Helen Ngo (Deakin University)

Helen Ngo_IMG_0386-250px highDr. Helen Ngo is a lecturer in philosophy at Deakin University.

She completed her PhD in Philosophy at Stony Brook University (USA), specialising in phenomenology, critical philosophy of race, and feminist philosophy. Her work explores the phenomenological and existential dimensions of racism, and the relations of self, body, and world entailed in its lived experience.

She is the author of the monograph, The Habits of Racism: A Phenomenology of Racism and Racialized Embodiment (Lexington Books).


Paper title: Habit, Embodiment, and the Lived Experience of Racism

This lecture will draw on the tools of philosophical phenomenology, and in particular the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, to explore some of the embodied dimensions of racism and its lived experience. What is it like to live as a person of colour – to inhabit these Asian, Brown, Indigenous, Black, Latinx bodies – in a racially hostile world? How do the stress and work involved in navigating these identities play out on the deep and intimate level of the body? Extending the work of critical race and decolonial thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, George Yancy, and Sara Ahmed, I argue that racialised embodiment is marked not only by a disjuncture on the level of the body schema, but also by movement through social space that fails to be fluid, co-ordinated, or transparent. This in turn raises questions around phenomenology’s usual treatment of the body as habitual and synchronously experienced in its temporal and spatial registers, as well as normative questions around the different relations to social and shared spaces. As I will argue, the steady presence of racism not only bears on one’s personal sense of embodiment, but also on the relations one can have (or might wish to have) in and to the world.

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