A reading of Husserl’s “life-world” against the loss of history in the context of postcolonial Aboriginal Australia

Carles Serra Pagès


Recently, Husserl’s phenomenology of the “life-world” has been given special emphasis in those areas of the social sciences that are concerned with the crisis of values and meaning in our contemporary world. Husserl conceived the concept of “life-world” as a final introduction to his system of transcendental phenomenology, the project of a lifetime. As Husserl puts it in The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (7), phenomenology is not only the act of “senseinvestigation” (Besinnung), but also the universal “coming to self-awareness” (Selbstbesinnung) of humanity in a reflective manner, and herein precisely lies humanity’s responsibility towards itself. Husserl expected phenomenology to be the ultimate universal science, destined to ground all human achievements in the soil of the “life-world” (33-34). But can Husserl’s phenomenology accomplish this task effectively outside the horizon of Europe, and outside the context of a critique of modern science and technology? So as to try to answer this question, our aim will be to introduce some key concepts and notions that characterize Husserl’s phenomenology of the “life-world” or philosophy of genesis in the context of Aboriginal identity in Australia. For this purpose, we will offer a reading of Sally Morgan’s My Place, an autobiographical novel which narrates the personal quest of a woman of Aboriginal descend to find her roots and identity in a Westernized world. In the course of our analysis, we will describe in what ways some of Husserl’s notions related to the life-world are hindered in postcolonial contexts, and whether a phenomenological analysis can provide a means of reconcilement. Finally, we will also ask ourselves about the possibility of a phenomenological idea of history that respects the idiosyncracies of historicity.


Husserl; Sally Morgan; phenomenology; lifeworld

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1344/co2009368-74


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