Body, Culture and Subjectivity: a Psychological Approach on White Normativity

Márcio de Abreu Mônica Lima About the authors

Abstract

This paper provides theoretical contributions to a psychological approach to race relations. Based on social and cultural psychology, sociology, and postcolonial and cultural studies, and adopting a social constructionist perspective, this article discusses the association between body, culture, and subjectivity. It looks at the ways these three dimensions of human existence are mutually constructed, as well as the power dynamics shaping these constructions in postcolonial contexts. More specifically, we use the human body as a starting point to develop theoretical reflections about the subjective processes experienced by racialized bodies, proposing a denaturalization movement regarding the phenomenon of “white normativity”, as is called in critical studies on race. The discussion revolves around the hypothesis that people who share a set of socio-cultural assumptions built as a result of their common experiences as racialized bodies often reproduce ways of being and acting in the world that are consistent with such assumptions. These forms of being and acting in the world, in turn, function as mechanisms to promote and maintain particular sets of psychological expressions. Lastly, we conclude that recognizing the subjective dimension of our existence as culturally situated processes (as well as the impossibility of decoupling such processes from the social space we occupy by virtue of the social markers embodied by our bodies) means to acknowledge that racialized societies produce not only racialized bodies, but also racialized subjectivities.

Keywords:
Human body; Culture; Subjectivity; White normativity; Race relations

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