Interview with Professor José Jorge Mendoza

Submitted by Kate Goldyn on

We are pleased to introduce one of our three new faculty members, Professor José Jorge Mendoza. Mendoza is currently teaching Philosophy of Race. (Use the link to check out his video introduction to the class.) During the winter, he will be teaching a graduate level seminar in social philosophy. We reached out to learn more about him and welcome him to the University of Washington.

Where were you working/teaching before UW?
Before I was a full-time philosopher, I was a Costco forklift driver and stocker at their South San Francisco location. More recently, however, I was an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (just north of Boston).

What sparked your interest in philosophy?
I wish I could say something existentially deep here, but at the risk of sounding arrogant, the truth is that I have always been very good at it (lol). Also, philosophy lets me work out the kinds of questions (especially metalevel questions) that my other favorite disciplines (e.g., history and sociology) just seemed to have less patience for.  

What are your current research interests?
My current research is on defining a Latinx identity: What it is, how should we think about it, who counts as part of it, why do they count or not count, and ultimately is this identity of any real use? I hope to have some firm answers soon. I also continue to do work on migration ethics. In particular, I focus on the ethical issues that arise when states try to enforce unrealistic immigration policies.  

What areas of philosophy do you teach?
I primarily teach anything that has to do with social and political philosophy. But I specialize in teaching migration ethics and philosophy of race. I am also deeply invested in Latin American and Latinx philosophy, so I enjoy teaching anything in this growing area of philosophy as well. With that said, I still get a thrill every time I get to teach logic. 

What is your teaching style?
At times it's kind of like a stand-up comedy show, where only I get the jokes. At other times, and when its going well, it’s a good back and forth. In all seriousness, it is an attempt to do constant scaffolding. I hope that by the end of the course students have acquired certain skills or produced a product (usually a paper) that they are very proud of and might have, at the start of the course, thought too ambitious to set as a final goal for the course.  

What is your favorite thing about Seattle/UW so far?
Keep in mind that I am answering this question while still living under COVID restrictions—so this should be taken mostly as a "to be continued" answer—but the fact that it doesn't snow is my favorite thing. Honestly, anything else would be gravy. But I am greedy and looking forward to discovering more about Seattle in the coming months, hopefully.