chapter  3
37 Pages

Phenomenological Structuralism

Phenomenological structuralism attempts to address the ontological and epistemological questions of black American and British agency and practical consciousnesses within the constitution and conception of modern society as a by-product of Protestant class division and capitalist relations of production. The structural functional and structural Marxist turn in the mid-to-late 1960s and early 70s, in explaining ethnic/racial identity or for that matter identity in general, privileged socially constructed relations within and via language and symbolic representation, as opposed to biology (i.e., race, genetics, structure of the mind, etc.), as the determining factor in identity or consciousness formation. This move, however, encountered a peculiar problem: to what extent should identity or consciousness formation be attributed to internal processes (individual subjective responses), as opposed to external and expressed processes (the social relations)? In other words, as Teresa Brennan (1997) so eloquently phrases the problem, “[f]or if everything is socially constructed, how do novel ideas emerge? How does originality, or genius in the extreme case, come into being?” (Brennan, 1997: 89). She continues, “this problem is equivalent to the old conundrum of [structural] functionalism. How do we know, do or write anything at odds with a received view? How do we explain those moments, or movements, which escape from the compound of socially constructed identifi cations?” (Brennan, 1997: 89).