Charlie Hebdo and the Appeal for French Context: Black and White Analytics

Attentat contre le journal Charlie Hebdo : vers l’exacerbation de la xénophobie et de l’islamophobie, Algerie Patriotique, 7 January 2015

Attentat contre le journal Charlie Hebdo : vers l’exacerbation de la xénophobie et de l’islamophobie, Algerie Patriotique, 7 January 2015

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.

Read more on the Public Seminar website

Antisionisme et philosémitisme d’État

Photo from Indigenes de la Republique website

Photo from Indigenes de la Republique website

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.

Pour lire la suite…

Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

I’ll be on the panel discussing the documentary Evaporating Borders at the Melbourne Human Rights Arts and Film Festival on Monday May 11. I’ll be speaking alongside Angela Mitropoulos.

On the panel at the Human Rights Art and Film Festival

On the panel at the Human Rights Art and Film Festival

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.

What Does Race Do?

writingA 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’


‘Je Suis Pas Charlie': Talk at the CUNY Graduate Center

CUNY talkOn 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.

The opposition to anti-Zionism as antisemitic philosemitism

BDS talkI was asked by Sydney Staff for BDS, a group at the University of Sydney, to join a panel on ‘Why it isn’t antisemitic to boycott Israel’ on April 14 2015. Below is the ext of my brief talk.

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

Being Creative/Resisting Islamophobia

Sometimes we cover our mouths so we don't speak by Abdul Abdullah

Sometimes we cover our mouths so we don’t speak by Abdul Abdullah

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.

Excerpts on French anti-racism

racism_and_racism_in_europe1Given recent concerns with racism in France following the Charlie Hebdo attacks on January 2015, I revisited some of the segments on anti-racism in France from my 2004 book, Racism and Anti-racism in Europe. The contemporary analyses of French approaches to race would have done well to revisit the histories I examined in that book based on research carried out in 1999-2000. These segments are not the totality of everything related to France in that book, but I hope they will give readers the impetus to take a look at the book’s argument again with fresh eyes.

On State Racism and Philosemitism by Houria Boutledja

Decolonial activist and intellectual, Houria Bouteldja

Decolonial activist and intellectual, Houria Bouteldja

This is one of the singularly most important pieces I have read about racism in recent times. I will shortly post a longer commentary. However, suffice it to say that Houria Boutledja of Les Indigenes de la Republique, in this intervention made recently in Oslo, blows apart the idea that it is possible to be equally opposed to both Islamophobia/racism and antisemitism. She explains that racism is structural and emanates from the imperial nation-state. Jews today in France (and we could say the West in general) do not face institutionalised state racism. What they do experience is the state’s ‘philosemitism’ which engages Jews against their will to the state’s demonisation of racialised people as the source of social disunity in general and antisemitism in particular.

As a Jew then, it is up to me to oppose state racism in all its forms while being vigilant to the ways in which Jews are being manipulated in the service of the nation-state in its more generally western and explicitly Zionist forms.

At a later date, I will post some thoughts about Bouteldja’s critique of the widespread use of the amalgam of ‘Judeo-Christian’ which serves, in my opinion, to flatten and dismiss historical state antisemitism and to forcefully assimilate Jews into a national/western project which, as she points out, has always been a White, Christian one. I will also make some comments in Bouteldja’s identification of the philosemitism of the white left which I agree with and, as I think she is pointing out, I personally experience as antisemitism.

Read Houria Bouteldja’s talk in English or in French.