Skip to main content

Elizabeth V. Spelman

Barbara Richmond 1940 Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy

Elizabeth V. Spelman


Dewey Hall 201


Elizabeth V. Spelman's interest in what has come to be called critical race feminism is most thoroughly represented in Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (Beacon Press, 1988). In it and related articles she investigates the implications of the intersection or intertwining of "racial," gender and other aspects of women's identities. Another focus of inquiry has been the ways in which emotions are shaped by and give shape to political dimensions of human relationships. In Fruits of Sorrow: Framing Our Attention to Suffering (Beacon, 1997), Spelman examines the positive and negative implications of regarding sufferers as tragic figures, objects of compassion or as bearers of experiences from which others can learn or otherwise profit.

In Repair: The Impulse to Restore in a Fragile World (Beacon, 2002), and subsequent essays, she explores the ubiquity and variety of repair activities that humans engage in (or judge not possible or not desirable to undertake)—from fixing cars to mending friendships to repairing the larger social and political fabric.

Trash Talks: Revelations in the Rubbish (Oxford University Press, 2016) focuses on Homo sapiens as Homo trasho: that is, on humans as beings who are makers of waste, who have complex ethical, aesthetic and political relations to waste, who sometimes are treated as waste, and who, in fact, in some sense are the products of waste. (Yes, the book is bound to be pure rubbish.)

Office Hours

Spring 2024 
On Sabbatical 


Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
B.A., Wellesley College