Category Archives: Race book

Melissa Weiner, race, subjectivity

Here is Weiner’s smart and highly informative article, which does not discuss Denise Ferreira da Silva that I can see, but that is key. And here is a smart article about Fanon, “safety” and race dialogue that I must read.

Not for the current paper, but in general, there is a Gwen Kirkpatrick article on Diamela Eltit and the materiality of language in this book that I’d like to read as well.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race book

La blancheur

These are notes on offprints I no longer need to keep in paper copies. One is Alex Flynn’s piece on color in Machado de Assis, and the other is on the UNESCO study of race relations in Brazil. My marginal note on the Machado article was: “they want un-naturalized indeterminacy.” What did I mean? The authors “argue that whiteness has become increasingly established in Brazilian public discourse as a naturalized category” (abstract). They see race as a process and not as a thing. (I still like the Omi/Winant concept of race as a relation.) Mixture was seen in the early 20th century as a path toward whitening and modernization. What “white” meant was less clear, but it did become a “sedimented and fixed category” in public discourse.

The article has an interesting discussion of reactions to a Machado story, “Pai contra mãe.” Interpreters of the story tend to see the characters as black and white, although there is no unambiguous evidence of their color in the text. Whiteness is a negotiated category in Machado’s world, something readers tend to forget. In this story a slave-catcher avoids abandoning his own child, earning money for his short-term support by capturing an escaped slave, causing her to miscarry. It is not clear that he is white in color, although readers assume this. (I would say he represents the white side of things, acts as agent of slavery, whiteness and so on.)

In any case: this article has a good review of a great deal of literature. Its primary thesis, though, is that racial categories are not fixed, and people doing the work of whiteness may not look white. I am interested in da Silva because she is not as caught up in repeating the fact that racial categories can be ambiguous and depend on place.

Meanwhile, on those UNESCO studies: the hope was, after the Holocaust, to show how not to be racist, but it turned out that Brazil actually was. “Research findings . . . revealed the tensions between the myth [of racial democracy] and the Brazilian style of racism, a tension that had already been discussed by black and white intellectuals and activists in Brazil.” (134)

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race book

Sobre la china poblana

At one time we were all trying to convince my brother to write a dissertation on the china poblana who is such an odd cultural figure. I never actually looked up research on her but now here is an article sent by a friend. There is also a book chapter, more than one actually, by Kathleen Myers. I should teach this matter in cultural studies and I think I might gain new and fascinating perspectives of my own from studying it.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race book, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Neoliberal and other subjects

General broadcast: you have to have a self and self-respect every day, and treat yourself as well as you do your pets and children. I constantly forget to do this, and it does not set the best example.

I tend not to have enough ego because in Reeducation I withdrew so far, I could not think. I dreamed at the time that I was having myself frozen so I could live inside a metal box, until it was safe to come out again. The alternative still seems to be sometimes the role Hattie diagnoses in one Meg:

She insists on falling apart, because she is trapped by all those crazy, murderous male egos, her brothers, and their manipulative guilt-tripping alcoholic mother. . . .

And Henry Giroux struggles when he writes and gets depressed over the state of the world, and I find it helpful that he says this. He is struggling in his study, and we can struggle, too.

What kind of world can we imagine? Hobsbawm knows. He also published his last book at 94, never left the Communist Party, and was yet another person who, as a child, was a German-speaking Jew, before events intervened. The Right is the enemy, but liberalism is the problem, he says.

Another person who talks about the relationship between the subject and the neoliberal state is Wendy Brown. Here is the text. The state is a market state, the university is a market university, and we are market subjects (formed by the market and the market state, furthermore). Read:

…neoliberalism normatively constructs and interpellates individuals as entrepreneurial actors in every sphere of life. . . . A fully realized neoliberal citizenry would be the opposite of public-minded; indeed, it would barely exist as a public. The body politic ceases to be a body. . . . Other evidence for progress in the development of such a citizenry is not far from hand: consider the market rationality permeating universities today, from admissions and recruiting to the relentless consumer mentality of students as they consider university brand names, courses, and services, from faculty raiding and pay scales to promotion criteria.Or consider the way in which consequential moral lapses (of a sexual or criminal nature) by politicians, business executives, or church and university administrators are so often apologized for as “mistakes in judgment,” implying that it was the calculation that was wrong, not the act, actor, or rationale.

Of course, one of my papers has to do with the formation of subjects by the state. This article on free speech and liberal society has something to do with state and subject, that I might articulate.

Liberalism sees racism as something political, and therefore contestable. It is not. It is a systemic and historical fact with material consequences, whether they be economic or threats of bodily harm — something at the core of Taylor’s book and research. But liberalism operates in a world of ideals, not material reality, and it cannot help but conceive of racism in terms of free speech. It’s something that can be mitigated through reason or debate, that is, through the central tenets of free speech and the marketplace of ideas. But just as neoliberals mystify government complicity in and control over markets, liberal idealism mystifies racism via free speech, and obscures the fundamental fact that there are limits to free speech.

Let us see: racism has material origins and is constitutive of the state, not a blemish upon it or an idea up for debate. It is a systemic fact. My paper is not on free speech, or on speech — or is it? The problem seems to be that one important role of liberal discourse is to obscure race as systemic fact.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under ALFS presentation, Race book

Sur le corps

The March 2006 PMLA (121:2) is one of those I kept, to study, and am no longer because those articles are now available online and: you must clear out bookshelves if you are to see what you have.

I kept it because it had articles about the body and corporeality, including one on Descartes and another on Frederick Douglass and transnational blackness. So: transnational blackness was a Thing in Douglass’ time; there is a great deal more in this article. On Descartes: there is a Cartesian body, but it is not the mechanical one subject to coercion (Foucault). It is an aesthetic body (“aesthetic machine”).

I wonder. I was making these notes so I could recycle the journal, and remember to read online later. But perhaps these things are of interest for the current presentation, which has Descartes, blackness and the body in it.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bibliography, News, Race book

Spain in the Holocaust

This would be an interesting course to give, by the way, and an interesting topic for a freshman seminar. There are all these people and materials I did not know about, like Francisco Boix the photographer of Mauthausen. There was an exposition on him, and there is a book. Another point of interest is Xavier Güell’s novel Los prisioneros del paraíso, on the many composers of Theresienstadt. One could read this book and listen to the music, which is widely recorded. Related is the propaganda film on Theresienstadt that one can see, and I am sure there are many more works of art and documents.

I found all of these and related things in part because various of my distant cousins, who I thought were Christian but were not, turned out to have died in camps, and also because I read W. G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz and followed up. Then I rediscovered Viktor Frankl, whom you can observe here. Meaning, he says we need.

In research-related news, Nazi Germany used the segregated United States as its model. Race has to do with land and space; you need Lebensraum for the Aryans. And we, the United States, are on the road to tyranny.

Axé.

Leave a comment

Filed under ALFS presentation, Historic, Race book, Teaching, Theories

Bourdieu

There are so many things about Bourdieu. And Sánchez-Prado has some new edited books coming out: on Mexico and world literature, and Bourdieu and Latin America.

The point is that Latin America is so often the beginning point, not the imitator of modern processes, yet the central countries do not recognize this.

I said this long ago, before I had learned it from anyone. I am so gratified when other people see it.

Axé.

3 Comments

Filed under Bibliography, Race book