Academic journal article Labour/Le Travail

Abigail B. Bakan and Enakshi Dua, Eds., Theorizing Anti-Racism: Linkages in Marxism and Critical Race Theories

Academic journal article Labour/Le Travail

Abigail B. Bakan and Enakshi Dua, Eds., Theorizing Anti-Racism: Linkages in Marxism and Critical Race Theories

Article excerpt

Abigail B. Bakan and Enakshi Dua, eds., Theorizing Anti-Racism: Linkages in Marxism and Critical Race Theories (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 2014)

PROTESTS ACROSS the US against the murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York City and the refusal to lay criminal charges against the police officers responsible for the killings of these (and other) African-Americans have made the slogans "Hands up, Don't Shoot!" and "Black Lives Matter" widely known. In Canada, efforts to draw attention to the murders of indigenous women and media exposes of the Toronto police practice of disproportionately "carding" people of colour have insisted that racism needs to be taken much more seriously. Anti-Muslim racism has flared up in the wake of the murderous shootings in Paris in January 2015. Within the academic field, much work remains to be done to integrate racism and anti-racism into research and teaching about the working class, past and present. The publication of this collection edited by Abigail Bakan and Enakshi Dua is thus particularly timely.

Theorizing Anti-Racism aims to "advance critical scholarship in theorizing race, racism, and anti-racism by recognizing the pivotal importance of both Marxist and critical race theoretical contributions." (5) Both the editors have made noteworthy previous contributions to this field, Bakan from a Marxist perspective and Dua from the side of critical race theory. In this collaborative project, they have sought to "mitigate the tensions between these approaches," (6) treating postcolonial and critical race theory as a single diverse approach. The book is organized into four sections. Each is introduced by a short piece by the editors, who also provide brief introductions to two of the thirteen chapters as well as a concise afterword.

The first section, "Rethinking Foucault," opens with a chapter in which Dua sketches the divide between Marxist and postcolonial scholarship on racism and surveys the important contributions of Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, and Edward Said. She makes the point that the development of critical race theory was shaped by how "post-war Marxism was (and continues to be) stubbornly lodged in ... a commitment to 'class' that often led to a silence on the specific processes of racism, as well as a hostile relationship towards explicitly anti-racist organizing and politics." (25) This, Dua notes, led some anti-racist researchers to look to Michel Foucault for "a non-economistic framework." (33) The result, she suggests, has often been fruitful but also often neglected the relationship of racism to capitalism. This is followed by an extract from Robert J.C. Young's Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001) on Foucault's "archaeological" approach of the late 1960s and its application to colonial discourse. The other chapter in this section, also by Dua, looks at the uses of Foucault by Said and Hall and reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of postcolonial theorists' efforts to combine Foucault and Marx. As she notes, "for most of those who theorize racialized subjectivities, the social constructions of subjectivities, identities, agency, and resistance are not centrally tied to the processes of labouring or exploitation" (86)--a point to which I will return.

The second section is "Revisiting Marx." Bakan's chapter (based on a 2008 article) offers a historical materialist approach that deploys Marx's concepts of exploitation, alienation, and oppression to theorize racial oppression and privilege. This is followed by an interview by the editors with Himani Bannerji, arguably the foremost anti-racist feminist Marxist analyst of racism based in Canada. Bannerji reflects on her theoretical framework, which treats the social as a differentiated unity of social relations rather than a terrain of intersecting identities, its debt to the sociology of Dorothy Smith, and nationalism.

This is followed by three chapters on "key anti-racist thinkers. …

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