Published: Nov. 9, 2021
Picture of woman, dark brown hair shoulder length, looking at camera: she is Emily Lee, Ph.D.

This paper analyzes the epistemic value of experience by centering on the experiences of women of color in philosophy of race. The identity group remains one of the most elusive and difficult to understand both because it is too specific and too broad. There is an ethical and political urgency to center the experiences of women of color because the absence of such focus results in unpredictable and inadvertent manipulations and strategies that enforces one identifying feature to oppress the other identifying feature. Women of color rely upon references to experience particularly because of the complexity of the experience of their identities. Heeding the need to avoid foundational references to experience, I illuminate Patricia Hill Collins and Anna Carastathis concept of the possibility of “heterogeneous commonality,” which acknowledges internal heterogeneity and external commonality among women of color.

To better understand the possibility of heterogenous commonality, this paper presents the phenomenological understanding of the structure of experience as constituted by three distances: 1. between the subject and the world in time; 2. between undergoing and reflecting upon the experience; and 3. between the experience and the language with which to understand and to convey the experience. This understanding of the ontological structure of experience helpfully illuminates how women of color, through their complex experiences, are well situated to recognize the heterogenous commonality.