Korea, Fanon, Sir Amen discussed on The Philosopher's Zone
Not last year now in 2020. And kind of unprompted because I didn't flat out ask them about the transactional adoption paradox. A lot of them talked about growing up in say Denmark or the U.S. or France and feeling very much like, you know, just like everyone else, but that that was a very internal feeling. But then they started to realize that the way that people viewed them or were the way that people perceived them created a sense of estrangement from themselves and from their identities. So for instance, one of the adoptees said, you know, I'm very Danish on the inside. But then she had to confront, but that's not how people see me, you know, quote unquote from the outside. And she just wanted to fit in. She said she just wanted to be seen as them. And that I guess was one kind of manifestation of the translational adoption paradox and that bodily estrangement. Another adoptee said that he's very white, culturally. These are his terms, and he says, he said, you know, he doesn't think about it consciously, but he'll have these moments where he's struck by the fact that he's not white. So again, this is not even on the register of conscious identification as white necessarily. This difference between I think something versus I feel something that he never thinks studies what, but then yet he can be surprised or he'll be struck as he puts it at certain moments that he's not, right? And so most kind of had some variation of experiencing a transracial adoption paradox. Although they kind of articulated that differently. And so what I thought was was really interesting is that kind of, again, unprompted, and there was this emergent theme among many of them of the idea of blending in and blending into the crowd in Korea. And oftentimes they would bring this up when I asked them what are some of the things they most enjoy about being in Korea or just what is it like being in Korea? And a lot of them use the term of blending in. Which I thought was really interesting given how blending into the crowd, you know, often carries like a negative sense or the sense of relinquishing individuality or agency or a sense of being politically passive. But yet for them, this blending in was something that they enjoyed and the fact that they could enjoy it too was also really interesting that they could derive a sense of pleasure from being able to blend in, which I think is a kind of, it's a very different experience from that sense of not being able to, right? In the west, not being able to blend in, always being kind of the one that sticks out, so to speak. That is perceived as standing apart from, say, their families, or their friends or their community. I think that's part of why there is this ability to enjoy being able to blend in. And also being able to blend in when they want to. Again, as a way of kind of experiencing that agency that they perhaps didn't. Or don't, when they're back in their adoptive countries, it's an interesting distinction that you draw there between what's known or understood and what's felt. And I think it's useful as you do to introduce a phenomenological perspective here. And in writing about this use site, Franz finance, phenomenology of the black body. What's the connection there between the experience of your interviewees and what fanon is writing about? Yeah, so I think work is an incredibly helpful and useful sort of framework for thinking about creating the experiences not only of blending in and the enjoyment derived from that. But even the transracial adoption paradox on a more fundamental level because I think that his critique of phenomenology as being able to get at, I guess, a anonymous body that is not racialized is not gendered at someone and so forth is incredibly useful for thinking how adoptees at the level of what I guess he would call the body schema, the corporeal schema is always already intertwined with racialization. Because the body image is the way that you kind of more consciously register the way your body looks like and how you feel about it and so on, but the body schema is the kind of subconscious way in which you deploy yourself in the world effectively. It's the way in which we navigate our social and natural worlds in a kind of pre reflective sense. And I think the fact that adoptees can forget that they are not white takes us to the level of the body schema, whereby the very way in which they bodily engage in the world marks a refusal to recognize their racialization. So I think that they are unable to register that they stand apart, not only from their communities, but often from their very families is the only person of color in their families that the internalization of whiteness as norm means that for a lot of adoptees even as a form of survival, they can not register, I guess, on a conscious level that they experience racialization and that actually makes them stand apart from their broader communities. And I think because of that sedimentation over time, whereby adoptees are always having to minimize their difference, that that becomes built in or baked into the very way in which they are engaged in the world. And I think this kind of accounts for this ability for adoptees to not recognize themselves in the mirror for instance, right? The sort of really deeply embodied sense of alienation and estrangement. What you're saying here makes me think of how in a lot of phenomenological writing. Work that's based on what you might call classical phenomenology. The body is often articulated as the site of a kind of freedom, right? The body can know things in a way that's liberated from the shackles of philosophical reason. And it seems that fanon's phenomenology of the black bodies stands more as an articulation of the body as a site of restriction or limitation. Is that partly what you're getting at here? Yeah, absolutely, so I think this is what sir amen calls phenomenology. Sorry, finance phenomenology of the I can't. Or the phenomenology of being stopped. So again, as you said, in more classical phenomenology, you know, selenium and tea. The emphasis is usually on the able bodied, right? The body that can extend itself deploy itself in order to act efficiently in the world and on the world. And in finance work, there's much more of an emphasis on the experience of restriction of being barred, blockage, and the kind of injurious impact of having to say that I can't. And so his phenomenology is also a really good way of thinking through one's inability on the one hand to deploy oneself effectively in the world, but also the impacts that that has on the level of the body, so those elements, the body, it turns the body itself, one's own body, into something that causes one stress. And I think that is very much something that for non introduces. And it's not really the interest, I guess, of classical phenomenology. Well, you do, of course, also draw on the work of Maurice Miller ponty and in particular his writing on anonymity. What does Miller ponder have to say about anonymity that's relevant here? I was really struck by how merle ponti uses the concept of anonymity as a kind of precondition for social life. And as a necessity, so again, we often think of anonymity as a negative thing, but in my little ponti's rendering, right? It is something alongside individuality that is necessary for us to navigate our social worlds. And so he says in the phenomenology of perception that my body is the possibility for my existence to resign from itself to make itself anonymous and passive. And that this withdrawal is always a possibility or should always be a possibility for embodied existence. And so for him, our very openness to the world are variability to be in concrete situations, also relies on our ability to shut for our bodies to shut itself off from the world. So yeah, he says this anonymous life underpins our personal life. And I think that is really useful here because if anonymity is something that again is a precondition for social life, then it raises the question of how anonymity is differentially afforded. And how it's denied even to certain bodies. And the impacts of this refusal, and this, of course, is a question of power and Gail Salomon has demonstrated in her work on phenomenon and also in her more recent book on transphobia, right? That some people are not afforded what she calls the cover of anonymity. And I think that's a really useful way of getting at a concept of anonymity that again moves us away from its negative sense and actually positions it rather as something that is neither negative nor positive, but simply a precondition. And therefore, if you remove that precondition, we can also start to see and maybe account for how injurious it is to not be able to be anonymous. And for that reason, I think it's very useful for thinking for me to think through adoptees expressions of blending in as being able to kind of have an anonymity, even if it's contingent, even if it doesn't last very long, that it's a kind of respite. From the way in which they have experienced their bodies and also possibly their identities in their adoptive countries. And so what do you think that this analysis, this kind of work that you're doing it? And I think we've sort of, we've already come at this question from a few different angles. But just to finish up, what do you think that this work might offer to a broader discussion of racism in general? So I think with regard to the analysis I'm doing on blending in, I think one of the ways in which this work could speak to larger questions of racism is that it actually illustrates quite a classic kind of phenomenological move, right? Because in describing the experience of blending in as something that adoptees enjoy, it actually sheds light on the way that they have experienced racism in their western adoptive countries. So it actually allows us to get at, I think, in quite interesting and maybe unexpected ways an analysis of how the habitual body is impacted by racism over time and how one can achieve a slight sense of difference from that in a different social context that again sheds light and allows one to be more critical of the experiences in Western countries. And so, you know, one of my interviewees expressed this in a really nice way. He said that he really liked the absence of the feeling of standing out because he said that upon moving to Korea, he began to register consciously that there was always what he called a background hum of attention. That was directed at him. And that had just become part of what he said the background noise of being, but then suddenly he realizes that that's not there anymore. And he said it was liberating. And so that really nicely shows how blending in can bring to the fore, what had previously formed the background, right? And as the background, as phenomenology points out, we don't see it. It goes unseen. And so building on the work of Ali Al saji as well, blending in can draw attention to the way in which our very visual fields are structured due to racism in ways that encourage certain forms of perception. So in white dominant societies or within a particular social cultural and historical horizon, the non white body becomes hyper visible, becomes the object that commands attention and that stands out. So I think adoptees experiences in Korea provide a really interesting perspective and way of getting at a broader understanding of how racism functions and especially impacts that it has on the bodily level. Ryan Gustafson, he's a postdoctoral fellow with the Asia institute at the university of Melbourne, more info on the philosopher's own website, and of course you can stream or download this and all of our programs via the radio national website or the ABC listen app. Thanks for joining me this week. I'm David Rutledge, bye for now..