The Abnormality of Discrimination: A Phenomenological Perspective

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Over the years, phenomenology has provided illuminating descriptions of discrimination, with its mechanisms and effects being thematised at the most basic levels of embodiment, (dis)orientation, selfhood, and belonging. What remains somewhat understudied is the lived experience of the discriminator. In this paper I draw on Husserl's phenomenological account of normality to reflect on the ways in which we discriminate at the prereflective levels of perceptual experience and bodily being. By critically reflecting on the intentional structures undergirding discriminatory practices, I argue that discrimination is characteristic of a naïve normalising attitude which is habitually interested in securing a familiar experience of a static normality. I first demonstrate how this attitude problematically tends to reproduce, enforce, and further sediment discriminatory and exclusionary norms. Further, I provide an internal critique which problematises discrimination—without recourse to external normative standards—on three fronts: as epistemically unproductive, experientially obscuring, and normatively non-instantiating. In discriminatory acts we see an abnormal refusal to enrich, revise, and genetically establish new normative commitments, new ways of seeing, and a new normality.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Discrimination, Edmund Husserl, Normality, abnormality, discordance

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