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Vol. 6 No. 2 (2023): Phenomenology and Critique

Minding the Gap: Towards a More Critical Phenomenology of Whiteness

December 31, 2023


Grounded in and influenced by the work of thinkers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Frantz Fanon, Iris Marion Young, and Lewis Gordon, critical phenomenologists such as Lisa Guenther, Linda Martín Alcoff, George Yancy, and Sara Ahmed have recently provided accounts of whiteness through a phenomenological lens. In these analyses, whiteness is often figured as a "transcendental norm," a "background to experience," a "natural attitude," and a "sociogenic force," which remains invisible while structuring the world. In this article I suggest that such accounts ultimately collapse whiteness and the white subject, imagining the latter simply as an embodiment of the former. Consequently, these approaches to whiteness lack explanatory power. I argue that a critical phenomenological account of whiteness must examine more closely the relationship between white subjects and whiteness, and specifically point to the tensions, gaps, and contradictions between them, as these are not accidental but central to the very constitution of whiteness and to the power it wields over its subjects.