A introduction to our 2018-2019 year from NECET founder Bob Fox:
The New England Center for Existential Therapy (NECET) is pleased to present its annual teaching series for 2018-2019 entitled The Visible and the Invisible: Prejudice, Privilege and Philosophy. NECET has long been involved in the study of existential-phenomenological philosophy and contemporary psychodynamic psychotherapy and is now increasingly employing the post-modern approach of deconstruction. This year NECET is undertaking a critical examination of existential and phenomenological philosophy, relational psychodynamic theory, and the post-modern deconstuctivist project in regards to specific explorations of being complicit in visibility and invisibility.
In the first talk Bob Fox will begin the series by discussing the impact of unseen background phenomena in relational experience. He will explore the three philosophical frameworks of existential-phenomenology, critical theory, and structuralism/deconstruction and the therapeutic positions which are associated with them, in the service of seeing one’s own complicity in rendering the other invisible, and the relative invisibility of that complicity itself. In the second talk, Jason Ri will look at that which is rendered invisible in immigrant experience and will investigate the otherizing question “where are you from?” and the reifying question “what are you?” He will further explore immigration as a disruption of the background order of racial and ethnic categories and the phenomena of what he calls being “in-between” cultural spaces. In the third talk, Pam Mullins will consider the body as seen and unseen in regards to living with disability. She will examine the ways that categories themselves get constructed, and in particular investigate the constructs of being “normal” and “not normal” in the world of embodiment. In the final talk of the series, Robin Chalfin will consider the existential and therapeutic implications of the prevailing feminist theory and practice of intersectionality. In this light, she will consider intersectionality as a place and a process where structures of power meet personal agency and where the background of interlocking socio-cultural categories is foregrounded in the awareness of the power, problems and possibilities of living at the intrapsychic and interpersonal intersections of being.
A further note to the NECET community:
In making prejudice and privilege central to the philosophical conversation, the steering committee is reading together and recommending that participants also read in conjunction two books, very different from each other, which can help us look at the complex philosophical and psychological concepts related specifically to racialized “visibility and invisibility.” We recommend Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and George Yancy’s Look, A White!
Ellison wrote in the 1940s and 50s. He and his friend and colleague Richard Wright are considered the two most important black novelists associated with the existential movement of that time. Invisible Man is a novel with a strong existential philosophical, psychological and political tone. In the introduction he mentions the influence of Doestoevsky’s Notes from the Underground written one hundred years previously. It is a haunting work.
Yancy is a contemporary post-modern philosopher, currently at the philosophy department of Duquesne University, well known for its phenomenological bent. The book is a philosophy book subtitled Philosophical Essays on Whiteness. He is explicitly interested in the problem of invisibility and “arguing against the conception of the white racist self as a site of complete transparency – and for its conception as a site of opacity.”
These two books, one a novel and one a work of philosophy, written sixty years apart, by powerful Black American voices, can help us in our exploration of The Visible and the Invisible: Prejudice, Privilege and Philosophy. Please consider reading these texts as the year progresses and joining in an ongoing conversation about philosophy, psychotherapy, and the central problems of prejudice and privilege.