Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Why has the institution of race remained resilient given what we know about its detrimental impacts? Why do we enjoy race and who has access to that enjoyment? Is black trauma endemic to this enjoyment and can blackness be divorced from it? I hypothesize that we live in an episteme that has transitioned from physiological need to surplus enjoyment. This enjoyment has allowed humans to conceptualize their relations beyond the physical and necessary. Racial enjoyment is psychical because it involves how we enjoy and not how we know (enjoyment v. knowledge). There is a collective investment in race that subtends its primacy. The conservative right winger who is a nationalist is likely to dislike the racial other for easily recognizable tropes and stereotypes. In this way, their relationship to race is easier to parse. My intervention is in the white liberal framework and imaginary, where social activists are embedded in the work. My critique of the liberal left centers their racial enjoyment of blackness as l’objet petit a along the same spectrum as the regressive right. Through a fetishistic disavowal, the white liberal can experience blackness in variety, and vicinity without disrupting the violence that terrorizes black life.
This essay will be a critical exploration through a psychoanalytic framework in the Lacanian tradition. My methodology will be ethnographic and interdisciplinary, calling on social, cultural, and political commentary. Sheldon George and Derek Hook have earlier foundational work in this tradition arguing that enjoyment and its perceived theft create kindling for the violence of racial othering. It is not just that the other enjoys, but they enjoy something that prohibits my ability to actualize full enjoyment. The sanction of targeted violence is coded in blackness according to Afropessimist thought. Even at a slightly less extreme level of critique, Fanon and some Marxists still acknowledge blackness is not equated with nor afforded full humanity. The proliferation of images of black death and violability permeate the media sphere, yet blackness is culture, the world over. It is what is hip. And more than ever, the question would you want to be black seems attractive to more nonblacks. The fantasy of race is that it allows the nonblack subject an approximation to black subjectivity that is predicated on abstraction from it. This ability to enjoy the nonbelonging of the racialized other and call that nonbelonging into question by policing the boundaries of what is normative, and deviant create the conditions for acceptance into white Western society.
Number of Pages
Owusu, Edwin, "Race, Fantasy & Enjoyment" (2023). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1698.