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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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Alana Lentin