Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Mary Beth Mader

Committee Member

Thomas Nenon

Committee Member

Lindsey Stewart

Committee Member

Michael Monahan


My dissertation, Fugitive Gestures: The persistence of Black meaning and Black life in an anti-Black world, develops a phenomenological analysis of contemporary Black lived experience in the US occuring in fugitive spaces--territories independent of white supremacy and anti-Black disciplinary techniques. In contrast to Afropessimists who argue that contemporary Black subjects exists as nonbeing, I demonstrate the presence of contemporary Black meaning and Black being as expressed in Black gestures. First, I develop the concept 'Black archive' to describe how contemporary subjects live with the conceptual awareness of historical anti-Blackness as it unfolds in the present; are symbolically marked by 'hieroglyphics of the flesh'; and, finally, share a collective memory of chattel slavery. The Black archive, thus, historicizes an anlysis of the contemporary Black subject in contrast to the un-historicized political ontology on which Afropessimists rely. Next, drawing upon Merleau-Pontian phenomenology, I examine how the racializing gaze--a phenomenological structure of white supremacy--inhibits the Black phenomenal body to distort the Black body image, fragment the Black body schema, and un-synthesize the Black habit body. I argue that in fugitive spaces, by contrast, the Black phenomenal body is no longer inhibited by the racializing gaze of white supremacy. This freedom from the racializing gaze allows Black subjects the freedom to cultivate a robust habit body capable of spontaneous and creative movements, which are immanently meaningful because they emerge from an uninhibited embodied intentionality. I identify Black being and meaning as expressed in three examples of Black gesture: i) the Black Nod, ii) Tommie Smith's and John Carlos' raised fists during the 1968 Olympics, and iii) the Black queer ballroom scene. Thus, while Black lived experience is disciplined and inhibited under white supremacy, we can recognize the persistence of Black being and Black meaning as expressed in Black gestures.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest


Embargoed until 7/9/2024

Available for download on Tuesday, July 09, 2024