The "Face of the Other" in the Work of Emmanuel Levinas and St. Clare of Assisi: Social Justice and the Racialized Other

“… Face of the Other, particularly that of the racialized “other,” appears as antagonist or enemy or does not seem to "appear" to the self at all? ”

Team Members/Contributors

Carolyn Marie Medine University of Georgia Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

The “Face of the Other,” in the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and in the letters of St. Clare of Assisi, is the entrance into full human identity and to a connection with a larger humanity. While Levinas describes the relationship with the Face as one of humility and of being taught, Clare outlines a four-step contemplation on the Face that leads from contemplation to action in the world. This project examines the thought of these two, with attention to how a reconsideration of the Face can help us to address the reluctance of lay Catholics, particularly in America, to engage in the Social Justice teachings of the church, and in a broader sense, in the issues around gender, race and ethnicity that are so contentious in our present American cultural moment, a contention that we witness in, among other places, media images, like photographs, Facebook postings, and YouTube videos. I will consider, as my "thought point" and case study, the death of Philando Castile, which his girlfriend taped and posted to social media as a form of documentation and witness. The combination of her voice—and that of her child in the background, the dying man’s face, and the gun and voice of the police officer make us witness the Face in a tragic and terrible moment of intersection. What does this face teach? How can Levinas and Clare help us to understand what this face is teaching, and what social justice action can address it, if any? Is compassion a just action in this moment and how?