Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Communication and Rhetorical Studies
antiracism, embodiment, somatic theory, vernacular, white-body supremacy, whiteness
Multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion, equity, antiracism, belonging… The humanities, social sciences, and rhetorical scholarship have all slowly given attention to questions of race and racism. Situated at the intersection of somatic psychology and rhetorical studies, this thesis uses a somatic theory lens to explore how symbolic systems, specifically language and bodies, are intertwined to understand the embodied or material effects of racism we have not yet accounted for. I borrow Karma Chávez’s language of “abstract” and “actual” (2018) to observe the rhetorical dynamics, patterns and strategies, of white bodies accounting for themselves and apply Resmaa Menakem and Douglas Robinson’s somatic theories to these accounts as a means to examine wider systems of white-body supremacy and explore the pressing questions of how to engage whiteness in ways that resituate and decenter white bodies and hold us accountable for the systems we benefit from. I first examine core ideas of Critical Race Theory, Critical Whiteness Studies, and the role of the body in white-body supremacy. I then engage in examining vernacular accounts of whiteness through case studies of four individuals participating in Looking in the Mirror: Cooperstown Reflects on Racism series in Otsego County, New York. This exploration has two parts based on where participants happened to be on the continuum of embodiment at the time. I first examine two participants who tend toward the more disembodied or abstracted side of embodiment; I then examine two participants who tend toward the more embodied side of the continuum. I conclude by returning to the pressing questions of how to engage whiteness in ways that resituate and decenter white bodies and hold us accountable for the systems we benefit from.
Mess, Kerry Lynn, "The Body Knows: Embodiment and Whiteness A Rhetorical Analysis of White Bodies Engaged in Antiracism Work, Otsego County, New York" (2023). Theses - ALL. 718.