie Foote, 170-84. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009039369.014.
Mills, Charles W. The Racial Contract. Nachdr. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1998.
Preston, Jen. "Racial Extractivism and White Settler Colonialism: An Examination of the Canadian Tar Sands Mega-Projects." Cultural Studies 31, no. 2-3 (May 4, 2017): 353-75. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502386.2017.1303432.
Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2005.
Spring 2022 Schedule:
4/22/22 ~ Colloquium with Allen Thompson (Oregon State), 3-4 pm.
Please join us this Friday, April 22, at 3 pm for our last colloquium of the semester with Dr. Allen Thompson of Oregon State University in ENV 120 or Zoom.
Dr. Thompsom's primary areas of interest are environmental philosophy (including ethics, metaphysics, and aesthetics), philosophical ethics, social and political philosophy, and practical reason. Recent publications have focused on forward-looking conceptions of human natural goodness and re-visioning our moral responsibility for managing ecosystems under conditions of global climate change.
He will join us this Earth Day 2022 for his talk here at UNT.
4/1/22 ~ Colloquium with David Kaplan: "What's Wrong with Disgusting Food?" ENV 120 or Zoom.
Psychologist Paul Rozin defines disgusting food as a particularly strong emotion, as "revulsion at the prospect of oral incorporation of an offensive object." These offensive objects are seen-as contaminants, which can make acceptable foods unacceptable by even brief contact (e.g., feces on your fork, or someone's spittle on your spoon). Disgust reactions reject foods perceived to be dangerous, inappropriate, defiled, and polluted. They are part cognitive, part affective. Yet, not everyone agrees on what foods are disgusting (insects for you, pork for me), or even finds them distasteful (mold makes blue cheese delicious!) I argue that disgust reactions are potent warning signs that something might be off about a food, and that maybe there are some things you should find unappetizing. Although the politics of disgust is usually reactionary and conservative, it is not necessarily so and it may be worth dabbling in.
3/26/22 ~ Colloquium with Leah Kalmanson: Exploring Jain perspectives on interfaith dialogue and religious pluralism. ENV 130.
Please join us for a colloquium exploring Jain perspectives on interfaith dialogue and religious pluralism. We are pleased to welcome three exciting voices in Jain studies and global-critical philosophy of religion, including Purushottama Bilimoria (University of Melbourne), Marie-Hélène Gorisse (Birmingham Centre for Philosophy of Religion), and Tim Knepper (Drake University). The event will feature talks by each speaker, followed by a roundtable discussion, and ample time for conversation with the audience.
We are currently planning to hold the colloquium in person on UNT's campus (ENV 130), along with a livestream accessible via Zoom. Updates and details will be posted here as available. Please reach out to Leah Kalmanson at email@example.com with any questions. Doors open at 3:30pm.
3/4/22 ~ Colloquium with Leah Kalmanson: Beyond God and Gaia: Reclaiming the Locality of the Divine for Environmental Thought. ENV 120 and via Zoom.
Arguably, contemporary philosophy of religion lacks appropriate language for speaking of (or to) local gods. Monotheistic theologies would struggle to accommodate even the notion of a local divinity. Holistic spiritualities like perennialism, pantheism, or deism may seem more egalitarian at first but ultimately render local gods as various manifestations or avatars of a greater whole, thus reducing difference to sameness in the end. In this talk, I survey several South and East Asian traditions in search of better language for taking up the specificity and locality of divinity as a site of philosophical engagement. In turn, I hope this exercise in global-critical philosophy of religion has something to offer environmental thought to support its ongoing engagement with lands and places, Indigenous traditions, and more-than-human ecologies.
Please join us in ENV 120 or via Zoom at https://unt.zoom.us/j/83282574722.
2/25/22 ~ Colloquium with Zakiyyah Iman Jackson (USC Dornsife): Black Women at the Podium: The Ecstasy and Npoise of Kathleen Collins' Losing Ground, 3:30pm, via Zoom at https://unt.zoom.us/j/85802727263.
Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Feminist Research atthe University of Southern California. Professor Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter andMeaning in an Antiblack World: winner of the Harry Levin First Book Prize from the American ComparativeLiterature Association, the Gloria Anzaldúa Book Award from the National Women's Studies Association,the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Studies and is featured in Art Forum magazine's "Best of 2021" issue. Her research explores the literary and figurative aspects of Western philosophical and scientific discourseand investigates the engagement of African diasporic literature, film, and visual art with the historicalconcerns, knowledge claims, and rhetoric of Western science and philosophy.