Blocked Bodies. Moving from Merleau-Ponty to Fanon in the experience of racism
Oberstadt, Claas – 2021
The central claim argued for in this paper is that racism is primarily expressed and felt bodily in a way that certain forms of (inter-)action become predestined and others foreclosed, i.e., the ambiguity of bodily (inter-)action is blocked. If in Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy the ambiguity of the body is described as a productive resource for interaction, in racist encounters, however, the body is best described by restriction. The experience of the racialized body as being blocked is delineated, alongside an explanation of the structures of the racializing body. This examination is rendered visible in terms of the circular logic of fear. Fear is characterized by its self-perpetuating circularity which helps establish borders and encloses communities with binding force. Thereby, a framework is developed which highlights the bodily habitualization of racial identities. I will pursue the argument by drawing on resources from thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, Audre Lorde and Ta-Nehisi Coates and undergird their experiences of racism with the anti-racist phenomenologist thought of Sara Ahmed, Linda Martín Alcoff and Alia Al-Saji.