Fear Sliding Over Them, Accumulating on You
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
In Affective Economies, independent feminist researcher Sara Ahmed (2004) connects fear with phobias and the socio-political.
In the text, Ahmed (2004) describes fear as an object that flows within an economy across both social and psychic fields. Ahmed (2004) further adds that the object of fear slides over and passes by particular bodies such as white British nationalists. In passing by these white male bodies, they gain increased social, cultural, and financial mobility which in turn grants them access to more privileges, that essentially leverage their ability to move up in social ranks (Ahmed, 2004).
This stands in stark contrast to racialized Brown and Black people, Ahmed says, particularly, asylum seekers and immigrants who because of how their bodies (as Black or people of colour) are constructed as terrorists to be feared. In turn, they experience more fear sticking and accumulating on them (Ahmed, 2004).
What we find is that a passing and sliding by of fear orders white bodies hierarchically higher than racialized Black and Brown bodies (Ahmed, 2004).
In this scenario, the body with the most accumulation of fear is also marked as the body to be most feared (Ahmed, 2004; see also, Hall, 1997; hooks, 1992). They are viewed as suspicious willful subjects. Even though these people have the most to fear, the assumption is that people should be afraid of them.
This fearful gaze placed on racialized or Black people means that they face undue challenges such as deportation, violence, and assault, as well as criminalization. Putting them at higher risk of coming into contact with the prison and/or medical industrial complex (Ahmed, 2004; see also, Maynard, 2017; Taylor, 2016; Davis, 2003).
Yet, very little is actually known about these Brown and Black people marked as fearful. As Hisham Ramadan and Jeff Shantz (2016) share, phobias associated with racialized and Black people are not founded on any objective or factual truths, instead, they are based on imagined and perceived constructs fed through the media, who in turn benefit from such ignorance and lack of knowledge.
As Ahmed (2015) echoes, “the more we don’t know what or who it is we fear, the more the world becomes fearsome” (69; emphasis in original).
Such unfounded assertions are what draw an accumulation of fear in and around Black and Brown people, says Ahmed, not because they are innately flawed, or that they are to be feared more than their white counterparts. Check out the article for yourself. Ahmed does a much better job of explaining and dives much deeper. In a future blog, I'll share my thoughts on this concept of fear sliding over and accumulating. While I agree, I arrive at the same conclusion through a different route.
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Until next time, in solidarity.