"[A] lucid discussion of race that does not sell out the black experience." —Tommy Lott, author of The Invention of Race Revealing Whiteness explores how white privilege operates as an unseen, invisible, and unquestioned norm in society today. In this personal and selfsearching book, Shannon Sullivan interrogates her own whiteness and how being white has affected her. By looking closely at the subtleties of white domination, she issues a call for other white people to own up to their unspoken privilege (...) and confront environments that condone or perpetuate it. Sullivan’s theorizing about race and privilege draws on American pragmatism, psychology, race theory, and feminist thought. As it articulates a way to live beyond the barriers that white privilege has created, this book offers readers a clear and honest confrontation with a trenchant and vexing concern. (shrink)
While gender and race often are considered socially constructed, this book argues that they are physiologically constituted through the biopsychosocial effects of sexism and racism. This means that to be fully successful, critical philosophy of race and feminist philosophy need to examine not only the financial, legal, political and other forms of racist and sexism oppression, but also their physiological operations. Examining a complex tangle of affects, emotions, knowledge, and privilege, The Physiology of Sexist and Racist Oppression develops an understanding (...) of the human body whose unconscious habits are biological. On this account, affect and emotion are thoroughly somatic, not something "mental" or extra-biological layered on top of the body. They also are interpersonal, social, and can be transactionally transmitted between people.Ranging from the stomach and the gut to the hips and the heart, from autoimmune diseases to epigenetic markers, Sullivan demonstrates the gastrointestinal effects of sexual abuse that disproportionately affect women, often manifesting as IBS, Crohn's disease, or similar functional disorders. She also explores the transgenerational effects of racism via epigenetic changes in African American women, who experience much higher pre-term birth rates than white women do, and she reveals the unjust benefits for heart health experienced by white people as a result of their racial privilege. Finally, developing the notion of a physiological therapy that doesn't prioritize bringing unconscious habits to conscious awareness, Sullivan closes with a double-barreled approach for both working for institutional change and transforming biologically unconscious habits. The Physiology of Sexist and Racist Oppression skillfully combines feminist and critical philosophy of race with the biological and health sciences. The result is a critical physiology of race and gender that offers new strategies for fighting male and white privilege. (shrink)
This article examines how people of color can biologically inherit the deleterious effects of white racism. Drawing primarily on the field of epigenetics, I demonstrate how transgenerational racial disparities are in fact racist disparities that can be manifest physiologically, helping constitute the chemicals, hormones, cells, and fibers of the human body. Epigenetics can be used to demonstrate how white racism can have durable effects on the biological constitution of human beings that are not limited to the specific person who is (...) the target of white racism, but instead extend to that person's offspring. In this way, the field of epigenetics can help philosophers and others understand the transgenerational biological impact of social forces such as white racism. It reveals that the damage done by white racism is more extensive than critical philosophers of race might have realized, and also that interventions against white racism must address not just the economic, geographical, social, and psychological, but also the biological aspects of human existence. In particular, the article examines racist disparities in preterm birth rates and argues that the scope and significance of prenatal care for African American women must be expanded intergenerationally and include wide-scale forms of racial justice. (shrink)
This essay aims to clarify the value of developing systematic studies of ignorance as a component of any robust theory of knowledge. The author employs feminist efforts to recover and create knowledge of women's bodies in the contemporary women's health movement as a case study for cataloging different types of ignorance and shedding light on the nature of their production. She also helps us understand the ways resistance movements can be a helpful site for understanding how to identify, critique, and (...) transform ignorance. (shrink)
Beginning with the experience of a white woman's stomach seizing up in fear of a black man, this essay examines some of the ethical and epistemological issues connected to white ignorance. In conversation with Charles Mills on the epistemology of ignorance, I argue that white ignorance primarily operates physiologically, not cognitively. Drawing critically from psychology, neurocardiology, and other medical sciences, I examine some of the biological effects of racism on white people's stomachs and hearts. I argue for a nonideal medical (...) theory focused on improving wellness in a society that systematically has damaged the health of people of color. The essay concludes that to be fully successful, critical philosophy of race must examine not just the financial, legal, political, and other forms of racism, but also its biological and physiological operations. (shrink)
Merleau-Ponty's claim in Phenomenology of Perception (1962) that the anonymous body guarantees an intersubjective world is problematic because it omits the particularities of bodies. This omission produces an account of "dialogue" with another in which I solipsistically hear only myself and dominate others with my intentionality. This essay develops an alternative to projective intentionality called "hypothetical construction," in which meaning is socially constructed through an appreciation of the differences of others.
Farmers have been characterized as people whose ties to the land have given them a deep awareness of natural cycles, appreciation for natural beauty and sense of responsibility as stewards. At the same time, their relationship to the land has been characterized as more utilitarian than that of others who are less directly dependent on its bounty. This paper explores this tension by comparing the attitudes and beliefs of a group of conventional farmers to those of a group of organic (...) farmers. It was found that while both groups reject the idea that a farmer’s role is to conquer nature, organic farmers were significantly more supportive of the notion that humans should live in harmony with nature. Organic farmers also reported a greater awareness of and appreciation for nature in their relationship with the land. Both groups view independence as a main benefit of farming and a lack of financial reward as its main drawback. Overall, conventional farmers report more stress in their lives although they also view themselves in a caretaker role for the land more than do the organic farmers. In contrast, organic farmers report more satisfaction with their lives, a greater concern for living ethically, and a stronger perception of community. Finally, both groups are willing to have their rights limited (organic farmers somewhat more so) but they do not trust the government to do so. (shrink)
Merleau-Ponty's claim in Phenomenology of Perception that the anonymous body guarantees an intersubjective world is problematic because it omits the particularities of bodies. This omission produces an account of “dialogue” with another in which I solipsistically hear only myself and dominate others with my intentionality. This essay develops an alternative to projective intentionality called “hypothetical construction,” in which meaning is socially constructed through an appreciation of the differences of others.
In the twenty-first century, 70.6 percent of Americans self-identify as Christians,1 58 percent of them still segregate themselves by race on Sunday mornings, and white Protestants make up the majority of this 58 percent.2 These facts belie the claim, popularized after Barack Obama's 2008 presidential election, that America is living in a postracial society3 And yet, the role played by religion in white people's lived experiences of race, racism, and white class privilege in the United States tends to be neglected (...) by philosophers and religious studies scholars, except perhaps when considering white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.4 Contemporary philosophy is secular in a way that generally excludes and... (shrink)
In my response to the comments of Vincent Colapietro, Charlene Seigfried, and Gail Weiss on Living Across and Through Skins , I explain pragmatist feminism as an ecological ontology that understands bodies and environments as dynamically co-constitutive. I then discuss the relationship of pragmatist feminism to phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Nietzschean genealogy, and Darwinian evolutionary theory. Some of the specific concepts I examine include the anonymous body, the bodying organism, truth as transactional flourishing, and the preservation of racial and ethnic categories.
This article introduces the concept of white priority and challenges the false universalism built into the concept of white privilege. Proceeding from the perspective of “trash crit,” the article analyzes white domination from the perspective of poor and working class white people. While racial advantages exist for poor and working class white people, the concept of white privilege does not capture them well. The concept of white priority—the sense of coming before another, of not being at “the bottom of the (...) well” —is needed to help America grapple with race and class in a post-Obama era. (shrink)
This paper demonstrates how John Dewey's notion of habit can help us understand gender as a constitutive structure of bodily existence. Bringing Dewey's pragmatism in conjunction with Judith Butler's concept of performativity, 1 provide an account of how rigid binary configurations of gender might be transformed at the level of both individual habit and cultural construct.
This article analyzes the changing relationship of race and class in the work of Charles Mills. Mills tells the story of his career by tracing an arc “from class to race,” which includes “an evolution of both focus and approach” that shifts the terms of his work “from red to black.” The article complicates this story by reading Mills's evolution through an intersectional lens. An intersectional approach to Mills's work allows a better appreciation of how he does not move from (...) class to race in the sense of abandoning the former for the latter, nor in the sense that race is utterly absent from his earlier work on class. Race and class are entangled with each other, and with gender and other axes of identity and power, in complex ways throughout his corpus. Mills's work remains red in certain respects—sometimes problematically from an intersectional perspective—even as it takes on black concerns and perspectives. On the flip side, as the end of the article asks, can Mills's work remain sufficiently red—that is, explicitly grapple with class concerns—as it tries to add some color to a whitewashed liberalism? (shrink)
: Responding to Silvia Stoller's comments on "Domination and Dialogue in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception" (Sullivan 1997), I argue that while phenomenology has much to offer feminism, feminists should be wary of Merleau-Ponty's notion of projective intentionality because of the ethical solipsism that it tends to involve. I also take the opportunity to clarify the concept of hypothetical construction introduced in the earlier paper, in particular the transformative relationship that it has to pre-reflective experience.
: This paper demonstrates how John Dewey's notion of habit can help us understand gender as a constitutive structure of bodily existence. Bringing Dewey's pragmatism in conjunction with Judith Butler's concept of performativity, I provide an account of how rigid binary configurations of gender might be transformed at the level of both individual habit and cultural construct.
Against the backdrop of eliminitivist versus critical conservationist approaches to the racial category of whiteness, this article asks whether a rehabilitated version of whiteness can be worked out concretely. What might a non-oppressive, anti-racist whiteness look like? Turning to Josiah Royce’s “Provincialism” for help answering this question, I show that even though the essay never explicitly discusses race, it can help explain the ongoing need for the category of whiteness and implicitly offers a wealth of useful suggestions for how to (...) transform it. “Provincialism” is an exercise in critical conservation of the concept of provincialism, and while not identical, provincialism and whiteness share enough in common that “wise” provincialism can serve as a model for “wise” whiteness. Royce’s concept of provincialism thus can be a great help to critical philosophers of race wrestling with questions of whether and how to transformatively conserve whiteness. Exploring similarities and differences between wise provincialism and wise whiteness, I use Royce’s analyses of provincialism to shed light on why whiteness should be rehabilitated rather than discarded and how white people today might begin living whiteness as an anti-racist category. (shrink)
Responding to Silvia Stoller's comments on “Domination and Dialogue in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception”, I argue that while phenomenology has much to offer feminism, feminists should be wary of Merleau-Ponty's notion of projective intentionality because of the ethical solipsism that it tends to involve. I also take the opportunity to clarify the concept of hypothetical construction introduced in the earlier paper, in particular the transformative relationship that it has to pre-reflective experience.
i am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to Josina Vink’s rich paper on “Designing for Plurality in Democracy by Building Reflexivity.” Vink suggests that design has its roots in pragmatism and that by returning to them, design can improve itself by becoming more pluralistic and less colonizing in its effects. Focusing on health care systems in particular, Vink emphasizes reflexivity as crucial for the decolonizing of design. As Vink argues, reflexivity can help cultivate epistemic humility on the part (...) of designers, acknowledge the important role of embodiment in design practices and outcomes, reject allegedly universal approaches to solving design problems, and recognize that the tools of design are not... (shrink)
While Sigmund Freud and Maurice Merleau?Ponty both acknowledge the role that spatiality plays in human life, neither pays any explicit attention to the intersections of race and space. It is Franz Fanon who uses psychoanalysis and phenomenology to provide an account of how the psychical and lived bodily existence of black people is racially constituted by a racist world. More precisely, as I argue in this paper, Fanon's work demonstrates how psychical and bodily spatiality cannot be adequately understood apart from (...) the environing space of the social world. For Fanon, body, psyche, and world mutually influence and constitute each other. In a raced and racist world, therefore, the lived bodily experience and the unconscious of human beings will be racially and racist?ly constituted as well. This will show you how in psychoanalysis we take spatial ways of looking at things seriously. ??Sigmund Freud1 Everything throws us back on to the organic relations between subject and space, to that gearing of the subject onto his world which is the origin of space. ??Maurice Merleau?Ponty2 Hence we are driven from the individual back to the social structure. If there is a [neurotic] taint, it lies not in the ?soul? of the individual but rather in that of the environment. ??Franz Fanon3. (shrink)
: In my response to the comments of Vincent Colapietro, Charlene Seigfried, and Gail Weiss on Living Across and Through Skins (Sullivan 2001), I explain pragmatist feminism as an ecological ontology that understands bodies and environments as dynamically co-constitutive. I then discuss the relationship of pragmatist feminism to phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Nietzschean genealogy, and Darwinian evolutionary theory. Some of the specific concepts I examine include the anonymous body, the bodying organism, truth as transactional flourishing, and the preservation of racial and ethnic (...) categories. (shrink)
Drawing on the work of John Dewey, the author argues that if academic philosophers take seriously the claim that theory and practice are reciprocally determined, then they should take seriously the task of intelligently experimenting with teaching practices in order to refine theories of knowledge and, on this basis, improve teaching practices. This paper explores one way of relating non-foundational epistemology to classroom practices. The author elaborates a “transactional” model of knowledge, according to which knowledge is what arises from historically- (...) and contextually-situated agents interacting with each other and the world. One pedagogical application of this model is a “transactional classroom.” Such a classroom employs “Group Inquiry,” a teaching strategy that involves the teacher and students sharing responsibility for the results of inquiry as well as for the development of standards to which inquiry is held. After detailing several courses built on this teaching strategy and offering advice for avoiding a foundationalist position in the classroom, the author addresses criticisms of this teaching method and reflects on its results. With the help of student surveys, the author concludes that while students found these courses demanding, Group Inquiry successfully decentralized the classroom and improved student participation. (shrink)
In this collection, white women philosophers engage boldly in critical acts of exploring ways of naming and disrupting whiteness in terms of how it has defined the conceptual field of philosophy. Focuses on the whiteness of the epistemic and value-laden norms within philosophy itself, the text dares to identify the proverbial elephant in the room known as white supremacy and how that supremacy functions as the measure of reason, knowledge, and philosophical intelligibility.
i am honored to have the opportunity to think with Patricia Hill Collins about community as a political construct. Collins has argued that, like concepts of family and love, community often has been considered to be part of a nonpolitical sphere, something personal and private even as it is not individualistic. As feminists have shown, however, the personal is political, and as Collins urges, an intersectional understanding of the political can and also should apply to the concept of community. In (...) Collins's words, "instead of being a natural, apolitical space, or even an empty category that can be used for political purposes, the construct of community may lie at the heart of politics itself". The concept of... (shrink)