Dr. Eva Cadavid explores the philosophy of race and ethnicity
Centre College’s Latin American studies program is young but quickly growing, especially with the addition of Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eva Cadavid’s class, Philosophical Discussions on Race and Ethnicity.
“This course arose from my participation in the development of the Latin American studies minor,” Cadavid explains. “Once I started thinking about the types of courses that I could teach to contribute to the minor, I found that identity formation theories and philosophical work on identity concepts were fascinating subjects.”
Because the course focuses on both African American and Latino/a identities, it fulfills requirements of both the Latin American Studies and the African & African-American studies minors.
The class engages with a variety of interesting questions about the philosophy of identity, including whether race and/or ethnicity are socially constructed concepts, how to distinguish (if at all) between race and ethnicity, and whether race and ethnicity are integral to one’s sense of self.
As part of the course, students will attend several upcoming convocations and other events on campus related to race and ethnicity. Specifically, her class, along with several music classes, will meet with award-winning pianist and composer Pablo Ziegler when he visits campus to perform at the Norton Center for the Arts in March.
Students will not only write several papers and give presentations throughout the term; they will also be expected to lead a class discussion at least once.
Cadavid sees her class as just one facet of an incredibly complex issue studied from a variety of perspectives at the College.
“Professor Andrea Abrams teaches a race and ethnicity course through Anthropology and Sociology,” she explains. “Last semester, Professor Stephen Dove taught race in Latin America and Professor Sara Egge taught race in the United States. Our students are already thinking about these issues, and I wanted to give them the opportunity to consider race and ethnicity from a philosophical perspective.”
Importantly, because racial and ethnic identity can be a sensitive and difficult topic, Cadavid wants her students to explore ways of talking about the issue.
“Centre has been very committed to diversifying our community and has started to create spaces for us to talk about what we mean by diversity, how we identify ourselves, and what is appropriate and inappropriate when discussing racial and ethnic identities,” she says. “My classroom is a safe space to explore and think about racial and ethnic identities, issues and problems.
“My goal,” she continues, “is to equip my students with a philosophical background and with a thoughtful confidence to take the discussion outside the classroom and more deeply into our community. I want my students to be unafraid to question and analyze concepts that can make us feel uncomfortable because they are at the core of how we identify ourselves.”
By Mariel Smith