Tuvel’s Hypatia Article

There is a ton of commentary on this controversy, so I won’t try to summarize it.

This wiki page does a decent job, as far as I can tell.

Here is Rebecca Tuvel’s article, “In defense of transracialism.” It may be helpful to read it before weighing in on the controversy.

It is unfortunate that Tuvel failed to engage more deeply with the work of non-white and transgender scholars prior to publishing her article. The editors of Hypatia should have required such engagement. I suppose the peer reviewers chosen did not have the required expertise in the relevant subfields. Peer review, while absolutely essential in all academic disciplines, remains a largely unpaid form of scholarly labor. Established, tenured or tenure-track professors can donate more of their time to it. Scholars who are transgendered, non-white, and/or female must struggle to find a place in the predominantly white male discipline of professional philosophy, so I imagine finding time to accept requests to peer review articles for free is extremely difficult. So there are structural problems here preventing thorough review of such articles.

That said, it is also unfortunate that Tuvel’s critics for the most part appear to have entirely ignored her argument, speculative though it may be. Tuvel does cite the transgender scholar Susan Stryker, whose call is important in the context of the backlash over the article’s publication:

I follow transgender theorist Susan Stryker’s call for those of us thinking through the Jenner–Dolezal comparison to “hold open a space for real intellectual curiosity, for investigations that deepen our understanding of how identity claims and processes function, rather than rushing to offer well-formed opinions based on what we already think we know” (Stryker 2015).

It may very well be the case that Tuvel’s arguments are spurious, that issues surrounding racial and gender identity transitions cannot or should not be so easily compared. But even if she is wrong, I think there are many live philosophical questions here worth exploring. Identity formation is not a simple enough matter to warrant bypassing critical reflection to denounce anyone and everyone who dares to make unpopular arguments. It is interesting to note the gap between what people said in public about Tuvel’s article versus what they told her in private.

[Update: Adding a link to Kelly Oliver’s take on this dust up, which is supportive of Stryker’s call: HERE]