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Black bodies in phenomenological bioethics: cultural othering, ‘Corporeal Uncanny’ and ethical quandaries of black nurses in Take My Hand and Small Great Things
  1. Adhitya Balasubramanian,
  2. Padmanabhan Balasubramanian
  1. Department of English and Foreign Languages, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India
  1. Correspondence to Adhitya Balasubramanian, Department of English and Foreign Languages, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India; adhitya.usha002{at}


The aims of the present article are twofold. First, it attempts to theorise the thematic and ontological intersection between phenomenological and black bioethics and proposes ‘Ontic-Black Bioethics’, a neologism to evince how the corporeal misconceptions (such as race construct, bodily othering and colourism) become the cultural impediment for black women healthcare professionals. The article draws specific insights from the philosophical anthropology of race, ranging from Richard Polt to Sarah Ahmed, to understand the epistemic structures of scientific racism. Second, it investigates how the racial attitudes of white healthcare professionals and supremacist patients towards black nurses can be potential triggers of cultural othering, corporeal burden and ethical quandaries by closely reading Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (2022) and Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (2016). For this, the article relies on the theoretical frameworks of cultural phenomenology and somatic attention postulated by Thomas Csordas, Philipa Rothfield and other theoreticians of varying importance. While the corporeality of black nurses is replete with the images of biological misconception and racial-cultural constructs, the epistemic perspectives and literary representations underscoring their bodily and experiential agony have been scarcely examined through the lenses of bioethics. Thus, the article construes the corporeality of black nurses as the confluence of biological and cultural discourses under phenomenological bioethics.

  • Gender studies
  • Anthropology
  • literature and medicine
  • physician narratives
  • medical ethics/bioethics

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  • Contributors AB and PB have contributed to the study, and preparation and analysis of the article. AB and PB have contributed equally to the writing, editing, and to the overall production of the manuscript, along with the ideas developed in it. Both the authors have read and approved the final manuscript. AB is the author responsible for the overall content as guarantor. AB accepts full responsibility for the work and the conduct of the study.

  • Funding This research was supported by RUSA 2.0 – BCTRC (Bharathiar Cancer Theranostic Research Centre), sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. Grant/Award No: BCTRC-SR06.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.