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Chiasmi International

Volume 21, 2019

Merleau-Ponty, Literature, and Literary Language

Shiloh Whitney
Pages 305-320

From the Body Schema to the Historical-Racial Schema
Theorizing Affect between Merleau-Ponty, Fanon, and Ahmed

What resources does Merleau-Ponty’s account of the body schema offer to the Fanonian one? First I show that Merleau-Ponty’s theory of the body schema is already a theory of affect: one that does not oppose affects to intentionality, positioning them not only as sense but as force, cultivating affective agencies rather than constituting static sense content. Then I argue that by foregrounding the role of affect in both thinkers, we can understand the way in which the historical-racial schema innovates, anticipating and influencing feminist theories of the affective turn – especially Sara Ahmed’s theory of affective economies. The historical-racial schema posits the constitution of affective agencies on a sociogenic scale, and these affective economies in turn account for the possibility of the collapse of the body schema into a racial epidermal schema, a disjunction of affective intentionality Fanon calls “affective tetanization.”