Asst. Prof. of Philosophy Elvira Basevich is both a scholar and a poet.
Her scholarship focuses on 19th and 20th century philosophy, political philosophy and Africana philosophy, especially the work of W.E.B. Du Bois, a leading black intellectual of the 20th century. She is writing her first book on Du Bois’s life and political thought and planning another on his theory of economic justice.
Basevich studies the writings of leading African American thinkers with an eye to expanding the field of political philosophy. Few women and minorities pursue philosophy, but Basevich says she was fortunate to have very diverse mentors as an undergraduate at Hunter College and a Ph.D. student at City University of New York.
The diversity of faculty and students at UMass Lowell is a big part of what attracted Basevich to the Philosophy Department here, too.
“This department is special. I have wonderful colleagues whose work I really respect and admire,” she says. “I felt immediately at home here.”
Basevich also celebrates the diversity of her childhood home, the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, through her poetry. Her recent published poems relate her mother’s experiences as a Soviet immigrant coming to the United States and Basevich’s own experiences growing up.
“It’s a love letter to my mom and to all the kids in Brooklyn who dream of studying philosophy and other heady things,” she says.
In her classes, Basevich asks students to think about definitions of good and evil, freedom and democracy, and what it means to construct a just state. She wants students to reexamine traditional Western philosophy in relationship to history, especially the history of marginalized social groups.
Basevich teaches honors Introduction to Ethics, Capitalism and its Critics, and The Problem of Evil, which focuses on a comparative study of the Jim Crow era in the United States and the rise of fascism in Europe. She is also planning a course on Africana philosophy. Her goal is to teach students how to examine, explain – and maybe even transform – their beliefs and ideas.
“I try to build a structure for students to understand, articulate and defend their own independent judgment,” she says. “I hope they walk away with a clearer way of thinking about the world, and realizing it’s important to have principles.”