BSP Podcast: Tristan Hedges – ‘Towards a phenomenology of discrimination’

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Tristan Hedges presenting a paper from our 2022 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology II’.

Season 6 episode 144: 22 May 2024

Season 6 continues with another presentation from our 2022 annual conference, Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Spatiality. This episode features a presentation from Tristan Hedges, University of Copenhagen.

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Tristan Hedges
‘Towards a phenomenology of discrimination’

As I walk down the corridor, I barely slow my pace, extend my arm, and am then thrown by the wholly unanticipated experience of my body crashing into the unbudging door. I typified the door as a ‘push-door’ and approached it with the presupposition that my expectation of it opening upon being pushed would be fulfilled.  I argue that this all-too-familiar experience illuminates a tendency toward concordance which underlies the most pernicious and unintentional discriminatory practices. Concordance, understood as the cohering of experience with one’s expectations, provides us with a sense of normality which is fundamental for epistemic, normative, and doxic familiarity. In this talk, I bring Husserl’s phenomenological understanding of concordance-normality into dialogue with social scientific and philosophical work on discrimination. Historically, phenomenology has concerned itself with the lived experience of the discriminatee. However, it is also well-equipped for thematising the ways in which we discriminate at the pre-reflective levels of perceptual experience and bodily being. Discriminatory practices manifest in the unintended turning of heads, prolonged looks, or prejudicial ways of seeing and hearing. Drawing on examples of stereotyping, cognitive biases, and spatial exclusion, I show how discrimination is often a naïve, normalising attempt to stabilise concordance at the expense of new, revised, and dialogically established ways of seeing. To these ends, I begin with Husserl’s understanding of normality and its constitutional significance for our typifying experience of the world. I then illuminate the attitudinal character of discrimination and argue that there is a normalising tendency toward concordance underlying discriminatory practices. Lastly, I want to problematise this tendency toward concordance by arguing for the normative, epistemic, and experiential richness of discordance. Despite their disorientating and unfamiliar character, discordant experiences allow us to revise, critically reflect on, and expand our horizons of expectation.

Biography: Tristan Hedges is a PhD fellow at the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen. He is working under Dan Zahavi as part of the Who Are We research project, for which he is exmaning the phenomenological notion of we-identity. Within this context his research is interested in the Us/Them dichotomy, and how we-identities can be antagonistic and exclusionary, but also provide senses of belonging and political solidarity.

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?