20 Feb

Robert Bernasconi on the relationship between phenomenology and critical philosophy of race

In Kooperation mit dem Journal für Phänomenologie veröffentlichen wir dieses Interview mit Robert Bernasconi, geführt von Marc Rölli, zum Verhältnis von Phänomenologie und critical philosophy of race und Postkolonialismus, u.a. mit Bezug auf bei Sartre, Levinas, Heidegger und Kant.

Marc Rölli: In German-language phenomenology, to this day your work not only on phenomenology but also your work on race and racism is known to many. This is at least partly due to the fact that you were present in the context of the DFG Research Training Group »Phenomenology and Hermeneutics« and the resulting working group »Phenomenology and Recent French Philosophy« at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in the circle of Bernhard Waldenfels. Would you describe to our readers how you found access to the graduate school or the later working group – and how you perceived the cooperations with Waldenfels and his collaborators?

Robert Bernasconi: My first visit to Bochum to be a participant in some workshops of the research group gathered around Bernhard Waldenfels was so long ago that I no longer remember the precise details of how the initial invitation came about. All that I can say is that it was very important for me as a young philosopher to be exposed to the ideas not only of Waldenfels himself, who always asked such insightful questions, but also of the brilliant scholars who were part of that same group. You need to know that during the period of my philosophical formulation in England I was somewhat isolated. To be sure, my supervisor at the University of Sussex, Rickie Dammann, placed a great deal of trust in me, as did my colleagues at the University of Essex where I taught from 1976 to 1988. I owe them a great deal for that, but I was essentially self-taught. For example, I was among the very first to read Levinas in England. To be able to be part of the conversations in Bochum, to be able to engage with people who had read the texts with the same care, was more important to me than anybody there could have imagined. But it was also great fun. I remember a party after the work was done when with what in those days was called a boombox (Ghettoblaster) we danced on the grass surrounding the University.