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Race, the floating signifier

Today we had a good discussion about Stuart Hall’s 1997 lecture, ‘Race, the Floating Signifier’ and the accompanying text reproduced in The Fateful Triangle, ‘Race, the Sliding Signifier’. We built on work done over the previous two weeks on W.E.B. Du Bois’ essay ‘The Concept of Race’ and Hall’s engagement with Fanon’s idea of epidermilization in Black Skin, White Masks, an issue we will delve into further next week.

Watch ‘Race the Floating Signifier’

More than anything our discussion there up a lot of questions about the metonymic relationship between nature and culture, the work of science in the mystification of the meaning of physical human differences, the trace of biological race in contemporary discussions of difference and how that often paradoxically sits with a discomfort to name difference, as though the mere naming are racist (rather than the meaning attached).

Here are the slides we used to frame our discussion.

Alana Lentin