Critical Phenomenology

Phenomenology orients us toward people's sense experiences (rather than the world as given to us), and critical phenomenology arises from the fundamental acknowledgement that experience is not universal; rather some ways of feeling and perceiving are privileged while others are silenced or excluded. 

Recommended Readings

Ahmed, Sara. (2006). Orientations: Toward a queer phenomenology. GLQ: A journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 12(4), 543-574. 

Al-Saji, Alia. 2013. “Too Late: Racialized Time and the Closure of the Past.” Insights 6 (5): 2–12.

Espinoza, Manuel Luis, Shirin Vossoughi, Mike Rose, and Luis E. Poza. 2020. “Matters of Participation: Notes on the Study of Dignity and Learning.” Mind, Culture, and Activity 27 (4): 325–47. 

Gordon, Lewis R. 2020. “Bad Faith.” In 50 Concepts for a Critical Phenomenology, edited by Gail Weiss, Ann V. Murphy, and Gayle Salamon. Evanson, IL: Northwestern University Press.

“Where a discipline treats itself as the world, as all of reality, and its methods as “complete,” its practitioners forget it’s a human-created practice. This form of bad faith I call disciplinary decadence” (Gordon 2020; 21).

Kelly, M. A. (2014). Tear-stained Sepia. Family Medicine, 46(7), 552-553.

McMahon, L. (2017). Perception and its development in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology. In Jacobson, K., & Russon, J. (Eds.), Perception and its development in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology (pp. 308–337). University of Toronto Press:  

“Language works precisely to cover over the primordial opening in being that is human bodily expression” (314). 

Phenomenological description is in an important sense akin more to painting or to literature than it is to a science, which claims to offer transparent ‘translations’ of things in the world” (324).

Salamon, Gayle. 2012. “The Phenomenology of Rheumatology: Disability, Merleau-Ponty, and the Fallacy of Maximal Grip.” Hypatia 27 (2): 243–60. 

Sengupta, P., Dickes, A., & Farris, A.V. (2021). Beyond Technocentrism: Coding as Experience. In: Voicing Code in STEM: A Dialogical Imagination (Chapter 1). MIT Press.

Taneja, Anand Vivek. 2018. Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Weiss, Gail. 2015. “The Normal, the Natural, and the Normative: A Merleau-Pontian Legacy to Feminist Theory, Critical Race Theory, and Disability Studies.” Continental Philosophy Review 48: 77–93. doi:10.1007/s11007-014-9316-y. 

Reflections from our reading

I think [critical phenomenology] is kind of liberating and letting us see what is really there -- not assuming or not repeating the learned stuff. We are unlearning some of the facts, some of the things, and then we are trying to find our own ways by this research. [Basak, Dec 2020]

As was so beautifully articulated by Sarah Ahmed,  critical phenomenology begins with an examination of one's orientation, their starting point, their here, the embodied point at which their world unfolds and begins to take shape. And I've kind of waffled back and forth as to how congruent this is with kind of the tenets of phenomenology. But, yeah, it just Ahmed's just really beautiful consideration of one's interaction with their here. [Erin, Dec 2020]

Particularly for my purposes [critical phenomenology] invites me to engage in the material practice of restructuring the world in order to kind of generate new and liberatory possibilities of meaningful experiences and existence. And hence, I see that there is a value in engaging with what I'm Ahmed writes and what critical phenomenology purports to be. [Santanu, Dec 2020]

Especially in medicine, when we look at bodies, there's the patient body, and reading these articles, most often it's acted upon. It's this it's an object. And then, and the doctor is often also seen as an object, but more active rather than passive and receiving as the patient is. But yeah, it's interesting to look at it also is these are two bodies that are interacting and they're both, you know, both receiving and giving in a different way. [Naomi, Dec 2020]

McMahon gives a quote from Merleau Ponty: "reflection steps back in order to see transcendence spring forth. And it loosens the intentional threads that connect us to the world in order to make them appear. It alone is consciousness of the world because it reveals the world as strange and paradoxical." So I feel it's through --I feel this project makes me want to loosen those intentional threads. [Ariel, Dec 2020]

Phenomenology for me opens up that space and it opens up that space for me as a clinician and almost allows me to be myself. So partly I feel the phenomenology reminds me of what it is to be human, and often it's actually pretty easy to forget that sometimes.  [Martina, Dec 2020]

To me, our critical phenomenology is a way to make it explicit that neutrality of the body or neutrality of experiences, these things are not possible and we can't be operating with these assumptions. [Megha, Dec 2020]

I think phenomenology and especially queer phenomenology is a certain way of turning over our own bodies, a certain way of both putting our bodies as instruments as well as spaces of exploration, but also, you know, spaces where a lot of history has happened. And I think where I want to leave us or leave myself is I think there's a beautiful line  [Pratim, Dec 2020]