News & Events

Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series 2020-21
Spring Semester


A Panel discussion with Frank B. Wilderson III and Ranjana Khanna
On Questions of Structural Change: The Human, Afropessimism, and Indignity

*Recording of 3/25 event –


WHEN: April 20th, 3pm-5pm EDT
WHAT: A Panel discussion with Frank B. Wilderson III and Ranjana Khanna
On Questions of Structural Change: The Human, Afropessimism, and Indignity
WHERE: Zoom Registration required:

This event is co-sponsored by the Colby Center for the Arts and Humanities, the University of Maine, Philosophy Department, and College of the Atlantic.

This panel brings two contemporary thinkers in the Humanities, Frank B. Wilderson III and Ranjana Khanna, into conversation about questions of racism, colonialism, and sexual difference. Wilderson and Khanna both engage critically with notions of the human. Wilderson has argued that Humanist thought and its material implications are dependent on Black death; he suggests that within this configuration, “Human Life is dependent on Black death for its existence and for its conceptual coherence.” Wilderson offers Afropessimism as an analytic lens, arguing that it shows an irreconcilable difference between the violence of capitalism, gender oppression, White supremacy and colonialism on the one hand, and the violence of anti-Blackness on the other. Khanna has argued for a radical reassessment of the use of dignity as the basis for understandings of the human. She proposes instead a consideration of the human in terms of disposability. Through psychoanalytic, feminist, Marxist and literary analyses, Khanna offers an approach to questions of political change and justice through a focus on moments of dissolution that challenge rather than reinforce the rights-bearing liberal subject and humanist assumptions of “sameness and consistency as being the mark of signature, personhood, humanness, autonomy, or life itself.”

Although Wilderson and Khanna are both informed by an overlapping archive in Marxist and psychoanalytic thought, they offer different provocations, and arrive at different arguments and questions. Both consider subjectivity through analyses of racism, colonialism, capitalism and sexual difference that attend to structural relations and the legacies of humanist notions of the human.  A conversation between them thus promises to be generative for a diverse audience,  and particularly timely for the current political moment. The first part of the panel will consist of Wilderson III and Khanna responding to each other’s work, with a focus on two texts: “The Trouble with Humans” (from Afropessimism) and  “Indignity.” The second part of the panel will be a Q&A discussion, with time for audience members to pose questions to the speakers.

Frank B. Wilderson III
Frank B. Wilderson III is Chancellor’s Professor and Chair of African American Studies, and a core faculty member of the Culture & Theory Ph.D. Program at UC Irvine; and an award-winning writer whose books include Afropessimism (Liveright/W.W. Norton 2020); Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid(Duke University Press 2015); and Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (Duke University Press 2010).  He spent five and a half years in South Africa, where he was one of two Americans to hold elected office in the African National Congress during the apartheid era. He also was a cadre in the underground. His literary awards include The American Book Award; The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Creative Nonfiction; The Maya Angelou Award for Best Fiction Portraying the Black Experience in America; and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. As of September 29, 2020, his book Afropessimismhas been Long Listed for the National Book Award (Nonfiction category). Wilderson was educated at Dartmouth College (A.B Government and Philosophy), Columbia University (MFA/Fiction Writing), and UC Berkeley (PhD/Rhetoric).

Ranjana Khanna
Ranjana Khanna is Director of the John Hope Franklin Institute, Professor  of English, Literature, and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke University, and the incoming second vice-president of the American Comparative Literature Association. Khanna is a literary critic and theorist recognized for her interdisciplinary, feminist, and internationalist contributions to the fields of post-colonial studies, feminist theory, and postcolonial literature and the visual arts. She is best known for her work on melancholia and has also published on film, Algeria, area studies, autobiography, Marxism, and visual and feminist theory. Khanna is the author of Algeria Cuts: Women and Representation, 1830-Present (2007) and Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism (2003). Her articles have been published in a wide range of journals, including Differences, Signs, Third TextDiacriticsScreenArt History, positionsSAQFeminist Theory, and Public Culture. Her book manuscripts in progress are titled: Asylum and Unbelonging.Khanna served as the Margaret Taylor Smith Director of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke from 2007–2015.









Audience members are encouraged to read the linked texts before the panel session.
Wilderson Chapter Five Afropessimism

Khanna Indignity




Steve Norton: Soapboxing for the middle of the food chain, a presentation and discussion

*Recording of 3/25 event –


When: Thursday, March 25, 4 – 5:30 pm edt
What: There is strong statistical evidence that there is real trouble in the middle of the food chain. Numbers recently published regarding drops in the global populations of insects, amphibians and birds indicate dramatic cause for concern. One would think that human beings would be horrified into action, but when each of these statistics was reported in the news, there was a brief flurry of consternation and then stony silence. The “news” that something is wrong with our environment is hardly news. This paper puzzles over how we might have gotten to this point. It also describes and accompanies author Steve Norton’s sound installation, similarly titled Soapboxing for the middle of the food chain.
Where: Zoom link

Steve Norton is a sound artist and musician. His artistic research examines electroacoustic music, improvisation as a method, the environment, modernity and society. Steve’s practice is currently focused on the gathering of field-recorded sound which he utilizes in sound installations and electroacoustic composition. His interest is to increasingly bring the outside world into his work via field recording and topical decisions which engage critical issues.

**Audience members are encouraged to read the below texts (PDFs attached) prior to the event.









To explore some of Steve Norton’s related works, please see:
field: alarum, implication (2019)




Black Studies and Questions of Institutional and Structural Change: A Discussion with Charisse Burden-Stelly and Jonathan Fenderson

*Recording of 3/8 event –

When: Monday, March 8th, 6:30pm-8pm EST

What: An evening of interesting and interdisciplinary conversation, relevant for our times! Dr. Burden-Stelly and Dr. Fenderson will each speak a little bit about their own work in the context of Black Studies and questions of institutional and structural change. They will then open the conversation by each posing a question to the other about their work, and then the discussion will open to questions from and conversation with audience members.

Where: Zoom (registration required: register at the below link)

This event is co-sponsored by the Philosophy Department at the University of Maine and by College of the Atlantic. It will be co-hosted by Kirsten Jacobson and Netta van Vliet, along with students from both institutions.

Charisse Burden-Stelly is an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at Carleton College, and the 2020-2021 Visiting Scholar in the Race and Capitalism Project at the University of Chicago. Burden-Stelly completed her Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016. Her scholarship traverses African Studies, Critical Theory, Political Theory, and Political Economy with a focus on antiradicalism, anti-blackness, and state-sanctioned violence; globalization and economic development; and epistemologies of Black Studies. She is the co-author, with Dr. Gerald Horne, of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Life in American History, and her published work also appears in a wide range of journals, including Small Axe, SoulsDu Bois ReviewSocialism and DemocracyInternational Journal of Africana Studies, and the CLR James Journal.

Jonathan Fenderson is an Associate Professor in African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his PhD in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts. His research and teaching interests emanate from three themes: intellectual history, social movements, and transnational links between Africa and the Diaspora. He is the author of Building the Black Arts Movement: Hoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s (2019), as well as of essays in numerous journals and edited volumes.

**Audience members are encouraged to read the below texts (PDFs attached) prior to the event.

Burden-Stelly, Charisse. “Black Studies in the Westernized University.” In Unsettling Eurocentrism in the Westernized University, edited by Julie Cupples and Ramón Grosfoguel. New York, Routledge, 2019.

Burden-Stelly, Charisse. “Modern U.S. Racial Capitalism: Some Theoretical Insights,” in Monthly Review. July 2020.

Fenderson, Jonathan. “Black Studies Post-Janus.” The Black Scholar, vol. 48, no.4, 2018, pp.1-7.

Fenderson, Jonathan, James Stewart & Kabria Baumgartner. “Expanding the History of the Black Studies Movement: Some Prefatory Notes.” Journal of African American Studies, vol. 16, no.1, 2012, pp. -20.

Questions?: Contact Netta van Vliet ( or Kirsten Jacobson (










Raising our Voices on Race and Racism

Two Part Lecture Series and Community Discussion
Part I: Thursday, November 19th from 4-5 pm
Part II: Monday, November 30th from 4-5 pm

Virtual via Zoom, Free and Open to the Public














Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series 2019-20
Spring Semester

Veena Howard, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Peace and Conflict Studies, Department of Philosophy, California State University, Fresno
“Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy of Sarvodaya (the Well-Being of All): Moral Methods and Critical Challenges”

Date and time: Thursday, March 5
12:30-1:45 p.m. lecture presentation and discussion
Location: Bangor Room, Memorial Union, the University of Maine










Veena Howard, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Peace and Conflict Studies, Department of Philosophy, California State University, Fresno
“Mahatma Gandhi’s Philosophy of Nonviolence: Issues in the Bhagavad-Gita for Nonviolent Action”

Date and time: Thursday, March 5
4:00-5:30 p.m. lecture presentation and discussion
Location: Bumps Room, Memorial Union, the University of Maine











Robert Ballingall, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Maine “Classical Constitutionalism and the Virtue of Reverence”
Date and time: Thursday, February 13, 2020,
4:00 p.m. – Lecture presentation and discussion
Location: UMaine, The Maples, Weisz Room












Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series 2019-20
Fall Semester

Thursday, November 21, 2019 – 4:00 p.m. – UMaine, The Maples, Weisz Room
Lauren Ashwell, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bates College
“Projection as a Failure of Self-knowledge”









Thursday, September 26, 2019 – 4:00 p.m. – UMaine, Buchanan Alumni House, McIntyre Room
Doug Allen, Professor of Philosophy, University of Maine
“Gandhi-Informed Philosophy: Nonviolence, Truth, Morality, Sustainability, and Research Challenges for Faculty and Students”












Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series 2018-2019
Fall Semester

Thursday, November 8, 2018 – 4:00 p.m. – UMaine, Donald P. Corbett Hall, room 107
Robby Finley, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University
“Aristotle on Infinity: Senses of Potentiality Underlying the View”








Thursday, October 18, 2018 – 4:00 p.m. – UMaine, Little Hall, room 140
Professor David Butorac, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto
“Gender fluidity in Classical Athens?: Human receptivity, divine creation and cosmic patterns of gender in Plato’s Symposium”









See our UMaine Department of Philosophy, The Maples Facebook site.


Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series 2017-2018
Spring Semester

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 – 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm – The Maples, Weisz Room
Don Beith, Lecturer, Philosophy, University of Maine
“Biomimicry to Biosophia: Ecological and Ethical Implications of the Convergence of Life and Technology ”









Friday, March 30, 2018 – 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm – The Maples, Weisz Room
Chris Cohoon, Senior Faculty Fellow in the Humanities, University of King’s College (Dalhousie University)
“The Ecological Levinas: From Face to Food”








Tuesday, April 3, 2018 – 4:30 pm -6:00 pm – The Maples, Weisz Room
Dr. Susan Bredlau, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Emory University
“Demanding Experience: Dewey and Beauvoir on Habit, Institution and Freedom”








Friday, March 23, 2018 – 12:00 pm-1:30 pm – The Maples, Weisz Room
Russell Duvernoy, Instructor, Philosophy, Seattle University
“Becoming Ecological: Towards a Process Metaphysical Subjectivity”








Tuesday, March 20, 2018 – 4:30 pm -6:00 pm – The Maples, Weisz Room
Bryan Bannon, Associate Professor & Director of Environmental Studies, Merrimack College
“Friendship of Reflective Environmental Practice”








Fall Semester
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Joseph Forte, Ph.D. Northeast Catholic College
“The Three Turns of the Allegory of the Cave”


Archive of Past Events


Other Department News

Professor Kirsten Jacobson received the  2015 Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award at the University of Maine, and was the Outstanding Faculty Member in the area of Teaching and Advising for 2015.

Professor Kirsten Jacobson was on sabbatical on a sailing voyage in 2012-13. Here is a story from the Bangor Daily News.

Professor Michael Howard was selected as the Outstanding Faculty Member in the area of Teaching and Advising for 2012.

Philosophy Professors in UMaine Today on the 2008 Elections: Two Philosophy faculty, along with faculty from other departments, wrote short articles for UMaine Today on the 2008 elections, and were interviewed. Click on the links below to read the articles or see the videos:

More articles: