George Yancy

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2005


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Fred Evans

Committee Member

Eleanore Holveck

Committee Member

John H. McClendon

Committee Member



African-American philosophy, critical race theory, critical whiteness studies, Frantz Fanon, philosophy of the body, racism


The objective of this dissertation project is to theorize and understand Black embodiment within the context of white hegemony, that is, within the context of a white racist anti-Black world. I theorize the Black body as a site of lived historicity vis-á-vis whiteness as the transcendental signified or as that which takes itself to be "unconditioned." I theorize how the Black body, under the power of the white gaze, which is linked to cultural, symbolic, and material power, undergoes what I refer to as a "phenomenological return." Examples were taken from the work of Ralph Ellsion, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, and others. It is here that the presumption of the plasticity of the Black body, and the fact that it is a site of contested meanings, speaks to the historicity of the Black body's "being" as lived and meant within the interstices of social semiotics. I interrogated the "Black body" as a "fixed and material truth" that is said to pre-exist its relations with a white normative world of anti-Blackness. On this score, I maintain that not only does the Black body defy the ontic fixity projected upon it through the white gaze, and, hence, through the episteme of whiteness, but the white body is also fundamentally symbolic, requiring demystification of its status as norm, the paragon of beauty, order, innocence, purity, restraint, and nobility. The insights of various critical whiteness studies theorists were indispensable. I explore this larger racial Manichaean divide through the use of blending autobiography, history, and philosophical fiction. Through the Middle Passage and enslavement, Black bodies became the site not only of white racist discursive constructions, but the victim of white brutality and inhumanity that literally left the Black body marked, scarred. Through an exploration of Black resistance to the distorted Black imago of the white imaginary, I theorize ways in which the Black body challenged its conceptualization as "docile." White hegemony also interpellated the white body as that which is epistemologically and ontologically "given." In this way, it was necessary to render the unseen of whiteness seen at the site of the quotidian, and explore ways in which whites can disrupt whitely ways of being-in-the-world.