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Not Your Holocaust, Michael Pezzullo

Never againOn March 8 2016, Michael Pezzullo, Secretary of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, was moved to issue a press release. He felt compelled to defend the actions of his department against criticisms of what he called a ‘contentious area of public policy and administration’, the mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seeker children. Critics on social media rushed to point out that the most telling part of Pezzullo’s statement was his comment that,

Recent comparisons of immigration detention centres to ‘gulags’; suggestions that detention involves a ‘public numbing and indifference’ similar to that allegedly experienced in Nazi Germany; and persistent suggestions that detention facilities are places of ‘torture’ are highly offensive, unwarranted and plainly wrong – and yet they continue to be made in some quarters

It was the use of the word ‘allegedly’ that raised the most ire; the statement had made it sound like the DIBP was denying the magnitude of the Holocaust. Pezzullo followed up with another release:

Any insinuation the Department denies the atrocities committed in Nazi Germany are both ridiculous and baseless… The term ‘allegedly’ was used to counter claims of ‘public numbing and indifference’ towards state abuses in Nazi Germany and the link to immigration detention in Australia. We reject the comparison to immigration detention as offensive and question this being made as a blanket statement – an allegation hence ‘allegedly’ – to describe the attitude of the German population at large during that terrible time.

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Tatchell should respect critics’ rights to speak – International open letter condemns intolerance

Download the Press Release (London, February 22) – Peter Tatchell’s actions in bullying and inciting a media furor against a student who criticized him in a private e-mail reflect a disturbing intolerance toward dissenting views, said 116 human rights activists and scholars in an open letter published today. The media…

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Luqman Onikosi’s deportation shows we are all being asked to become border guards

I was asked by the Campaign to Stop the Deportation of Luqman Onikosi and Luqman himself to write an article drawing attention to his case and, crucially, to the infiltration of the border into all realms of life. Luqman is adamant that this campaign not be framed in the individualist…

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This is what race does

The Victorian Premier at the zoo with young asylum seekers
The Victorian Premier at the zoo with young asylum seekers

Since I wrote this post I have had much time to reflect on the critique of it made by Angela Mitropoulos on her website. It is no defence that I wrote the original blogpost in a hurry and that I failed to reference the three articles linked to in the postscript or her own longstanding work on the subject, for example (but not exhaustively) here, here and here. It has also caused me to reflect on how to better represent the underpinnings of the knowledge I have gained in my work, and to avoid formulations that give the impression that they originated with me, or only with a selective literature.

As I tell my students, which of course is a well-founded antiracist principle that I did not invent, intentions don’t mean a thing. I cannot erase past mistakes, I can only strive to do better.

In an attempt to do so, I have left most of the post intact so that I do not create an impression after the fact that it was better than it was, but I have inserted references that I hope show the trajectory of the development of my thought, and might go some small and modest way towards redress.

Postscript March 1, 2016:

Always happy to be set right, it has been pointed out that when I hastily wrote the below on February 8, I omitted to reference three important articles which preceded my thinking here. These are “To Hell With Progressive Intentions” by Wenny, “Why Were Most Of The Anti-Reclaim Protesters White?” by Sanmati Verma, and “GetUp and the Amazing Disappearing of Women of Colour” Ardhra. It also adds to my own thoughts in response to this statement by Liz Thompson developed here in 2014.

I would also like to add that since I wrote this, further crucial reflections were added to the general topics by Carolina Lee, Ahmed, Sanmati, Tom, Matt, Liz and Angela Mitropoulos in this Roundtable discussion.

Here is the original post with inserted references in red.

I’ve been going at this question of what race does for the last few years. I’ve mainly been thinking about the question in relation to Barnor Hesse’s crucial explanation of the performativity of race which he explains in a fantastic lecture which can be watched below.

I’ve tried to explain some of the ways I have taken up those ideas in my recent work, a response to Michael Banton called What Does Race Do? and an article on Racism in Public or Public Racism, as well as my response to Karim Murji and John Solomos’s book, Theories of Race and Ethnicity (these are all available on my Academia page should they be behind a paywall).

At the moment, I am finishing off an unwieldy paper with the working title, ‘Not Doing Race in Australia’, on the absence of race in much Australian racism studies (to distinguish them from race critical or decolonial approaches). My focus is on the work that gets the big grants. (Ironically, given that I have recently been led to understand that neither writing these sorts of blog posts, collaborating with other scholars, or doing any form of activism or public engagement, despite the hype, gains one any institutional recognition of the value of your work, I should probably taking a leaf out of their book and use this time to apply for some research funding, but that is a topic for another day!).

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Photos from ‘A Shared Minority Experience’ with Akala, Amy McQuire & Yassir Morsi

December 10 2015 saw an energising evening of debate at Bankstown library with renowned British hip and hop and spoken word artist, historian and activist, Akala, in conversation with the brilliant journalist Amy McQuire and critical race scholar Yassir Morsi. Here are some photos of the evening.  

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Postracial Silences

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…

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

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…

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Antisionisme et philosémitisme d’État

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.…

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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.

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Excerpts on French anti-racism

Given 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…

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Alana Lentin