Guest post by Liam Kofi Bright
In 2014 Tina Fernandes Botts, Liam Kofi Bright, Myisha Cherry, Guntur Mallarangeng, and Quayshawn Spencer published the paper “What is the state of blacks in philosophy?” This paper produced a count of the number of “US BIPs”. This term was defined as follows: “a black person with a Ph.D. in philosophy from a U.S. philosophy program, a Ph.D. student in a U.S. philosophy program, or a non-retired employee of a U.S. philosophy program who is employed in an academic capacity (e.g., postdoc, adjunct professor, tenure track professor, etc.)” In that paper we concluded that as of May 2013 there were 141 US BIPs, and arguments were given (236) for taking this to be an accurate count. Note that this figure led the authors of What is the state of blacks in Philosophy? to estimate that 1.32 percent of the philosophy profession in the US are BIPs. This coheres well with the finding in a previous post on this blog that “[t]he percentage of non-Hispanic Black or African American U.S. PhD recipients [has been] hovering around 1.4% to 2.2%” since the 1970s.
A previous post on this blog examined the rate at which women were publishing in leading philosophy journals. In that work gender was coded by first name and familiarity; since it is even more difficult to code race by means of first name than it is for gender, extending this mode of analysis to the examination of racial publication patterns in philosophy would not be possible. However, as a consequence of the aforementioned work, the authors of What is the state of blacks in philosophy? have a database of US BIPs which there is some reason to trust. One of the authors of What is the state of blacks in philosophy? (also the author of this post), Liam Kofi Bright, has therefore produced a study of the publication patterns of US BIPs in leading philosophy journals.
The publication records of 15 journals were used for this study: Philosophical Review, Journal of Philosophy, Nous, Mind, Philosophy and Phenomenological Review, Ethics, Philosophical Studies, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophers' Imprint, Analysis, Philosopher's Quarterly, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Philosophy of Science, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and Synthese. These journals were chosen since they were the top 15 of a journal survey ran on Leiter Reports in 2013. Noisy a signal though it may be, the results of this survey give some indication as to what were then perceived to be high prestige journals in philosophy. Publication records were sought for the years 2003-2012, that is to say the decade leading up to the point at which the US BIP database was compiled.
For each person on the database of US BIPs I ran a search on Excel to see if their last name appeared in the author list of the journal in question. Even granting the approximate completeness of the 2012 US BIP database, three obvious weaknesses of this search method ought to be acknowledged. First, if a US BIP was active in the years up to 2012 but had dropped out of the labour force sometime before 2013, they would likely not appear in the US BIP database and so would be missed by this search method. Second, if authors have changed their last name (say, due to marriage or divorce) in the time between publishing during 2003-2012 and the compilation of the 2013 database, their old publications under their previous name would likely be missed by this search method. In one case where I was aware that this may be an issue special effort was made to search alternate names. However, I cannot rule out the possibility that this occurred in other cases I was not aware of. Third, it is possible that there are non US BIPs publishing in these journals during this time period – these people would not be apparent given this search method.
To partially address the third problem, an attempt was made to estimate the proportion of US philosophers in the total population of authors. I did this taking a random sample of 200 authors from the total population of authors for all 15 journals in the time period under study. I google searched each of these authors to see if they either got their PhDs from a US philosophy department, or were employed by a US philosophy department during the period under study when their article was published. This brings the definition of US philosopher used here into line with the definition of US BIP. For the most part I was easily able to identify whether or not they met this definition of a US philosopher, and where I had difficulty (because there was no easy way of ascertaining their PhD granting school or employment history) I leaned towards not counting the person as a US philosopher. (I was uncertain in 23 of the 200 cases.) This method thus likely undercounts US philosophers.
From applying this procedure I took 123/200, or 61.5%, as the proportion of US philosophers. Thus, if US BIPs are publishing in these journals at about the same rate as are US philosophers as a whole, they should have published approximately 1% of the total articles.
There are not many publications by US BIPs journals during this period. In total there were 30 publications by US BIPs for all journals during this period. By contrast, there were 10659 publications overall during this period. This means that publications by US BIPs were 0.28% of the publications during this period. Of the 30 publications, 15 were research articles as opposed to book reviews. There were 7638 research articles overall in this period, meaning that research articles by US BIPs were 0.19% of the research articles published. Assuming that 61.5% of the population were US philosophers, this would make black philosophers 0.46% of the US philosopher authors. Likewise US BIPs would be 0.32% of US authors of research publications.
In line with the findings of What is the State of Blacks in Philosophy? I found that the publications of US BIPs were clustered around certain topic matters. In the 2014 article we found that the top 5 most common AOS among US BIPs were (1) Africana, (2) Race, (3) Social and Political, (4) Ethics, and (5) Continental philosophy. I hand coded the topic matters of the 15 research articles on the basis of their titles and abstracts. Almost two thirds (9 of them) concerned at least one of: philosophy of race, political philosophy, or ethics. One journal, Ethics, accounts for almost half of the US BIP publications (13 of them). Note that in the 2014 article we coded people’s AOS by self-identification on their CV or webpage rather than looking at their publications, so this is not circular. None the less, any bias towards certain AOS’ that was involved in producing the initial database of US BIPs may have been reproduced in this count.
Not many US BIPs published research articles in this period. The 15 journal articles were produced by 11 US black philosophers, 9 of whom were men and 2 of whom were women. For some perspective, Timothy Williamson published 15 research articles in the journals under study during this time period.
Unless there has been a sea change in the years since 2012, US BIPs are not publishing much in journals which are considered high prestige in philosophy. Given the limitations of the method of analysis and the sort of data available, no firm conclusions about the causes of the low publication rate of US BIPs in these journals may presently be reached.