“Blood is Thicker than Water”: The Materialization of the Racial Body in Fascist East Africa

Posted in Africa, Articles, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive on 2018-06-21 16:20Z by Steven

“Blood is Thicker than Water”: The Materialization of the Racial Body in Fascist East Africa

Zapruder World: An International Journal for the History of Social Conflict
“Performing Race,” Volume 4 (2017)

Angelica Pesarini, Social and Cultural Analysis, Faculty Member
New York University

Introduction

One of the major issues with the perception of “race” in modern Italy refers to what Alessandro Portelli defines as Italians’ “self-reflexive colour blindness.”1 What occurs in Italy is not simply a denial of race. Rather than seeing themselves as “White,” according to Portelli, Italians see themselves as “normal.” As a result, because colour is unspoken and not openly mentioned, it is believed that Italians are immune from racism. Such a structural colour-blindness, however, is problematic because it associates Whiteness with normality and, consequently, with Italianness.2 Simply put, to be Italian is to be White. Within this discourse, those who do not fit the alleged (White) Italian type are deemed outside the Nation on a number of levels.3

In order to understand and unpack such dynamics it is necessary to consider the category of “race” and the influence this had on the construction of Italian national identity. If “race” is a social construct devoid of scientific validity, it still retains enormous power in the modern world. In the case of Italy, the racial construction of national identity shows a complex ambivalence embedded in discursive practices revolving around an ambiguous production of both Whiteness and Blackness. Such an ambiguity, as highlighted by Tatiana Petrovich Njegosh stems from Italians’ liminal double racial status as racialisers (of Jews, southerner Italians and Africans) and racialised subjects in the U.S. and Australia.4 As a result, “race” in Italy today seems to be located within the interstices of a polarised discourse based on notions of “unspoken Whiteness”5 able to visually recognise “Italians” from “Others,” namely those called stranieri (foreigners), extracomunitari (a term used to define migrants coming from outside the EU) and the new “migranti” category (broadly used to address African migrants crossing the Mediterranean). Although colour is not openly named, meaningful biological connotations based on phenotypic features located on the body are at the core of Italian national identity. It is important to notice that such a disjunction does not work merely at a visual level. The racialisation of national identity, in fact, transversally affects Italian society and the everyday life of racialised subjects extending from education to housing, labour rights, work opportunities, political participation, health, personal safety, and legal discourse too, as discussed in this paper.

Drawing on ideas of performativity as applied to race, this essay illustrates some of the reasons why in contemporary Italy the idea of Blackness associated with Italianness still appears, to some, an impossible semantic match, an irreconcilable paradox. Owing to the interdependence of colonialism, ideas of “race” and “mixed race,” and the normative construction of Whiteness in relation to national identity, it seems necessary to investigate the nexus of race, gender and citizenship, through a performative lens. In order to do so, I focus on a series of laws and decrees passed during the Liberal and Fascist periods. These include the Codice Civile per la Colonia Eritrea (Colonial Civil Code for the Colony of Eritrea) of 1909, Law 999 of 1933, introduced to regulate the legal identity of “mixed race” children born in the former Italian colonies in East-Africa, and the racial laws enacted between 1937 and 1940. The investigation of these pieces of legislation is useful to highlight not only the influence that Liberal norms had on the promulgations of Fascist racial laws, but also how Italian citizenship, today, is still rooted in the idea of an alleged “racial citizen.”…

Read the entire article here.

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CERS hosts Critical Mixed Race Studies postgraduate symposium

Posted in Articles, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2013-08-19 01:18Z by Steven

CERS hosts Critical Mixed Race Studies postgraduate symposium

School of Sociology and Social Policy
Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies
University of Leeds
2013-08-08

Peter Edwards, Faculty Web Development Officer

Mixing Matters: Critical Intersectionalities

The Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies (CERS) held its first interdisciplinary, international postgraduate symposium on the 18th May 2013 entitled ‘Mixing Matters: Critical Intersectionalities.’ This symposium aimed at engaging with ideas from the field of Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) was the first of its kind in the UK and enabled national, international and Leeds based postgraduate students to present their research in this dynamic field. The debates within CMRS have been circulating for some time within various disciplines but which simultaneously have remained marginal within broader studies on ethnicity and ‘race’. Furthermore, the debates have largely been centred on the United States context and not taking into account the globality of mixed-race identity which varies across time and space, an idea which the keynote speaker (Rebecca King O’Riain) discusses in her book Global Mixed Race. This symposium was developed in response to this marginalisation focusing on describing and analysing mixed-race identities in both the UK and international contexts.

It was well attended and received by staff and students from within the faculty and beyond. There were a significant number of non-academic participants who travelled from far afield to engage with the day’s presentations and debates. Dr Rebecca King O’Riain (National University of Ireland, Maynooth) gave a keynote addressing the importance of expanding mixed-race studies beyond US borders and explored the dynamics of mixing in Zambia, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Brazil, Germany and Japan, among other locations. Dr. Shirley Tate (University of Leeds) who conceived of the idea of the symposium gave a second keynote on the mixed race question in regards to Black beauty.

The symposium was also comprised of two panels with papers on a variety of topics which reflect the diversity of research interests in the field:

  • Theory, experience and activism in CMRS
  • Mixed race male experiences in UK education
  • Chicano epistemology
  • Mixed-heritage in fostering and adoption policy
  • Bio-power and the politicisation of mixed-race in East Africa
  • Dougla identities in Trinidad
  • The influence of hip hop on mixed-race identity…

…Speakers: Emma Dabiri, Remi Salisbury, Veronica Cano, Julia Koniuch-Enneoka, Angelica Pesarini, Kav Raghunandan, and Jenn Sims

Read the entire report here.

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