Today’s academics are obsessed with race, class, and gender. Consider a call for papers that states its “eagerness” to “assemble a demographically diverse program” and to achieve that end by allowing “members of an underrepresented group” to “identify yourself as such.” Should I, as a professional philosopher, submit to such a conference?
The first thing to stress is the nature and scope of my question. There is no point in trying to alter decisions that have already been made. Hence, I do not want to evaluate whether the organizers did the right thing, but rather whether I, as an individual, should submit. Also, I do not see why the decision I reach should be universalized to range over everyone. Hence, I do not want to determine what some nondescript person should do, but rather what I, as an individual, should do.
Keeping these two caveats in mind, I want to reflect on the institution of blind peer-review. To assess whether the device of blind review is useful, we must first ask: what is the goal of an academic conference? Is the goal to achieve a more adequate representation of certain features of reality, or to achieve a more proportionate representation of certain segments society?
As I understand it, removing names and other demographic details from submissions is meant to minimize biases and maximize objectivity. However, identifying the profile of submitters is like holding a marathon race with a beauty contest at the last kilometer.
It is unclear to me why, when the race/class/gender pie-chart of speakers is doctored to current mirror society, epistemic progress somehow ensues. After all, I can easily envision a demographically varied line-up where everybody signs the same tune. In fact, that is what tends to happen at academic conferences nowadays. Hence, letting underrepresented ideas (not groups) be heard seems more concordant with the call to not block the way of inquiry.
This kind of intellectual diversity, however, can already be determined from reading the content of a text. So, profiling the race, class, and gender of authors is needless and indeed misguided.