Is the mirror racist?: Interrogating the space of whiteness

Philosophy and Social Criticism 30 (1):25-50 (2004)
Abstract
This essay draws on a wide range of feminist, psychoanalytic and other anti-racist theorists to work out the specific mode of space as ‘contained’ and the ways it grounds dominant contemporary forms of racism i.e. the space of phallicized whiteness. Offering a close reading of Lacan’s primary models for ego-formation, the mirror stage and the inverted bouquet, I argue that psychoanalysis can help us to map contemporary power relations of racism because it enacts some of those very dynamics. Casting the production of subjectivity on the field of the visual, Lacan performs some of the fundamental conceptions of space and embodiment that ground the dominant forms of racism in these cultural symbolics. Namely, he articulates a body that is bound by skin, structured by a logic of containment, cathected through aggression and distance, and read primarily through the way it looks – both how it appears and how it beholds the appearances of other bodies. Unraveling this nexus of power relations, I argue that a fundamental anti-racist strategy is to interrupt, interrogate and re-deploy this interpellation of images. Key Words: ego-formation • embodiment • historicity • Lacan • ontological • phallus • race/racial difference/racism • space • visual • whiteness.
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