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Philosophy Chair Georgia Warnke Appointed National Humanities Center Fellow


By Stephanie Wejbe , Student Intern of CHASS College Computing
May 11, 2004

Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair Georgia Warnke was appointed as one of the forty National Humanities Center fellows for the 2004-2005 academic year. She was chosen for her project, After Sex: A Hermeneutics of Race and Gender, Color and Sex.

According to Warnke, her project examines the tension between the politics of identity and anti-essentialist accounts of race and gender. The politics of identity is concerned with struggles for racial and gender justice. Anti-essentialist accounts of race and gender emphasize the extent to which race and gender are the results of processes: social, political and juridical structures work to construct individuals and groups as races and genders and individuals and groups internalize these “constructions” as their racial and gender identities.

Warnke questions both the compatibility of these accounts. “Why should we struggle for social justice on behalf of identities that are themselves social effects? Would it not be better to work on getting rid of these identities?”

Anti-essentialist accounts of race and gender have varying answers to these questions. Warnke argues, “None of their answers is very good and I try to develop, instead, an interpretive account of racial and gender identity. Race and gender are historically plausible ways of understanding who we are but they are neither more fundamental nor less partial than the other identities we possess. Being a woman has the same status as being a Methodist or Democrat: it can be the source of the same sort of pride and is entitled to the same freedoms and protections. When people insist, however, that we are most basically women, no matter what else we are, they are being dogmatic in a way that is belied by the nature of interpretation.”

The National Humanities Center www.nhc.rtp.nc.us, located in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina, is a privately incorporated independent institute for advanced study in the humanities. Since 1978 the Center has awarded fellowships to leading scholars in the humanities, whose work at the Center has resulted in the publication of more than 900 books in all fields of humanistic study. The Center also sponsors programs to strengthen the teaching of the humanities in secondary and higher education.

Warnke has been working on the project for a few years, which also has impacted her research and teaching interests, “In order to pursue this project, I have become a half-time member of the Women’s Studies department and have learned from both the faculty and the students there. I now teach courses on race and gender,” Warnke stated

Professor Gary Watson of the Philosophy Department proved to be “very helpful” during the application process. To pursue the project, Warnke will miss teaching for a year, but she is “very excited” about the fellowship and opportunity to further her work. History Professor Thomas Cogswell is a current fellow at the National Humanities Center. Both he and Professor Warnke encourage others to apply.


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