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How A DU Student Collective Is Spotlighting Feminist Philosophy Beyond Campus Academics

the philosophy project

The Philosophy Project: Much of mainstream discourse and human knowledge pivots on the foundations of early philosophy. Thinkers, scholars, theorists – the principles they have conceived and propagated through the ages have been guiding forces behind social justice maxims of equality, dignity, morality, the whole range. Even so, the discipline, dismissed for its seeming abstractions, isn’t often given the patience and space it deserves. A group of young women in Delhi is trying to change that.

Final year undergraduate students of philosophy at Delhi University‘s Miranda House, Naina Bhargava, Shreya Sharma, Savvi Singhal, Srishti Sensarma and Gauri Kumar, came together last year July in a bid to spark conversation that went beyond classroom curriculum, incepting The Philosophy Project.

“It started as a book discussion group that convened over WhatsApp,” Founder-Editor Bhargava tells SheThePeople. “As a Philosophy student, I found that the subject isn’t accessible… There is a lack of information and accessible content that philosophy enthusiasts can consume on Indian political philosophy, feminist philosophy and their intersection with the current scenario.”

The Philosophy Project, in a year, has grown to be a 100-member strong group comprising passionate participants across campuses, including but not limited to those at DU. Collaboration with esteemed institutions like the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) and Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) has shaped the collective into a robust, authentic network of active intellectual exchanges.

From Beauvoir to Ambedkar, the tent of information is expansive.

By spearheading causes of representation and feminism, these young women seem to be partaking in the legacy of unafraid discourse that national capital university campuses have been distinct for over the years.

“Philosophy as a subject cannot be explored, taught or studied without a healthy and active discussion… This is the principle behind most of our endeavours, be it the lecture series on feminist philosophy or even our regular editorial output that explores oft-forgotten or marginalised people, ideas and voices,” says Kumar, Senior Managing Editor.

The Philosophy Project: Making Academia Accessible To All

Though regular functions are currently on hold, given the hostile second wave of coronavirus, The Philosophy Project customarily operates on a healthy diet of regular book discussions, webinars, lectures and online courses that have witnessed the venerated presence of Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Krishna Menon and Kanchana Mahadevan, well-known professors in the DU circuit.

the philosophy project

Lecture with Prof Mahadevan in progress: TPP

Though the members say the university course is augmented and “well-tailored”, it largely fronts white male representation. Feminist philosophy, therefore, is given exclusive platform here. A free online course on feminist philosophy was launched recently too, Bhargava says.

We would like to see a shift in the Indian education sphere where not only students but schools also prefer having philosophy inculcated in the curriculum,” Communications Officer Singhal tells us.

The trend however of philosophy courses attracting minimal male attendance is not hidden. If anything, the shortfall is stark. Even without colleges like Miranda or Lady Shri Ram carving a niche in the academic area of social sciences, these subjects have held the “feminine” tag for far too long, across educational institutions. Is this phenomenon prevalent in The Philosophy Project circle too?

“It is true that philosophy, like many other disciplines, has a long-standing tradition of gender bias… but because we have insisted on keeping every platform open to all with no selection criteria of any kind, we’ve not had the opportunity to notice the disparity if there is any. I’d like to believe that all genders are equally represented,” Kumar answers.

The collective has materialised as a “safe little space for academic discourse” in the event of colleges taking a long pause, Sharma, Art Director and Visualiser for The Philosophy Project, says. “All for the love of philosophy.”