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Vol. 5 No. 4 (2022): Critical Phenomenology, Racial Justice, and Radical Imagination

Idle Talk and Anti-Racism: On Critical Phenomenology, Language, and Racial Justice

  • Eyo Ewara
February 9, 2023


While race and racism have never stopped being urgent issues for many communities of color, talk about race, racism, and racial justice have once again become a central part of mainstream social and political discourse in America. But while critical phenomenologists have offered many accounts of what it is like to live in a world shaped by racism—particularly in terms of embodiment—they have not drawn attention to questions about what it is like to live in a world increasingly shaped by anti-racist sentiment and action, the kind of world in which the question of critical phenomenology’s contribution to projects of racial justice can itself arise. In this paper, I argue that one avenue to approach the silence in critical phenomenology around the experiences and habits of anti-racism as they circulate in our discourse is to draw attention to how critical phenomenology, as it turns to questions of race, tends to turn away from explorations of language. Interrogating how critical phenomenologists approaching racial issues have managed to escape explicitly thematizing language, I argue that this occlusion of language by critical phenomenology consequently leaves behind resources through which to ask ourselves what is happening as we articulate increasingly taken-for-granted ways of speaking and living out an opposition to racism.