Countering the "Phenomenology of Whiteness": The Nation of Islam's Phenomenology of Blackness

E. Anthony Muhammad


The Nation of Islam (NOI) has intrigued American society since its inception in 1930. Historically, the religio-nationalist organization has been the object of admiration for its uncanny ability to reform the lives of downtrodden blacks. At the same time, the NOI has garnered condemnation for the controversial, racialized and divisive doctrine that it espouses. This condemnation has led to a dismissal of the NOI’s doctrine as reactionary, bigoted, and fanciful myth-making. In recent decades however, scholars have begun interrogating the doctrine of the NOI. Rather than dismissing it, scholars in various fields have recognized the critical and phenomenological nature of its doctrine as it goes about the “mental, physical, and spiritual resurrection” of black Americans. In this article, I interrogate three of the most controversial claims of the NOI: The White man is the devil, the Black man is God, and its endorsement of the separation of Blacks into their own territory. Viewed through the lens of phenomenology, I submit that the NOI’s doctrine and actions should be viewed as the establishment of an emancipative and recuperative “Phenomenology of Blackness” that counters a lifeworld built upon the disembodiment and dehumanization of Black bodies. Reframing the NOI’s doctrine in this way positions it as a linguistic, religiously stylized, praxis-oriented critical hermeneutic phenomenology.

Peer review process: Double-anonymous peer review


Nation of Islam; Phenomenology; Embodiment; Critical Hermeneutic Phenomenology; Orientation


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