Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Manu Samnotra, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Steven Roach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephen Turner, Ph.D.


Intentional Arc, Merleau-Ponty, Political Phenomenology


This work seeks to explore the phenomenological experience of harm through an investigation of trauma and its existential features. Harm, despite its importance for many topics in both Political Science and Political Theory, is not often investigated as a subject in itself. By interrogating elements of Merleau-Ponty’s uniquely embodied philosophy, this work seeks to further our understanding of harm as a phenomenon which is both uniquely subjective and yet socially informed.

The text is split into two halves – with the first offering an exegesis of relevant sections of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, and the second engaging with contemporary secondary literature on topics of harm, pain, and trauma in order to establish which aspects of harm may be better understood through an analysis rooted in embodied existential philosophy. Of particular interest throughout this paper will be the role of language as a means of both taking up and expressing the world in an existential sense, as well as the ways in which our relationship to language and trauma are simultaneously individuating and yet inexorably tied to our everyday social relations.