As with many, the recent events in Ferguson have forced me to reflect on the world that surrounds me. Realities of race, discrimination, patriarchy, systemic oppression, ideology, and the such have been forced into my purview in a paradoxically distanced and personal way. As I reflected on various concepts, experiences, and emotions in an attempt to make sense of it all I was brought back to this portion of a paper I wrote a few years ago. Here I described the notion of the “fantastic hegemonic imagination” as espoused by Emilie M. Townes in her book Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil. I hope some of these notions may prophetically illuminate various aspects of what is happening in Ferguson and even other parts of the world. Maybe, just maybe, we are fed illusions that keep the system running. But more importantly -maybe, just maybe, people are starting to wake up from the lie.
In her essay “The Sites of Memory,” Toni Morrison notes that slave narratives tend not to mention the inner lives of slaves because they shaped the narrative to be “acceptable.” Morrison goes onto say that though memory holds importance in unpacking the lives of slaves only imagination can give access to the “unwritten interior lives of the enslaved.” With this concept in the backdrop, Townes establishes her mission of analyzing the “interior worlds of those who endure structural evil as well as the interior works of structural evil itself to discover what truths may be found there.” For Townes, the cultural production of evil is the way “in which a society can produce misery and suffering in relentlessly systematic and sublimely structural ways” To understand this, Townes looks at the work of Pierre Nora, Werner Sollors and Carolyn Walker Bynum to argue that though traditionally history has been understood as a discipline, and memory as subjective, the lack of pluralistic consideration taken in “history” and collective and plural aspects of “memory” demand that both be seen as subjective. With history and memory being subjective, the door is open for the past to be told in a different way.
History must be told a differently because it currently operates from the perspective of what Townes calls the fantastic hegemonic imagination. Michel Foucault speaks of the imagination and the fantastic (“that of other worlds, nonmaterial existence”) emerging between books and the thoughts they produce. Townes expands this concept arguing that the fantastic and imaginary are not confined to books but can grow beyond to form part of the cultural production of our realities. If pushed passed books, the fantastic can be not only ghosts and shifted realities but structures of domination and subordination. Townes takes this concept and combines it with a nuancing of Antonio Gramsci’s idea of hegemony which she defines as:
the set of ideas that dominant groups employ in a society to secure the consent of subordinates to abide by their rule. The notion of consent is key because hegemony is created through coercion that is gained using the church, family, media, political parties, schools, unions and other voluntary associations –the civil society and all its organizations. This breeds a kind of false consciousness (the fantastic in neocultural and sociopolitical drag) that creates societal values and moralities such that there is one coherent and accurate viewpoint in the world.
Examples of hegemony are evident throughout history. In the United States, for example, Presbyterian Pastor Thomas Bacon used Calvinist conceptions of Christian providence to justify the Slaves position as ordained by God. The kind of hegemonic forces Townes speaks of, however, have much greater implications than a misreading of the Bible because once mixed with Foucault’s idea of the fantastic imagination, hegemony takes a different light. With the fantastic hegemonic imagination not only is hegemony present and enacted, it is perpetuated through the imagined fantastic, i.e. things that don’t even exist but come into ones imagination in such a way that it emerges as perceived reality. Townes writes:
This imagination conjures up worlds and their social structures that are not based on supernatural events and phantoms but on the ordinariness of evil. It is this imagination, I argue, that helps to hold systematic, structural evil, in place. The fantastic hegemonic imagination uses a politicized sense of history and memory to create and shape its worldview.
In order to counteract this fantastic hegemonic imagination what is needed is a countermemory. Building off Gramsci’s idea of counterhegemony, countermemory “is that which seeks to disrupt ignorance and invisibility…begin[ing] with the particular to move into the universal and it looks to the past for microhistories to force a reconsideration of flawed (incomplete or vastly circumscribed) histories.” Through exploring the past we can identify what images and stereotypes have been created which oppress and marginalize certain groups.
 Emilie M. Townes, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (New York, NY: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2006),11.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 18-19.
 Ibid., 20.
 See Thomas Bacon, “Sermon to Maryland Slaves, 1749,” in Religion in American History: A Reader, ed. Jon Butler and Harry S. Stout (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 74-86.
 This notion has significant implications for how we understand phenomenology and philosophy of mind for if ideas are “implanted” and perpetuated then before we even begin to study what we perceive, let alone how we perceive, we must ask “what has been forced upon our perception?” Though it seems obvious that this would occur in phenomenology the implications of Townes’ study show that lest we deconstruct even what we think we perceive (entering more into ideas of hetero-phenomenology espoused by Daniel Dennett) we can’t begin perceiving.
 Townes, Womanist Ethics, 21.
 Ibid., 22-23.