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Inclusive Philosophy Studies at York

Dr. Annu Dahiya adds thinkers of color to the syllabus as a way to speak to the students directly.

Dr. Annu Dahiya, Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies lecturer, saw an opening for the position at York College. She was immediately intrigued by the department's interdisciplinary nature, including History and Anthropology. "A major pull for me is that York is a majority student of color university," she recalls. “ I thought coming to York presented an opportunity to open up discussions about who we think philosophy is for and challenge the thinking about what comes to mind when we picture a philosopher."

Students read Plato, the father of Western philosophy, for her intro class. Still, they read works by Gloria Anzaldua, a well-known Chicana feminist, and Kristie Dotson, a Black feminist philosopher at the University of Michigan.

Dr Dahiya took an unexpected path to her current vocation. Born in New Delhi, India, she moved to New Jersey with her family when she was four. "I was a feminist before I knew what the word was. And I was fascinated with the natural world, from the oceans to the forests," she explains. She gravitated toward life sciences and biology. However, she had an epiphany after starting her undergraduate degree at Rutgers University. "I was interested in science to understand what it teaches us about what it means to be living beings and our relationship between us and the universe." She soon realized science was a gateway for more significant philosophical questions. She later completed her Doctoral studies at Duke University.

In her Intro to Philosophy class, Dr. Dahiya engages students in discussions that expand their ideas about the subject. She points out that many think of the discipline as conceptual engineering. And as humans, we can think and reason. We can ponder big questions: What is life? What is the meaning of death? What makes a socially just world? There are problems that we need to think more deeply about.

 "But another idea of philosophy could be that we live by concepts that shape how we think and act toward one another," Dr. Dahiya says. "The idea is to pause and meditate with a critical lens about the background forces that impact how we live and think. Are those concepts serving us, or do we need to think and live by different concepts? Can we do these things better?" She suggests thinking about philosophy as your brain going to the gym.

While Dr. Dahiya continues to be interested in the intersection of science and the philosophy of science, her early interest in feminist ideology is also interconnected. She is currently working on a manuscript inspired by her dissertation, "The Conditions of Emergence Toward a Dark Feminist Philosophy of the Origins of Life," an interdisciplinary project that merges feminist philosophy, philosophy of science, and Black feminist thought together.

Adding thinkers of color to the syllabus was a way to speak to the students directly and helped to create an environment where they learned to question and think together.

"A guiding question in my work is how have systems of oppression that use a colonial, sexist, or anti-Black logic shaped what we know and understand about the natural world? I am interested in contributing to how we can think otherwise." This fall, she also taught a senior seminar on Feminist and Anti-Racist Philosophies of Space and Time. "We read thinkers that challenged our concepts of time and helped us understand how power works," she explains.

One of Dr. Dahiya's goals is to help the Philosophy department grow so they can add more intermediate and advanced courses. But for the students she has taught thus far, she says, "I want the material to speak to them and transform them. Hopefully, I've helped them to think better about where their intellectual and career paths have taken them."