Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theology

First Advisor

Ogbonnaya, Joseph

Second Advisor

Masson, Robert

Third Advisor

Kelly, Conor

Abstract

One of the most prominent, destructive, and long-lasting forms of racism in the United States and elsewhere is that which stems from the eyes of white people’s personal and social bodies. Their looks have been mobilized and deployed to exclude, exploit, put down, police, manage, intimidate, mark, and kill people of color at both an interpersonal and organizational level for the purpose of securing their own substance and future. Such exercises of power are rooted in human embodiment and suggest that justice and injustice are also rooted in our flesh, in how we relate to each other both corporeally and perceptually. We can commit injustices in the very way we see other people or groups of people. Recent experiences of hate crimes, police brutality, profiling, white supremacist rallies, and deadly massacres at places of worship reveal that embodied habits of white power – especially eyepower – that developed in history still detrimentally affect the lives of many people today.This dissertation traces the white racist eye from its beginnings, describes the social and economic processes involved in its development, and suggests a new way to understand both whiteness and power, that is, as visuality. There is power in looking as looking is a kind of praxis that does something to those who are seen whether at an individual or corporate level. In the light of the phenomena of unjust looks examined throughout the project, it is argued that Christian theology and practice must take seriously the question of how we see others and incarnate the eyes of Jesus in personal and collective practices of vision. More specifically, Christian faith and the experiences of racism demand that Christians partake in a discipleship of vision whereby they learn to see with Jesus and then go out into the world and to others in an apostolate of seeing that is rooted in love, compassion, and justice. It is only through the development of a contemplative eye and a robust sense of justice that Looks that kill can be challenged and ultimately overcome.

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