Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Joanne B. Waugh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lee Braver, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sharon L. Crasnow, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alex Levine, Ph.D.


Existential Phenomenology, Feminist Philosophy of Science, Race/Gender/Class/LGBT, Rupture, Women of Color Feminism


After breaking with the Marxist tradition, feminist standpoint theory operated without a backing framework and explanation for the privileged perspective of the oppressed. This project investigates phenomenology and breakdown as an alternative framework and explanatory mechanism for standpoint theory. I attempt to show how certain phenomenological programs are able to "back up" the claims of standpoint theory, and I argue that such a phenomenological standpoint theory can be coherent with intersectionality.

Chapter 1 focuses on intersectionality and standpoint theory, and surveys the controversy over their demarcation. This discussion allows me to develop several desiderata for theory of identity and knowledge, which guide my phenomenology in the subsequent chapters. Chapter 2 focuses on early existential phenomenologists, detailing the different formulations of understanding and breakdown in Gadamer, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. I show how they address several different types of breakdown that reveal a variety of phenomena. This is helpful because standpoint theorists discuss standpoint privilege in several ways, many of which resemble these different forms of existential breakdown. Chapter 3 articulates and problematizes Gadamer, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty’s shared assumption that, in general, experience consists mostly of smooth, nonreflective absorption into tasks. I show how Martín Alcoff and Ortega help extend Gadamer and Merleau-Ponty’s ideas in order to talk about our intersecting identities. I then show how Ortega advances a phenomenology that explains the persistently disruptive experiences of people who are marginalized in multiple, complicated ways. I argue that phenomenologies that account for the breakdown experiences of the oppressed, such as Ortega’s, can provide an alternative framework and explanatory mechanism for post-Marxist standpoint theory.