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Conference Explores Western New York’s Connection to Feminist-Pragmatist Movement

November 8, 2019

The philosophical movement of feminist-pragmatists will be the focus of a traveling conference organized by faculty at St. John Fisher College and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

An photograph from the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention.

Scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14 through Sunday, Nov. 17, the 2019 Feminist-Pragmatist Philosophy Colloquium features lectures, keynote addresses, scholars’ circles, and excursions to historic sites throughout Western New York. It also coincides with Fisher’s annual World Philosophy Day celebration.

“Pragmatism, more broadly, is the philosophical movement that began in America in the last nineteenth-early twentieth centuries. Its founders were interested in how human experiences and needs determine our deeper understanding of things,” explained Dr. Barb Lowe, associate professor of philosophy at Fisher and one of the conference’s organizers. “Today, feminist pragmatists emphasize a commitment to learning from and supporting those who are most vulnerable to exploitation. We remain interested in the lived experience of people in relation to one another, and committed to challenging both institutional oppression and inadvertent exclusion from economic and social resources.”

At the center of the conference is a reflection of the movement’s history, ties to Western New York, and how its theories can help address present-day issues. Talks will explore, challenge, deepen, or consider topics, theories, and theorists related to social justice, women’s rights, civil rights, Indigenous rights, and oppression, among others. Speakers and attendees of the conference come from 13 different states and three countries.

The colloquium also celebrates the year ahead and milestone connections to Western New York; 2020 marks the 200th birthday of Susan B. Anthony, the 202nd birthday of Frederick Douglass, and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Rochester was home to both Anthony and Douglass and Seneca Falls hosted the first Women’s Rights Convention. In addition, Rochester and Seneca Falls are also within the traditional Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) territory, which is not only the oldest living participatory democracy, but also a confederacy that was matrilineal and inspired first-wave feminism.

“Rochester has one of the richest histories imaginable, in terms of all the complications of the American progressive experience,” said Lowe. “We believe that some of the challenges that galvanized the great progressives of the last generation live on today in different forms, and that Rochester offers opportunities to become involved in community-based thinking, learning, and creating together—foremost by beginning with our own fascinating history and its influence on the present.”

The conference will host keynote speakers at Fisher, the Susan B. Anthony House, and in Seneca Falls, and attendees can tour sites including Mt. Hope Cemetery, the statues of Frederick Douglass displayed throughout the city, the Susan B. Anthony House, and the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Historical Site and Museum.

For a detailed scheduled of activities and talks and to register for the colloquium, visit: