In The Cancer Journals, Black feminist lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde describes the “whole pattern” out of which each woman must respond to the crisis of breast cancer, illness, and impending death. Of this pattern, she writes, “The weave of [a woman’s] every day existence is the training ground for how she handles crisis.” This paper attempts an exploration of that “pattern” through the theoretical lens of intersectional ambiguity and a phenomenology of Black women confronting breast cancer, illness, and dying. Central to this project is Lorde’s own engagement with her Caribbean heritage both prior to and as a result of her breast cancer diagnosis and resulting mastectomy in 1980.
Using Caribbean philosopher Paget Henry’s five commonalities between Africana phenomenology and Africana feminism from his 2011 “Gender and Africana Phenomenology” as a launching pad, this paper argues for Lorde’s centrality to the development of a distinctly Africana feminist phenomenological tradition. Hence, instead of the “Calherban’s reason” that Henry proposes, I argue for the philosophical importance of what we might call a “Zami Phenomenology.”
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