BSP Podcast: Alia Al-Saji on Fanon and the wounds of colonial duration

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Alia Al-Saji presenting a paper from our 2022 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology II’.

Season 6 episode 132: 6 May 2024

The BSP Podcast Season 6 begins with the first keynote speaker from our 2022 annual conference, Engaged Phenomenology II.

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Alia Al-Saji
‘Fanon and an Engaged Phenomenology of Affect: Touching the wounds of colonial duration’

Surrounding Frantz Fanon’s work is a persistent, and at times reductive, debate on method: phenomenological, psychoanalytic, psychiatric, Merleau-Pontian, Sartrean, afropessimist, or decolonial. What is often forgotten is that the originality of Fanon’s philosophy comes from the multiplicity of approaches he was able to weave together. More so, in attempts to read Fanon through other philosophers (e.g. Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, or Lacan), his contemporaneity with these thinkers is elided. I propose it might be time to read phenomenology through Fanon, rather than centering analysis on Fanon’s assumed debt to Merleau-Ponty’s body schema. In this paper, I focus on the question of phenomenological method (without assuming this to be the defining method of Fanon’s work). My argument is not one from continuity. Rather, I want to show how Fanonian phenomenology is one of rupture with, and ungrounding of, the phenomenological tradition—how Fanon creates his own method through an engaged phenomenology of racialized affect and touch that breaks with the perceptual spectacle at the centre of most phenomenologies before him. This is to say that Fanon’s phenomenology is not mere description, that he invents a critical, distinctly temporal, and anticolonial method from the affective territory in which he has had to dwell.

Biography: Alia Al-Saji is Associate Professor of Philosophy at McGill University. Her work brings together phenomenology, critical philosophy of race, and feminist theory, with an abiding interest in questions of time, affect, and racialization. Notable among her works, she is the author of “The Racialization of Muslim Veils” (Philosophy and Social Criticism, 2010), “Decolonizing Bergson” (Beyond Bergson, SUNY 2019), and “Glued to the Image: A critical phenomenology of racialization through works of Art” (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 2019). Al-Saji argues for the philosophical, political, and lived importance of affective hesitation, and is currently completing a monograph entitled Hesitation: Critical Phenomenology, Colonial Duration, and the Affective Weight of the Past.

Further information

This recording is taken from our Annual UK Conference 2022: Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Sociality (Exeter, UK / Hybrid) with the University of Exeter. Sponsored by the Wellcome Centre, Egenis, and the Shame and Medicine project. For the conference our speakers either presented in person at Exeter or remotely to people online and in-room, and the podcast episodes are recorded from the live broadcast feeds.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?