Embodied Harm: A Phenomenological Engagement with Stereotype Threat

Human Studies 40 (4):637-662 (2017)
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Abstract

By applying classical and contemporary insights of the phenomenological tradition to key findings within the literature on stereotype threat, this paper considers the embodied effects of everyday exposure to racism and makes a contribution to the growing field of applied phenomenology. In what follows, the paper asks how a phenomenological perspective can both contribute to and enrich discussions of ST in psychology. In answering these questions, the paper uses evidence from social psychology as well as first personal testimonies from members of marginalized groups to argue that subjectively experienced racial oppression is embodied and thus has effects on selfhood that are harmful. More specifically, it makes the case that what are most often considered to be temporary or context-based consequences of ST are in fact more wide reaching and harmful than assumed in that the harms that result from suffering ST become a part of one’s identity, and thus a background lens through which one experiences the world.

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Lauren Freeman
University of Louisville