White ontological expansiveness and the lived experience of racialised embodiment
Helen Ngo (Deakin University)

April 26, 2016, 4:00pm - 5:30pm
European Philosophy and the History of Ideas Research Group (EPHI), Deakin University

221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood 3125


Deakin University


In her study into the unconscious habits of racial privilege, Shannon Sullivan introduces the concept “ontological expansiveness” to describe what she argues characterises white embodiment. According to Sullivan, ontological expansiveness describes the pre-reflective and often unarticulated assumption that “geographical, psychical, linguistic, economic, spiritual, bodily [spaces]...are or should be available for them to move in and out of as they wish.” (Sullivan, 2006, p.10). In this talk I draw on the work of critical race thinkers such as Frantz Fanon and George Yancy in order to explore the contrasting experience of racialised embodiment. I examine the ways in which racialised embodiment is marked not only by a disjuncture on the level of the body schema, but also by movement through social space that fails to be fluid, co-ordinated, or transparent in the way that phenomenological accounts of the body tend to assume. In doing so, I raise some questions around phenomenology's usual treatment of the body as synchronously experienced in its temporal and spatial registers, as well as normative questions around the different relations to social and shared spaces.

Dr. Helen Ngo is an Honorary Fellow in Philosophy at Deakin University. She completed her PhD at Stony Brook University, USA, specialising in phenomenology, critical philosophy of race, and feminist philosophy. She is currently engaged in teaching and research at Monash University, and is also working on a forthcoming book based on her doctoral dissertation,The Habits of Racism.

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