2021 Philosophy Department Newsletter
Message from the Chair
Greetings to all of our alumni from the George Washington University Department of Philosophy! I am pleased to report that, after an unusual year of remote teaching and learning, we are back on campus and once again enjoying the benefits of in-person engagement and collaboration. Through this newsletter, you’ll read about a few of the exciting things happening in the department, including the achievements of our philosophy community.
Thank you so much for your support and involvement. Please stay in touch.
Annual Sophia Lecture on the Politics of Police Abolition
Jasmine Syedullah, assistant professor of Africana Studies at Vassar College, presented “Is this self truly mine to own? a black feminist politics of abolition from within the hold,” at the Department of Philosophy’s annual Sophia Lecture on the politics of police abolition. A black feminist political theorist of abolition, Professor Syedullah is the co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (North Atlantic Books, 2016).
Her current research intervenes in the field of political theory to ask how the carceral logics of modern freedom—how our bodies, minds and actions have been shaped by the idea and practices of imprisonment—are challenged by captive black women's demands for abolition. She roots her black feminist theory of abolition in the 19th century writings of antislavery abolitionist Harriet Jacobs, including the implications of her initial escape from slavery documented in her 1861 slave narrative to the tiny garret space she refers to as her “loophole of retreat.”
Professor Syedullah holds a PhD in politics with a designated emphasis in feminist studies and history of consciousness from University of California Santa Cruz, and a BA from Brown University in religious studies with a focus in Buddhist philosophy.
The Department of Philosophy welcomed four alumni panelists to lead the second annual career workshop for graduating philosophy students in March 2021. The four alumni were Brian Wlcek, MA ’18, engagement manager with Deloitte Consulting's Government and Public Services practice; Chelsea Murtha, BA ’14, director of trade, sustainability and global affairs at Sorini, Samet & Associates; Niels von Deuten, BA ’06, who covers legal issues relating to African and Near Eastern Affairs in the Office of Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State; and Rostam Assadi, MA ’19, a consultant under Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy & Analytics. They joined our undergraduate and graduate students to discuss their degrees and philosophy-related careers outside of academia.
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
- Greg Dolin, MA ’15, has been on leave from his position as professor of law at the University of Baltimore since January 2020 to serve as a resident associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau.
- Claire Pustinger, BA ’17, teaches 7th grade in New York City and is pursuing a master’s in the teaching of English at Columbia University.
- Michael Thacher, BA ’70, is retired in Los Angeles and audits astrophysics classes at UCLA, while volunteering as a docent at Mt. Wilson Observatory. He continues to actively support the GW Philosophy Department, particularly through the Thacher-Reynolds Fellowship program.
- Professor Avery Archer was on sabbatical for the 2020/2021 academic year, during which he worked on a monograph entitled "The Attitude of Agnosticism," which is currently under consideration for a book contract with Cambridge University Press. He also gave colloquium talks titled "The Epistemic-Improvement View" at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in October 2020; "The Aim of Inquiry" at the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology in December 2020; and "On What it Means to be Neutral" at Portland State University in January 2021.
- Professor David DeGrazia co-authored the book A Theory of Bioethics, which was published by Cambridge University Press in Open Access format. He also published the article “Ethics and Animals” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy and presented “Reflections on the Ontology of Death” at a University of Chicago-sponsored virtual conference. His band, The Variables, released an EP featuring five original songs and a cover on Bandcamp.
- Professor Lucia Rafanelli published Promoting Justice Across Borders: The Ethics of Reform Intervention (Oxford University Press, 2021). She also authored an article in the journal Millennium: Journal of International Studies, “Toward an Individualist Postcolonial Cosmopolitanism,” a contribution to a symposium on Adom Getachew’s Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination. She also contributed the chapter "Toleration and Political Change,” (2021) in Mitja Sardoč ed., The Palgrave Handbook of Toleration.
- Professor Mark Ralkowski published the co-edited volume and wrote the book introduction for Gymnastics, Athletics, and Agon in Plato, with Heather Reid and Coleen Zoller (Parnassos Press, October 2020). He also published a book chapter, “A Contest Between Two Lives: Plato’s Existential Drama,” in Gymnastics, Athletics, and Agon in Plato (Parnassos Press, October 2020). He presented a paper called “Plato and the Navy” at the Sixth Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Heritage of Western Greece, which was split between virtual and in-person sessions in Sicily in June 2021. Additionally, he was the editor of Dave Chappelle and Philosophy, which was published in August 2021. His two chapters, “Why You Can’t Cancel Dave Chappelle” and “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching,” appear in the volume.
- Dr. Summer Renault-Steele published "New Media, Old Theory, and Critical Self-Encounter on the Internet" in Evental Aesthetics in May 2021.
- Professor Eric Saidel won the Columbian Prize for Teaching and Mentoring Advanced Undergraduate Students.
- Professor Joseph Trullinger published "Interference for God’s Despised Poor: Poverty of Spirit in The Good Lord Bird" in Macrina in April.
- Professor Gail Weiss virtually presented "Beauvoir as Critical Phenomenologist: Reading The Second Sex in the #MeToo Era" to the Boston Phenomenology Circle (BPC) 2021 Symposium on "Phenomenology and Ethics" in April 2021. She also virtually presented "Translating Lived Experience Across Multiple ‘Worlds of Sense’: Depathologizing and Decolonizing the Clinical Encounter" as the keynote for the Inaugural Minorities and Philosophy Symposium hosted by the Department of Philosophy, University College Dublin and as part of Ryerson University’s Department of Philosophy Speaker Series in April 2021. Additionally, Professor Weiss served as guest co-editor of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy 2020 Special Issue of the Journal for Speculative Philosophy: A Quarterly Journal of History, Criticism, and Imagination, Volume 34 #3, which was published in September 2020. She also co-authored the Introduction with co-editor Andrew Cutrofellow (ps. 225-231). Professor Weiss published an article, "Strength in Old Age," in The Philosopher's Magazine for a Special Forum on Getting Old, edited by Jean Kazez, Issue 91 (4th Quarter 2020), 99-103, that was published in November 2020. She published the chapter, “Feminist Phenomenology” in the Oxford Handbook of Feminist Philosophy, edited by Kim Q. Hall and Ásta Sveinsdóttir, Oxford University Press (ps. 63-71) in April 2021.
- Professor Tad Zawidzki presented his work at two workshops in Germany this year: Minds, Models and Mechanisms: Current Trends in Philosophy of Psychiatry, at Universität des Saarlandes, and Philosophy in Times of Crisis: Theoretical Perspectives East and West, at University of Tübingen. Sadly, both had to be moved online due to the pandemic.