Dr. V. Denise James

Written By Jamie Vieson '18

Though Dr. V. Denise James will be celebrating just her 10th anniversary at the University of Dayton, her accomplishments and contributions are those of someone who has been here much longer. Dr. James is an influential philosopher, writer, and artist. Over the years, her work has evolved to focus on Black Feminist Philosophy, with a primary research interest in American social and political philosophy.

As a professor of philosophy and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the University of Dayton, Dr. James supports students in their pursuit of knowledge and promotes feminist activism in the community. Dr. James urges students across campus to encounter Women’s and Gender Studies courses. This study allows us to ask difficult questions about the intersections of social identities and provides invaluable space for different perspectives to have dialogue.

Dr. James began her career in Philosophy as a student at Spelman College, a historically black women’s college. There, she was challenged by a professor to read and think more deeply about philosophy. Although she started on a pre-law track, her path changed, and in 2001 Dr. James graduated from Spelman College with a B.A. in Philosophy.

Her philosophical education continued at Emory University, where Dr. James received both her Masters and Ph.D. in Philosophy in 2008. While initially her graduate education began with exploring Continental Philosophy and History, she realized that her true calling was social and political philosophy. It was the intersections of race, gender, and class with relation to political belonging that especially interested Dr. James. Her philosophical background pushed her to question how one can make sense of the world, and  she now uses this background to help frame and attempt to resolve urban issues using a pragmatist lens.

Dr. James publishes and presents at academic conferences in her numerous areas of specialization, including Feminism, Pragmatism, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Race, and Philosophy of Geography. Considering all of her extraordinary contributions to philosophy, it would be difficult to imagine the field without Dr. James, but she used to question whether she even belonged in philosophy. Though she faced barriers and challenges, Dr. James fought to overcome them and refused to let anyone run her out. These experiences culminated in Dr. James writing an article titled, “Musing: A Black Feminist Philosopher: Is that possible?” in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy in 2014. Dr. James  believes  philosophy needs Black Feminist Thought, as without it the field is incomplete; and if you ask me, the University of Dayton needs Dr. James. Her ten years here have been ten years of a better UD.