Madness and Judiciousness: A Phenomenological Reading of a Black Woman’s Encounter with a Saleschild

In Maria Del Guadalupe Davidson, Kathryn T. Gines & Donna-Dale L. Marcano (eds.), Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy. SUNY Press (2010)
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Patricia Williams in her book, The Alchemy of Race and Rights, describes being denied entrance in the middle of the afternoon by a “saleschild.” Utilizing the works of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, this article explores their interaction phenomenologically. This small interaction of seemingly simple misunderstanding represents a limit condition in Merleau-Ponty’s analysis. His phenomenological framework does not explain the chasm between the “saleschild” and Williams, that in a sense they do not participate in the same world. This interaction between the “saleschild” and Williams represents a moment when the two contest exactly what is reason in our society. To the extent that society discerns one’s actions as reasonable and the other’s actions as unreasonable, our society participates in determining that which constitutes reason. Williams’s work speaks precisely to this chasm as evident in her text’s subtitle, Memoirs of a Mad Woman. This decision relegates one subject to “judiciousness” and relegates the other to “madness.”



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Emily S. Lee
California State University, Fullerton

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