CHAPTER 3 INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHICAL PHENOMENOLOGY
Chapter 3 is the first of three chapters in which I consider what a phenomenological understanding of same-race prejudice would entail. The chapter starts with a discussion of essentialist understandings of racial identity and identification (i.e., as naturally existing and reducible to describable and quantifiable qualities), which leads to and sustains same-race prejudice against those of one’s ‘own’ race who appear to be lacking in the necessary authenticity, prototypicality and normativity. Phenomenology is introduced as a counter to the naturalist attitude on which essentialist understandings are based. It does not seek to determine the presence or absence of objective racial qualities, but rather to elucidate how people actually experience such supposedly objective qualities, and what meanings they attach to them.
So, how then do people experience race and what meanings do they attach to it? Rather than taking phenomenological literature on race as my point of departure, I make a somewhat radical move in the chapter, namely to attend in the first place to what ‘ordinary’ people have to say about the matter. This is not intended as a formal empirical research project, but as a way of strategically finding a way into the spoken and written discourses about race ‘from the bottom up’. The short excerpts from the conversations I had with people illustrate how ready all seem to be to work from the premise that, at some level, race does exist, however much each speaker might labour to project layers of complexity onto it. My conversation partners conjured up a veritable menagerie of more and less exotic racial types, always making sure to position themselves as knowledgeable and unbiased observers who understand the underlying dimensions that can bring clarity to the apparently confusing proliferation of races and racial characteristics.
Prominent among these imagined dimensions is an ongoing loss of essential and wholesome blackness through an admixture of whiteness. Blackness, in this ideation, started as a strong current of essential humanness, but has now split into innumerable tributaries and lost itself in the swamps of white-like self-centredness.
Similarly, whiteness is imagined not only as being different from blackness, but as somehow being estranged from a yet-to-be-realised, truer and more socially acceptable version of itself. In addition to the impromptu philosophies emerging from these informal conversations, I also weave in excerpts from some supposedly more carefully considered academic texts and find that, perhaps not so surprisingly, they draw on similar dynamics to construct a world in which races are not only differentiated from each other, but also from themselves.
Whatever the imagined surface manifestations and underlying principles of this racialised world, it is sustained by a naturalist attitude in which race exists objectively as an essential dimension of reality. In concluding the chapter, I therefore start the process of finding a path out of this self-referential world by appealing to a philosophical tradition, phenomenology, which explicitly eschews objective knowledge of a real world. I review the origins of phenomenology as a science of what happens inside of human consciousness rather than in outer spaces populated by concrete objects. Like naturalism, phenomenology is essentialist, but rather than wishing to ascribe essentialist characteristics to objects existing in objective space and time, it wishes instead to explore the essence of human experience. People are not imagined as existing in objective space and time, along with other objects, but as producing space and time – as being space and time. To round off the chapter, I consider some of the key principles involved in doing research from such a perspective.
Beginning with interview discussions, definitions and descriptions about the races of black and white situated in an essentialist lens, this chapter builds on the premise laid towards the end of the previous chapter regarding the naturalist attitude about race, racial identity and identification. It is founded on and responds to the essentialist pitfalls that emerge from naturalist thought and attitudes towards the definition of race, racial identity and identification, and how these contribute to the development and sustenance of same-race prejudice. Encompassed in the interview descriptions in this chapter and the literature definitions from the previous chapter, the pitfalls are stated next.
Humanity’s racial identity and forms of racial identification exist in the form of mutually exclusive races whose characteristics are distinctive, objectively discernible and unique to each. As separate forms of identity and identification, each race is separately quantifiable in terms of uninterchangeable characteristics that mark its pure nature as separate from what it is not. For the white race, these are positive associations with physical beauty, triumph, innocence, godliness (Hood, 1994), academic excellence (Galletta & Cross, 2007), material affluence and superiority, and cleanliness (Morris, 2006; Moss, 2003; Sibanda; 2012; Wray; 2006). These are differentiated from and not interchangeable with those unique to a black race encompassing a different kind of humanness (Louw, 1995; Mbigi, 1997), world-view and spirituality (Hountondji, 1997; Jones, 1980; Musopole, 1994; Nobles; 1980; Teffo, 1999).
Using black and blackness as examples, the idiosyncratic character and philosophy towards life of each race (Musopole, 1994; Nobles, 1980; Senghor, 1997) call for a unique form of appreciation (Baloyi, 2008; Clark, 1980; Howard, 1985; Howitt & Owusu-Bempah, 1994). The assertion made in the chapter is that the view about race, racial identity and identification as objectively quantifiable offers an illusion of reliability and verifiability to certainly describe them (Spinelli, 1989, 2005) as entities that essentially have an independent and natural existence defined by the naturalist attitude, and as unperturbed by an experiencing conscious individual (Kockelmans, 1994; Roy, Petitot, Pachoud & Varela, 1999; Stewart & Mickunas, 1974).
This leads to the view that humanity, race, racial identity and identification are purely objective with measurable quantities, a view which is uncritically embraced (Kruger, 1988) while the thoughts about humanity, race, racial identity and identification are reified (Davis, 2005). In this, the primacy of conscious human experiential meaning-making, understanding and interpretation of race, racial identity and identification is ignored. Further ignored is the capacity of human beings for appreciative conscious awareness of what looks like objective racial identity and identification realities (Kockelmans, 1994; Roy et al., 1999; Stewart & Mickunas, 1974; Wagner, 1983).
This view of humanity, racial identity and identification as naturally existing, reducible to describable and quantifiable qualities and virtues as separately black and white, leads to, contributes to and sustains same-race prejudices of the authenticity, prototypicality and normativity of black and white, as opposed to the inauthenticity, non-prototypicality and non-normativity of identity and identification within the races of black and white. Each time we try to define, we get caught up in the objectivist, naturalist attitude, even when we seem to think that our new definitions are better than the ones before. We tend to view people, their existence in the world and their race as naturally given.
Founded on a naturalist attitude, the previous chapter situated and imbued the race definitions of black and white with essentialist, objective and naturally given natures. The present chapter, which is phenomenologically founded, is a counter-response to the previous one and the stated pitfalls of the naturalist attitude set out in this chapter by challenging the essentialist notions of race, racial identity and identification of blackness and whiteness as normal, objective, natural and existing independently from an experiencing individual (Jacobsen, 2007; Laverty, 2003; Tuohy, Cooney, Dowling, Murphy & Sixsmith, 2012). Interrogating the naturalist attitude upon which their physical, objective and quantifiable naturalness is founded (Murray, 2012), people’s real existence is viewed as a reality only conferred upon by them through their conscious lived experience (Dowling & Cooney, 2012; Spiegelberg, 1965). This naturalist attitude is also viewed as not realising that these notions are only a shadow of the true reality of the phenomenon (Converse, 2012), being responsible for the generalised understanding that ignores people’s lived experience (Greenfield Jensen, 2012). The naturalist attitude behind the definition of these terms is slated for taking human experiences for granted (Kockelmans, 1994; Stewart & Mickunas, 1974; Wagner, 1983) and not considering them as phenomena whose existence and appreciation are not only or always amenable to the natural laws of quantification (Zaner, 1970).
As “a philosophical perspective that helps researchers to explore and understand everyday experiences without pre-supposing knowledge of those experiences” (Converse, 2012, p. 28), the origin of phenomenology is spelled out in this chapter as being influenced by the assumption of the mind-body split (Dowling & Cooney, 2012), as opposed to medicine’s naturalist and biological understanding of illness (Gergel, 2012). Phenomenology is a radical response to the traditional way of practising philosophy (Earle, 2010; Laverty, 2003) and is intended to explore the phenomena of human experience – lived experiences of an individual’s life-world as they appear in a person’s consciousness and not the world as existing separate from the experiencing individual (Gergel, 2012; Kim, 2012; Tuohy et al., 2012).
This chapter serves to look at the description of the purpose or task of phenomenology. With its suspension of the naturalist attitude (Kockelmans, 1994; Natanson, 1969; Stewart & Mickunas, 1974), phenomenology is not concerned with the mere objective existence and the official definitions (Earle, 2010; Kim, 2012) of race, racial identity and racial identification (Gergel, 2012). Tasked with analysing people’s conscious and internal experience, its research side (Flood, 2010) focuses on the conscious experience of what the supposed objective definition is and the meaning people attach to it (Roy et al., 1999; Shamsaei, Kermanshahi, Vanaki & Holtforth, 2013).
It is concerned with the essence and content of conscious human experience (Greenfield & Jensen, 2012; Simonsen, 2013; Stewart & Mickunas, 1974), not with humanity’s mere corporeality or the physical body of race, but with how people experience and make meaning of their corporeality, and the interpretive understanding of the effect the corporeality has on their understanding. It focuses on the conscious mental representation of corporeality and its contents (Murray, 2012; McDonald & Dickerson, 2013; Spiegelberg, 1965; Wagner, 1983). The chapter helps to look at phenomenology’s core concepts of intentionality (Converse, 2012; Dowling Cooney, 2012; Flood, 2010; Greenfield & Jensen, 2012), phenomenon (Converse, 2012; Dowling & Cooney, 2012; Earle, 2010) and consciousness (Greenfield & Jensen, 2012).
The chapter seeks to highlight that the racial definitions we make are based on stereotypes resulting from categorisation and prejudice masked in taken-for-granted notions of normativity, authenticity, prototypicality and objectivity, not only between the races of black and white, but also within the races themselves
WHEN NATURALISM MATTERS
After accumulating literature definitions of the terms black, blackness, white, and whiteness, I found myself lacking a living picture of how people actually define the races of black and white, themselves and others, the strategies they use to do these, and whether they are aware of how they use such strategies. The literature definitions felt impersonal, distant and lacking in an experientially conscious human element.
I came up with a schedule to randomly talk to people purposively selected to come up with the definitions. Coming mostly from organisations whose duties revolve around race, intolerance, segregation, justice, labour security and community service provision, these individuals were chosen on the basis of having a presumed understanding on matters relating to race, racial identity and racial identification. Although they were approached from specific organisations, their responses are not officially those of the organisations
CHAPTER 1 PREJUDICE AND INTOLERANCE: REFLECTIONS ON APARTHEID AND POST-APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA
1.2 Prejudice explained
1.3 Why same-race prejudice?
1.4 The case of defended races
1.5 Race definition lived and not merely given
1.6 Prejudice and intolerance
1.7 Defining criteria of intolerance
1.8 Precursors to intolerance
1.9 Race and prejudice in South Africa
1.10 Tasks of post-apartheid South Africa
1.11 Gains of post-apartheid South Africa
1.12 Still racially profiled
CHAPTER 2 THEORETICAL AND LITERATURE REVIEW OF TERMS
2.1 Chapter preview
2.2 Categorisation and labelling
2.3 Stereotypes as mental maps
2.4 From stereotypes to prejudice
2.5 The entrapment of categorical essentialism
2.6 Race as performed or carried
2.7 Race as cultural difference
2.8 Black and blackness defined
2.9 Whiteness as carried
2.10 Whiteness as performed
CHAPTER 3 INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHICAL PHENOMENOLOGY
3.1 Chapter preview
3.2 When naturalism matters
3.3 A phenomenological response
CHAPTER 4 CRITICAL RACE THEORY
4.1 Chapter preview
4.2 Definition of racism
4.3 Racial profiling and prejudice
4.4 Origin of critical race theory
4.5 Critical race theory and phenomenology
CHAPTER 5 PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH
5.1 Chapter preview
5.2 The two trends of phenomenology
5.3 A phenomenology of same-race prejudice
5.4 Qualitative study
5.5 Sampling and sample selection
5.6 Data gathering
5.7 Data explication
5.8 Phenomenological validity and reliability
5.9 Ethical considerations
CHAPTER 6 RESEARCH INTERVIEW RESULTS
6.1 Chapter preview
6.2 Phenomenology and the interviews
6.3 The formal interviews
6.4 A further explication of the interviews
CHAPTER 7 REFLECTION OF REFLECTIONS
7.1 Chapter preview
7.2 the need for a match between the researcher’s and co-researchers’ interpretation
7.3 Key findings about same-race prejudice
CHAPTER 8 RELEVANCE OF PHENOMENOLOGICAL PHILOSOPHY TO HUMAN NEEDS
8.1 Chapter preview
8.2 The interviews .
8.3 Lessons from phenomenology
8.3.1 Phenomenology, social responsibility and community intervention
CHAPTER 9 CONCLUSION
9.1 Chapter preview
9.2 Same-race prejudice hypothesis
9.3 Key findings
9.4 How the inquiry of the thesis was carried out
9.5 The core thought of the thesis
9.6 Phenomenology’s philosophical response to the above
9.7 Response from a phenomenological research
9.8 The observations made
9.9 Final thoughts
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