Erasure and epoche: phenomenological strategies for thinking in and with devastation

Andrews, Jorella G.. 2019. Erasure and epoche: phenomenological strategies for thinking in and with devastation. ISSUE, 8, pp. 69-79. ISSN 2315-4802 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this essay, I present a phenomenological approach to knowing, learning from, and teaching with what I call ‘orphaned matter’ – that is, images, objects or artefacts that are commonly regarded as ‘mute’, deactivated, or redundant because the meanings that accompanied their creation and journey into the present have been erased. Here, research is not directed towards the reconstruction of those lost contexts. Instead, counter-intuitively, researchers honour the gaps and losses that have occurred, however catastrophic, and work with what remains so that alternate insights, situated in the present for the sake of a different future, might begin to reveal themselves. Phenomenology is particularly well-suited in this regard because, with its embrace of epoché, a profound openness to erasure is methodologically central to it. Epoché (or phenomenological reduction, and more broadly the suspension of judgement) sets in motion an investigative attitude in which researchers seek to have their inherited habits of thought - their presumptions - illuminated and where necessary disposed of. Notably, this occurs through the agencies of the phenomenon under investigation as it progressively reveals itself, on its own terms, as far as this is possible.

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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 2.5 Generic License CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 [].


Merleau-Ponty, epoche, phenomenology, devastation, erasure

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Visual Cultures


10 June 2019Accepted
25 July 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

26 Jul 2019 08:30

Last Modified:

16 Mar 2021 13:14

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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