Looking at the commemoration of slavery in the Netherlands, this article makes a twofold argument. First, my aim is to complicate the notions of historical silence, ‘erasure’ and ‘secrecy’ that have informed many post‐ and decolonial projects. I show that the violence and brutality of slavery are in some cases even showcased. The result is an often self‐congratulatory image of a humanism that is often seen as ‘typically’ Dutch. At the same time, the national slavery memorial has shown that engaging in a politics of compassion can offer ground to refashion post‐colonial futures. Here, humanism is neither accepted at face value nor discarded as damaged goods, but salvaged and held to its promise. Second, I analyse the politics of multiculturalism, and the related search for cultural essences in which ‘culture’ and ‘nation’ have turned into objects of love and anxiety. While analyses have rightly understood emotions such as compassion as neoliberal models of governance, I argue that such structures of feeling also have colonial roots. The highly affective politics of belonging and exclusion today can be more fully understood if their colonial roots are included in the analysis.
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Discomfort, innocence and the liberal peripheralisation of race in the Netherlands
Sinan Çankaya and Paul Mepschen
In this paper, we argue in favour of an anthropological focus on the ‘doing’ of whiteness, which is necessary to understand how various, contrasting but interconnected articulations of whiteness come into being. We focus on two ethnographic vignettes that reveal the different structural positions, within a culturalised and racialised order, of the anthropologists developing them. The vignettes focus on liberal and progressive ‘middle‐class’ articulations of whiteness that often remain unrecognised and – especially – bathed in innocence, but that go to the heart of the contemporary European question. We take issue with the liberal peripheralisation of racism, a discursive practice that locates racism in the ‘white working class’ and symbolically exorcises it from the ‘moderate’, centrist core of Europe. Rather than truly facing racism, what seems at stake for many liberals and progressives is the self‐image of being well‐meaning ‘respectable’ and ‘good’ middle‐class people.
Culture-as-Race or Culture-as-Culture
Cultural Identity in French Society
“Yes, but aren’t these people black?” This is perhaps the most common question Americans ask about my research among West Indian activists in Paris and Martinique. It is asked in a tone that suggests that the answer itself is obvious and, more than that, that the questions I ask about West Indian claims to identity would be almost moot if I were to just get that answer through my head. This question has always confused me.
Girls, Power and Style
Social and Emotional Experiences of the Clothed Body
Drawing on ethnographic research with a diverse group of teen girls, this article asks how play with style is understood and enacted. By positioning girls' everyday transactions with style beside their engagement with style in media, this article demonstrates that girls live with a cultural discordance between the girl power media discourse of style as choice, power, and resistance, and the reality of their own, often disempowered, experiences with style. Bound by the promise of upward social mobility, the fear of losing status, and the risk of remaining in the low income and middle class communities in which they were raised, the girls in this study feel regulated and, at times, hurt by the required performance of the clothed body.
Resistance, Rebirth, and Redemption
The Rhetoric of White Supremacy in Post-Civil War Louisiana
Marek D. Steedman
Did white supremacists successfully appeal to a right of resistance in Louisiana in the 1870s? I argue that they did. White supremacists self-consciously defended their own actions within the framework of an Anglo-American discourse of resistance against tyrannical government, and they broadly succeeded in convincing fellow (white) citizens. Can we deny them the cover of legitimacy this tradition affords? We might suggest that a right to resist is rendered void by the fact that white supremacists were resisting constitutional democracy itself. I argue against this strategy (or, more precisely, for a right to resist constitutional democratic government), and suggest that the problem is not what white supremacists were fighting against. The right to resist is bound up with a defense of the just demands of the people, and this claim, as articulated by white supremacists, rests on decidedly shaky ground. Deciding the issue, however, is a matter of political contestation.
Kathleen M. Blee
Interpretive and ethical frameworks circumscribe how we study the perpetrators of politically motivated violence against civilian populations. This article revisits the author’s studies of two eras of white supremacism in the United States, the 1920s and 1980s–1990s, to examine how these were affected by four frameworks of inquiry: the assumption of agency, the allure of the extraordinary, the tendency to categorical analysis, and the presumption of net benefit. It concludes with suggestions on how scholars can avoid the limitations of these frameworks.
“A Pretty Girl of Sixteen“
Capturing the Contradictions of Female Adolescence in the Nancy Drew Series
This article explores the construction of female adolescence in the first three texts of the Nancy Drew Mystery series: The Secret of the Old Clock (1930), The Hidden Staircase (1930), and The Bungalow Mystery (1930). It reviews, briefly, the development of the concept of adolescence and its gendered implications, particularly the association of female adolescent sexuality with delinquency. I argue that the Nancy Drew series rejects the construction of adolescence as a period of turmoil and emotional instability, as well as the prescription of constant adult supervision. The character of Nancy Drew also captures the contradictory messages of female adolescence in the 1930s when girls were represented as sexually attractive and aggressive but were denied sexual desire.
Worst Conceivable Form
Race, Global Capital, and The Making of the English Working Class
W. E. B. Du Bois noted that the nineteenth-century US slave plantation corresponded with the factory in its worst conceivable form. This article expands upon Du Bois's insight to consider the emergence of the English working class in correspondence with American settler slavery and colonial projects within the British Empire. From above, elites theorized about the exploitation of labor as a world historical project to compare the enslaved, the colonized, and the English worker against one another. From below, proletarian intellectuals imagined the freedom of English laborers through the condition of the enslaved in the American South and Jamaica and the colonized in South Asia. By placing these histories from above and below together, this article argues that it is impossible to conceive of the English working class making itself and being made at remove from the enslaving and colonizing projects of global capital.
Carrying Religion into a Secularising Europe
Montserratian Migrants' Experiences of Global Processes in British Methodism
Migrants to Europe often perceive themselves as entering a secular society that threatens their religious identities and practices. Whilst some sociological models present their responses in terms of cultural defence, ethnographic analysis reveals a more complex picture of interaction with local contexts. This essay draws upon ethnographic research to explore a relatively neglected situation in migration studies, namely the interactions between distinct migration cohorts - in this case, from the Caribbean island of Montserrat, as examined through their experiences in London Methodist churches. It employs the ideas of Weber and Bourdieu to view these migrants as 'religious carriers', as collective and individual embodiments of religious dispositions and of those socio-cultural processes through which their religion is reproduced. Whilst the strategies of the cohort migrating after the Second World War were restricted through their marginalised social status and experience of racism, the recent cohort of evacuees fleeing volcanic eruptions has had greater scope for strategies which combat secularisation and fading Methodist identity.