A Phenomenology of Seeing and Affect in a Polarized Climate

In Race as Phenomena: Between Phenomenology and Philosophy of Race. London, UK: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 107-124 (2019)
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“A Phenomenology of Seeing and Affect in a Polarized Climate,” focuses on the polarized political climate that reflects racial and class differences in the wake of the Trump election. She explores how to see differently about those with whom one disagrees—that is in this specific scenario for Lee, the Trump supporters, including Asian American members of her own family. Understanding Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s exploration of the interstice between the visible and the invisible, if human beings are to see otherwise, we need to disrupt the ready association between the visible and the invisible. Here, she explores the function of affect for the possibility of this break. The phenomenological understanding of emotion does not necessarily empower emotion with any sort of superlative force, especially over reason. But a subject’s emotion chiasmatically reflects the world and vice versa. The caustic and strong emotions felt by people about this presidency reflects the entrenched political climate in our society and chiasmatically the entrenched political climate embroils people in strong emotions that make it difficult to see those with whom we disagree as people we can trust and consider reasonable. To break out of this standoff, to see differently about Trump supporters, one needs to feel differently about them as well.

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Emily S. Lee
California State University, Fullerton


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