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Fabricating the Color Line in a White Democracy

From Slave Catchers to Petty Sovereigns

Ben Brucato

Though states are founded in and dependent on successfully claiming a monopoly on the use of violent force and the certification of citizenship, these means suggest particular ends: the production of the social order. Police have the primary mandate to produce order and administer poverty. From a new abolitionist perspective, the particular social order of the U.S. is unique. The white race was founded through the production and maintenance of the color line and performed through a cross-class alliance of whites. Policing is deeply implicated in these processes. A historical account of police during the Herrenvolk era is provided. Finally, the persistence of racist policing is explained in light of a now officially color-blind political order, with officers functioning as petty sovereigns in a neoliberal era.

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War, Politics and Race

Reflections on Violence in the 'War on Terror'

Saul Newman and Michael P. Levine

The authors argue that the 'war on terror' marks the ultimate convergence of war with politics, and the virtual collapse of any meaningful distinction between them. Not only does it signify the breakdown of international relations norms but also the militarization of internal life and political discourse. They explore the 'genealogy' of this situation firstly through the notion of the 'state of exception'—in which sovereign violence becomes indistinct from the law that is supposed to curtail it—and secondly through Foucault's idea that politics is essentially a form of warfare. They suggest that these two ways of approaching the question of violence can only be understood through a racist dimension, which forms the hidden underside of the 'war on terrorism'. In other words, our contemporary situation is characterized by the mobilization not only of fundamentalist and conservative ideologies, but, increasingly, racial antagonisms and prejudices directed towards the Muslim other.

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Federica Stagni and Daryl Glaser

Race, Class and the Post-Apartheid Democratic State, edited by John Reynolds, Ben Fine. and Robert van Niekerk. Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2019. 396 pp. This collection revisits the work of Harold Wolpe, the

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Racial or Spatial Categorisations?

A Focus on the French Setting

Magali Bessone

The hypothesis developed in the paper is that the relation between race and space, under-explored in philosophy, is a powerful theoretical instrument for understanding racial injustices and can be used to renew racial categorisation in a more critical, transformative manner. It argues that only constructivism, in its 'interactive constructionism' version (Hacking 1999), can make sense of both concepts in a relevant way for political theory, and provide a general critical frame to study the relation between both concepts, thereby replying to the powerful arguments of racial scepticism. After specifying what such a position entails for the 'race' concept, the paper argues that 'space', itself conceived in a constructionist perspective, is a core element of current referents of 'race' in our folk conceptions. It shows that France, despite its pretence of racial blindness, is not a counter-example, but rather reinforces the hypothesis. Hence, space should be more thoroughly reinvestigated at an epistemological and theoretical level in exploring our racial thinking.

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Anthony Egan SJ and Ricardo de São João

Race, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid, by Steven Friedman. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-86914-286-5.

Jan Smuts and the Indian Question, by Vineet Thakur. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-86914-378-7.

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For Us, By Us

Towards a More Just Philosophical Community

Bryan Mukandi

This article examines the Australian ‘Continental Philosophy’ community through the lens of the Azanian philosophical tradition. Specifically, it interrogates the series of conversations around race and methodology that arose from the 2017 Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy (ASCP) conference. At the heart of these were questions of place, race, Indigeneity, and the very meaning of ‘Continental Philosophy’ in Australia. The pages that follow pursue those questions, grappling with the relationship between the articulation of disciplinary bounds and the exercise of colonial power. Having struggled with the political and existential cost of participation in the epistemic community that is the ASCP, I argue for disengagement and the exploration of alternative intellectual communities. This is ultimately a call to intellectual work grounded on ethical relations rather than on the furtherance of the status quo. It is a call to take seriously the claim, ‘the land is ours’.

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Theory Versus Practice

History Says That Practice Makes Perfect (And That Judges Are Better Too)

Scott Merriman

Theory argues that rights-based judicial review fails because it does not have popular support. However, examining actual events in battles over freedom of speech, privacy and civil rights demonstrates that this theory often fails when applied. Those arrested during the First World War in America often only received redress through administrative agencies. Civil rights protestors' experiences prove that the federal courts were the only ones generally to protect their rights, and that the legislatures failed to act. Similarly, judicial review increased the freedom of the press during the 1960s, which in turn boosted the civil rights movement. Finally, it was the courts which helped Americans to realize their right to privacy. Included in that right to privacy was the right for people to marry regardless of their race. Overall, courts and administrative agencies, particularly at the federal level, do a better job at protecting rights than legislatures.

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Cat Moir

This article argues that G. E. Lessing should be viewed as one of the German Enlightenment’s foremost thinkers of peace alongside his contemporary Immanuel Kant, whose contribution to thinking peace in the eighteenth century is already well recognised. It makes this case by examining two of Lessing’s late works: the 1779 drama Nathan the Wise and the 1780 essay The Education of the Human Race. The dialogue between faith and reason characteristic of Enlightenment discourse is at the heart of both texts, but here it is argued that peace is a crucial third moment. While in Nathan Lessing asserts the need to find peace between the forces of faith and reason in a literary register, in the Education essay he does so in a more explicitly theoretical mode.

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Throwing the Genes

A Renewed Biological Imaginary of 'Race', Place and Identification

Zimitri Erasmus

In the United States of America, use of DNA samples in criminal investigation and of genetic ancestry tests in 'personalised medicine', 'pharmacogenetics' and for personal consumption has grown exponentially. Moreover, use of such technologies is visible in the public sphere. In South Africa, DNA sampling for ancestry testing is the most publicly visible application of these technologies. This work has shifted constructions of 'KhoiSan' communities from yesterday's 'missing evolutionary link' to today's 'Edenic origin of humankind'. I question human biogenetics as a home for meanings of history, humanity and belonging. To this end, I read selected genetic genealogical studies of communities considered 'KhoiSan', 'Coloured' and 'Lemba' in South Africa against concerns raised in recent literature about the use of such studies in the United States of America. I ask why bio-centric conceptions of 'race', identity and 'the human' remain so resilient. To grapple with this question, I draw on Sylvia Wynter's (2001; 2003) adaptation of Frantz Fanon's (1986) concept of 'sociogeny' into 'the sociogenic principle'. I close by suggesting the code for what it means to be human is best located in the 'word' rather than the human genome.

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Critical Studies of Whiteness, USA

Origins and Arguments

David R. Roediger

The call-in show on Wisconsin Public Radio in 1995 began with the host skilfully introducing me as an historian who tried to explain how a white identity had come to seem so important to so many working people in the United States. We talked about efforts to understand why such significant numbers of people came to see themselves not as workers, but as white workers; not as women but as white women, and so on. And then to the phones and eager callers: Why do African countries make so little progress? Aren’t African Americans racist too? Isn’t their “reverse racism” the biggest problem? Hasn’t the welfare system enlarged a parasitic, amoral nonwhite underclass? The barrage of such questions, on public radio in a quite liberal city, took virtually the whole hour. The last caller, an African American worker at the University of Wisconsin, initially offered no question but a comment. All of the prior questions, she observed, focused on people of colour. Despite the subject of my work, she continued, and despite the moderator’s unambiguous introduction, no caller had deigned to discuss whiteness at all. If I were an expert on race, the white callers had been certain that my role was to contest or to endorse accusations and generalisations concerning those who were not white. Why was it so hard to discuss whiteness?