“The place where life hides away”: Merleau-Ponty, Fanon, and the location of bodily being

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Proceeding from the question, what bodily being consists of, this chapter explores the social mediation of bodies, insisting that such mediations shape not only our knowledge of our bodies but our feelings in them as well. Phenomenology is a crucial ally here insisting, as it does, that hard and fast distinctions between body and the world, between inside and outside of the self, are difficult to discern at the level of experience. Phenomenology, indeed, allows us to think of embodiment as a dialectical relation, a relation, furthermore, characterized by constant movement between the inside of the self and the outside of the world. Merleau-Ponty’s notion of “flesh” helps us appreciate how this constant movement both engenders and dissolves the boundary lines between these two domains. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, furthermore, allows the prospect of a type of bodily retreat, the body able to withdraw from relations with the world, to transform bodily life into “anonymous life.” Frantz Fanon also considers the question of embodied subjectivity, although crucially within the realm of anti-Black racism which consigns the Black subject to a “zone of indeterminacy in bodily being.” It is not just the body in its visibility that is targeted by the racism projected at it, and that projects it in turn, a body marked by otherness that is forced into relentlessly surveyed objecthood, but the body in its innermost interiority, a region often posited as beyond the reach of the poisonous effects of an objectifying gaze. Not only does Fanon draw our attention to “the mimetic relation between the physical structures of colonialism and the psychic structures that they produce, " he shows, furthermore, that access even to the body’s most decidedly material and ostensibly universal aspects is shaped by its racialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFanon, Phenomenology, and Psychology
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781000458503
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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