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New feminist Bristol University unit aims to diversify philosophy curriculum

By Sofie Kwiatkowski, News Reporter

Bristol's Social Sciences and Law Faculty are running a successful new unit for the second year in a row aiming to provide an alternate and critical history of political though to a standard course.  

The course in run by senior lecturer in Sociology, Politics and International Studies, Dr Alix Dietzel and is offered to third years, encouraging learning that challenges male-heavy, western-centric philosophy curriculum. It has a focus on the sexist and racist nature of political philosophy, drawing attention to the exclusion of women's ideas from mainstream philosophy.  

The unit was inspired by a 2020 book called The Philosopher Queens: The lives and legacies of philosophy's unsung women, edited by Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting.

Participants discuss why women, and particularly women of colour, are written out of the philosophy canon, and why many others never had the opportunity to become philosophers, before discussing female philosophers and their views,

Dr Dietzel says that although putting together the unit was 'risky,' she was 'passionate about creating the course for anyone who felt that philosophy is stale, male, and pale.'

Dr Dietzel went on to say that she had found it difficult to be a woman in philosophy, and describes her unit as allowing herself and her students to ask 'big questions' about their own role as philosophers. 'It turns out you don't always have to be an academic expert to make an exciting unit, you can draw on lived experience and co-create a space of learning with your students, not for them.'

Described as being a 'big hit' with students who thought philosophy wasn't for them, one student said she took the unit as she 'admired' Dr Dietzel and is 'very excited to see the representation of women's viewpoints in a male-dominated world like academia.'

Professor Tansy Jessop, the University's Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education, said: 'Philosophy Queens headlines female philosophers in contrast to the traditional canon populated by western, male philosophers.

'I'm excited that Alix has opened the way for our students to learn from ground-breaking women philosophers and from traditions inside and outside the dominant western paradigm.

'This is a long-overdue and much needed development, which will enable our students to experience a more democratic education.'

The unit is available to those studying Politics.