Knowing Otherwise

Knowing Otherwise: Race, Gender, and Implicit Understanding

Alexis Shotwell
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Knowing Otherwise
    Book Description:

    Prejudice is often not a conscious attitude: because of ingrained habits in relating to the world, one may act in prejudiced ways toward others without explicitly understanding the meaning of one’s actions. Similarly, one may know how to do certain things, like ride a bicycle, without being able to articulate in words what that knowledge is. These are examples of what Alexis Shotwell discusses in Knowing Otherwise as phenomena of “implicit understanding.” Presenting a systematic analysis of this concept, she highlights how this kind of understanding may be used to ground positive political and social change, such as combating racism in its less overt and more deep-rooted forms. Shotwell begins by distinguishing four basic types of implicit understanding: nonpropositional, skill-based, or practical knowledge; embodied knowledge; potentially propositional knowledge; and affective knowledge. She then develops the notion of a racialized and gendered “common sense,” drawing on Gramsci and critical race theorists, and clarifies the idea of embodied knowledge by showing how it operates in the realm of aesthetics. She also examines the role that both negative affects, like shame, and positive affects, like sympathy, can play in moving us away from racism and toward political solidarity and social justice. Finally, Shotwell looks at the politicized experience of one’s body in feminist and transgender theories of liberation in order to elucidate the role of situated sensuous knowledge in bringing about social change and political transformation.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05911-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxiv)

    Even though humans are more committed to language than other animals, we use more than words in every aspect of engagement with our lives. We are intricately and intimately connected with others and with the world, and most of these connections happen alongside, beneath, and in other spheres than the words we say and the propositions we formulate. We know how to say some things, and how to make claims and test them. This sort of knowledge—propositional knowledge—has been often understood as the only form of knowledge worth thinking about. We also know otherwise—we understand things that...

      (pp. 3-28)

      In the Anglo-American analytic philosophical tradition, there is relatively little attention paid to the fourfold category I am calling implicit understanding. Even so, there has been some significant work both squarely within and alongside this style of philosophy. In this chapter I aim to show how a range of theorists have articulated aspects of implicit understanding. Despite the often narrowly focused views of theorists who have discussed implicit understanding, I argue that we ought to see these forms of understanding as complexly related and interdependent. Simultaneously, it is important to clearly distinguish and delineate among different ways of knowing. Theorists...

      (pp. 29-46)

      According to W. E. B. Du Bois, “The problem of the future world is the charting, by means of intelligent reason, of a path not simply through the resistances of physical force, but through the vaster and far more intricate jungle of ideas conditioned on unconscious and subconscious reflexes of living things; on blind unreason and often irresistible urges of sensitive matter; of which the concept of race is today one of the most unyielding and threatening” (1940, viii). Although Du Bois was writing in 1940, much of the intricate tangle of ideas around “race”—the problem of the color...

      (pp. 47-70)

      If common sense is a key aspect of oppressive social relations, as the prior chapter argues, transforming social relations will involve changes at the level of common sense. Susan Babbitt speaks to this with the language of dreaming impossible dreams—working for things that exceed what is considered possible under current conditions. Robin D. G. Kelley calls this the work of freedom dreaming in social movements. Along with giving histories of black radical social movements in the United States, Kelley calls on the radical imaginary enacted in Afrodiasporic surrealism. Indeed, surrealism gives Kelley many of his central definitions and examples...

      (pp. 73-97)

      I worry about the process by which things become popular. his orientation toward the hip, nourished equally in DIY culture and in academe, pursues the new and the obscure, preferring to be among the first to plumb a new well. his approach is also, I think, rooted in capitalist social relations of marketability and, by extension, cornering markets. On all these grounds, I ought to excise this chapter, written when talking about afect in general and shame in particular was less in vogue. On the contrary, though, I think we should read the recent and not-so-recent attention to affect as...

      (pp. 98-124)

      Often people’s racial, gendered commonsense understandings become palpable when they try to work in solidarity with others. As Gadamer suggests, it is something outside our horizon of presupposition—a text, a person—that puts our prejudgments into play. Minnie Bruce Pratt describes feeling that she could not simply move to a place where she “joined others to struggle with them against common injustices.” Rather, working with others against injustice required her to struggle against aspects of herself and her history. And it seems that her realization of the need to struggle against her own history was only provoked by her...

      (pp. 125-156)

      “Knowledge for social movements must move us,” writes Avery Gordon; it must be “sensual and magical.”¹ I find this an evocative and intuitively compelling call to action. What might happen when we understand our conceptual experience of social worlds to interact with and be conditioned by our embodied experience? I extend Gordon’s categories to think about sensuousness as material, embodied understanding that structures our experience and capacities for action. The sensuousness I care about here comes out of the aesthetic tradition I consider in chapter 3: a non-reductive bodily experience that is all about sociality.

      We can see the significance...

    (pp. 157-172)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 173-180)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-181)