Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Foucault; whichever way you slice it, the major figures of modern Western philosophy are almost without exception white and male. But now, thanks to financial support from the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and the President’s Student Diversity Initiative Fund, the Haverford Department of Philosophy has the chance to celebrate deep thinkers who don’t match that description. At an October 4 reception, Associate Professor of Philosophy Jerry Miller unveiled the Gladstone Lee Mohan (GLM) Collection, a showcase of texts as wide-ranging in topic as Satkari Mookerjee’s “The Buddhist Philosophy of Universal Flux,” Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Masks,” and Donald J. Munro’s “The Concept of Man in Early China.” Named after one alumnus and two current students—Bradford Gladstone ’18, Andrew Lee ’20, and Aarushi Mohan ’20—the collection features philosophical works by authors from backgrounds currently underrepresented in the profession, affirming Haverford’s commitment to diversity.
“There is a great deal of outstanding philosophical literature by authors from underrepresented backgrounds, and this literature needs to be better known among philosophy students and faculty,” Department Chair Joel Yurdin says. “This collection is one step in our department’s broader commitment to philosophical pluralism.”
Yurdin has been working with Gladstone, Lee, and Mohan, or some combination thereof, on the collection since the fall of 2017, when they first approached him with the idea of creating a permanent monument to minority voices in philosophy. (Gladstone and Mohan came up with the concept of the collection; Lee was brought on in the fall of 2018, following Gladstone’s graduation). In the ensuing months, Yurdin helped guide them through the process of applying for funding, and the renovation of (what is now called) Lutnick Library provided an excellent opportunity to acquire relevant volumes.
Of the final product, which is set to reside in the Gest Lounge permanently, Yurdin says, “I hope the collection deepens students’ sense of the variety and richness of philosophical literature.”
Department Administrative Assistant Elana Wolff situates Yurdin’s faith in the project within a larger tradition of Haverford philosophy professors championing the forces of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “As a group,” she says, “the philosophy faculty are acutely aware of the historically white- and male-centered nature of their profession, and have been actively working to counteract this tendency, in their hiring practices, in their teaching, and in the welcome they provide for their students.”
Accordingly, the GLM Collection is far more than a static selection of books: Students are free to borrow any already on display.
“Nothing makes me happier than to see students waiting for office hours pull a book off the shelf and read,” says Wolff. “I see them smile as they find familiar favorite titles that are included, and smile even more when they see a book that is new to them that’s related to their interests.”
Photo by Patrick Montero.