Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway

By Nick Mansfield | Go to book overview
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9 Subjectivity and ethnicity:
Otherness, policy, visibility,

THE 1990S HAS seen a violent upsurge in the politics of ethnicity and related issues: nationality, migration, refugees, community rivalry and so on.Yet at the same time as ethnic identities have become more and more a site of struggle, the means by which ethnicity is defined have become less certain. The twentieth century opened in the West with an obsessive emphasis on race as the determining attribute of human subjectivity: you were a member of a racial group before you were anything else, according to the eugenicist orthodoxy.The separation of races became a common priority of politicians and social administrators: miscegenation was seen as a dilution of racial destiny and both a symptom and cause of national decline. This belief had its logical expression in the Nazi Holocaust, the South African policy of Separate Development (Apartheid) and the forced removal of part-Aboriginal children from their parents (known in Australia as the Stolen Generations). It is absolutely crucial to notice in these examples that with modern ethnic politics we are not dealing with the spontaneous and disorganised rivalry of one loosely formed community with another, nor centuries-old antagonism between neighbouring language or religious groups.

In fact, the dominant and most typical racism of the twentieth century has been government policy, drawing on the authority of a race science positioned not at the margins, but in the mainstream of Western thought.In the modern world, racial politics are not merely an extension of community hostilities and mindless traditional prejudices. They are part of the disciplining of populations, gaining what authority they have from their coordination with legitimised institutions of learning and administration. In turn,


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Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway


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