I was delighted to be asked to participate in the panel on Racism, Western Sydney & Responses organised as part of Diversity Fest at Western Sydney University in September. The panel asked the hard questions about race, visibility, the white left, the curriculum. As Linda Martin Alcoff who honoured use with her attendance, it was fascinating to note who was in the room and who was not. There were hardly any academic staff members present and most of the student participants were people of colour. Do white students and staff not feel affected bu discussions of racism?
On September 17, I gave a talk at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, Postracial Silences. In it I explored the themes I have taken up in four recent papers on the occlusion of race in mainstream sociology and the foreclosure of racism, which has become deniable and increasingly debatable. I am edging towards arguing for replacing talk of racism to talk of race tout court in the aim of shining a spotlight on what continues to do, rather than what it is taken to be. Racism has become either frozen in exemplary past events, or motile in the sense of being made apply to an increasing array of dehistoricised attitudes and actions. The embeddedness of race in colonial systems of power which persist in myriad ways into the present consequently goes unnoticed.
I have made various inroads into this argument in recent papers published in Ethnic and Racial Studies and in my co-edited volume, Racism and Sociology.
- ‘Postracial Silences: The othering of race in Europe,’ Racism and Sociology (2014)
- ‘What Does Race Do?,’ Ethnic & Racial Studies (2014)
- ‘Racism in Public or Public Racism: Doing antiracism in ‘postracial’ times,’ Ethnic & Racial Studies (forthcoming 2015)
- ‘Eliminating Race Obscures its Trace’, Ethnic & Racial Studies (commissioned article, under review)
I have published a short piece on Charlie Hebdo and antiracism, based on a longer chapter co-written with Gavan Titley, in Public Seminar.
The attacks on the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January 2015, during which fourteen people were killed, pose a specific problem for the white left. The call to contextualize Charlie Hebdo foregrounded a structurally white French context, in which people of colour and Muslims could be included only as loyal subjects of the Republic. The translations of France offered by French and Francophile leftists for their “Anglo-American” interlocutors, while revealing of the French dynamics of secularism, universalism, and coloniality, marginalised those “who could not be Charlie.” Instead, to use Barnor Hesse’s formulation, a “white analytics” was advanced that denied the centrality of the “black analytics” crucial for a complete understanding of both historical and contemporary French conflicts around race and religion (Hesse 2014). “Context,” therefore, stand in for racial neutrality: in reality, an impossibility.
My talk on antisemitism and philosemitism has been translated into French by Grégory Bekhtari for the French journal, Contretemps.
L’article récent d’Houria Bouteldja du Parti des indigènes de la république, « Racisme(s) et philosémitisme d’État », tentait d’éclairer le récit national autour de l’antisémitisme à travers le soutien occidental à l’État d’Israël. Ce texte a suscité plusieurs réactions dans la gauche radicale et entre en écho avec un débat encore en cours autour du philosémitisme. Nous publions ici une réaction de la sociologue des discriminations Alana Lentin, qui évoque son expérience de juive antisioniste pour condamner le philosémitisme d’État.
Evaporating Borders is directed by Iva Radivojevic and is set in Cyprus.
Cyprus is one of the easiest entry points into the European Union, making it a popular final destination for refugees escaping countries around the Mediterranean. The influx of asylum seekers, however, is not entirely welcomed by native Cypriots. Director Iva Radivojevic, herself a refugee to Cyprus from the former Yugoslavia, narrates and guides the audience through the streets of Cyprus to try and understand why antipathy and aggression towards these new citizens is tearing an already divided nation further apart.
A new article by me has appeared in Ethnic and Racial Studies as part of a Symposium in response to an article by the British sociologist of ‘race relations’, Michael Banton. My article argues that we should understand race in terms of what it does instead of what it is taken to be. Hence, I dispute Banton’s attempt over recent years to get beyond race and question how he situates himself with regards to current debates on the postracial.
Download ‘What Race Does’
On April 23 I was invited to talk at the City University of New York Graduate Center by the European Union Studies Center, the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, the Committee for the Study of Religion, Political Science, and Sociology and Just Publics. Here are the slides from my talk. The paper forms the basis of two publications, one in completion with Gavan Titley, the second paying closer attention to the what the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo has to say about the problematic relationship between the ‘white left’ and identity politics.
Hannah Arendt was lambasted for talking about the flip side of antisemitism: philosemitism.
But she understood that antisemitism in fact relies on the apparent love of Jews. Or put another way, philosemitism creates antisemitism.
Arendt was talking historically about the conditions leading up to the holocaust, but philosemitism is equally a problem today in the context of the role of Jews vis-a-vis the state of Israel. Continue reading
The Sydney Seminar for Culture and Society on creative responses to Islamophobia, a conversation between myself, race critical scholar, Yassir Morsi, novelist and researcher, Randa Abdel-Fattah and visual artist, Abdul Abdullah will be broadcast on the ABC Radio National Big Ideas show on April 8 at 20h05. Listen in or download the show later.