Researching Race and Racism

By Martin Bulmer; John Solomos | Go to book overview

1

Contemporary geopolitics and 'alterity' research

Chetan Bhatt

One can resist only in terms of the identity that is under attack.

Hannah Arendt

[The] problem of the twentieth-century is the problem of the colour line.

W.E.B. Du Bois

[Once the] name has been spoken, all the language that has led up to it, or that has been crossed in order to reach it, is reabsorbed into it and disappears.

Michel Foucault

Conceptions of the social as equivalent to the frolic of signification, and of politics as based wholly on modes of agonistic subjectivisation, appear to have settled as key axes for many academic questions, methodological assumptions and research agendas concerned with racism, religion, culture, identity, subjectivity and the like, these claim at another level the actual referents of minority communities, their political, social, economic and cultural conditions and identities in the UK and USA. In part, this is related to the valorisation of the linguistic-cultural turn in social theory (a cantian imperative) and the liberation of the domains of language and power from their embeddedness in institutional processes, social structures and histories. The dislocation of language and power from actual structures and institutions, especially states and economies, can allow for the proliferation of gargantuan 'sociological imaginations' arising from assessments of the marginal and liminal. This is a methodology of the abridgement of the social, political and economic to the calculus of signifiers. The hegemon being criticised is characteristically not an actual structure of power, oppression or exploitation, but other cultural or academic interpretations and interpreters (Gates 1994:208). The fantasy, a self-conscious one, is that social or imperialist injustice is being remedied through the manufacture of neologisms, new language games and 'fields of discursivity' - academic critique of venial indiscretions, academic labour as manifesto, academic fields as agora. The dislocation of the ethical from the political is significant, as is the demotion of politics to the veracity or density of any particular portrait of representation and mirror of recognition. An orphic compulsion drives the academic labour that will disclose hitherto concealed structures of supremacy and domination, or

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