Undermining Whiteness: Hannah Arendt's Participatory Freedom and the Political Ethics of Antiracism
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This dissertation seeks to develop a political ethics of antiracism through the work of 20th century political theorist Hannah Arendt. Although Arendt's political theory does not take up the particular question of antiracism, I posit that Arendt's theorization of freedom, which emphasizes the participatory and transformative dimensions of freedom, can help us articulate a destabilizing politics, one that privileges practices that might undermine the norm of whiteness. An Arendtian approach to antiracism might challenge the Left orthothodox approach to racism in post-Civil Rights America, which, through the ideals of social justice and equality, relies on the State to prosecute acts of racism and increase non-whites' access to valuable resources. Although the Left's State-centered approach may have been necessary during an era when white violence was blatant and forthcoming, an over-reliance on the State and its repressive apparatus has curbed prospects for conversations that might lead to greater public understanding of how race has structured and continues to structure American life. This dissertation explains how Arendt's concept of participatory freedom might reenergize antiracist politics in the 21st century. Participatory freedom highlights the <italic>experience</italic> of freedom as opposed to the protections that freedom may offer, which might be better conceptualized as liberty or rights; or the psychological state of freedom, which might be better conceptualized as autonomy. By highlighting the experiential dimension of freedom, participatory freedom emboldens us to encounter potentially radical difference, which we can do only in political life. Although participatory freedom need not replace justice-, equality-, or rights- based approaches to antiracism, these approaches do not automatically foster encounters across difference. It is these encounters that yield the potential to undermine deeply entrenched norms, such as whiteness.
- Political science