The Activeness and Adaptability of Whiteness: Expanding Phenomenology's Account of Racial Identity

Journal of Social Philosophy 48 (1):20-37 (2017)
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This article uses phenomenology to examine the way whiteness appears. It begins by discussing the phenomenologies of race done by Linda Martin Alcoff and Sara Ahmed, focusing on their accounts of how race develops and the role that proximity and visibility play in the production of racial categories. It then offers critiques of Ahmed and Alcoff for naturalizing part of the process by which race develops, arguing that a better account of race can be given if we avoid seeing race as a function of proximity or visibility. A stronger account of whiteness can be given if we draw from the work of Merleau-Ponty, in particular his claims that there is always a directionality to perception and that we complete the world in our perceptions of it. A phenomenology that is motivated by these considerations will be able to explain how whiteness is able to appear in so many ways as it is constantly being completed differently in different contexts. The article ends by describing some of these contexts, such as how whiteness is often occluded but can also manifest the qualities of malignancy and autoimmunity.
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