Canonizing the critical race artifice: An analysis of philosophy’s gentrification of critical race theory

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As a discipline, philosophy has established its character through an obdurateness dedicated to preserving the truth of its authors, the efficacy of its logic, and the legacy of its theoretical schools. However, when engaging black theory little effort is made to maintain the heritage of black schools of thought. To the contrary, black theory is canonized by the extent to which its founding authors are displaced, and the particularity of its methods and concepts assimilated within the disciplinary narratives of the larger canon (Curry, 2011a; Curry, 2011b; Curry 2010). Critical Race Theory (CRT) is perhaps the clearest example of this anti-black dynamic within the academic discipline of philosophy. Richard Delgado’s “Crossroads and Blind Alleys: A Critical Examination of Recent Writing About Race” argues that the popularization of CRT and its adoption by predominately white institutions and academic departments have hastened the deradicalization of the material analyses formulated by the original race-critics across multiple disciplines (Delgado 2004). The adoption of Continental philosophy and post-structuralism as the methods of analyzing problems of racism and other social inequalities has allowed many disciplines to embrace CRT as a general label designating any number of inquiries into questions concerning race generally without any attention to the methodological and theoretical commitments of Critical Race Theory in its original formulation. The initial formulation of CRT was racial realist, meaning it focused on the empirical and historically defined differences in economic status and political power, and made its concern the social stratifications which had emerged throughout America as the foundation of its analysis into not only the law but the routine function of white supremacist ideology more generally. The present-day interpretation and popular understanding of CRT however, is quite different, and imagined only to exist as a conceptual and discursive engagement with issues of identity, or privilege.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781134655717
ISBN (Print)9781315884424
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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