“you can’t actually defeat racism by merely opposing racism. You have to actually start opposing the categories of race if you want to transcend the hierarchies and caste systems they impose.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2020-07-19 03:02Z by Steven

“I’m not saying that everybody, or even most people, who are inspired by [Robin] DiAngelo or want to hear what she’s saying are cynical. But I do think that what people like Barbara and Karen Fields are asking of us in their book Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life; what Paul Gilroy in Against Race is asking of people; what someone like Albert Murray was asking of people when he told us that we were a “mongrel nation,” and that “[a]ny fool can see that white people are not really white, and that black people are not black”; what, in my own way, I’ve tried to propose in Self-Portrait in Black and White, is that you can’t actually defeat racism by merely opposing racism. You have to actually start opposing the categories of race if you want to transcend the hierarchies and caste systems they impose. I think that’s a much harder task.”—Thomas Chatterton Williams

Otis Houston, “Part of a Larger Battle: A Conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams,” Los Angeles Review of Books, July 16, 2020. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/part-of-a-larger-battle-a-conversation-with-thomas-chatterton-williams/.

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Long Read | Refusing race and salvaging the human

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science on 2019-06-24 19:57Z by Steven

Long Read | Refusing race and salvaging the human

New Frame

Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature
King’s College, London, United Kingdom

Illustration by Anastasya Eliseeva.
Illustrator: Anastasya Eliseeva

In his Holberg Lecture, Paul Gilroy, winner of the Holberg Prize for 2019, advocates turning away from the defaulted racial ordering of life in pursuit of a new humanism.

It is commonplace to observe that democracy in Europe has reached a dangerous point. As ailing capitalism emancipates itself from democratic regulation, ultra-nationalism, populism, xenophobia and varieties of neo-fascism have become more visible, more assertive and more corrosive of political culture.

The widespread appeal of racialised group identity and racism, often conveyed obliquely with a knowing wink, has been instrumental in delivering us to a situation in which our conceptions of truth, law and government have been placed in jeopardy. In many places, pathological hunger for national rebirth and the restoration of an earlier political time have combined with resentful, authoritarian and belligerent responses to alterity and the expectation of hospitality.

Those reactions underscore the timeliness and importance of analysing racism, nationalism and xenology, which are nowadays frequently disseminated online. Intensified by evasive and dubious techno-political forces, they have begun to correspond to the anxieties of lived experience in precarious and austere conditions.

The effects of that shift are augmented by the uptake of generic conceptions of racial identity sourced from the United States. They have gained significant international currency, even in places barely touched by the signature racial habits of the north Atlantic, which would project the world only in black and white…

Read the entire lecture here.

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Guest Post: A View from the Past: The Contingencies of Racialization in 15th- and 16th-Century Iberia

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History on 2016-12-12 22:18Z by Steven

Guest Post: A View from the Past: The Contingencies of Racialization in 15th- and 16th-Century Iberia

The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History

Marley-Vincent Lindsey
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

When Paul Gilroy wrote his now-classic critique of cultural nationalism in 1995, he conceived a Black Atlantic that was a geo-political amalgamation of Africa, America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Gilroy was particularly interested in the construction of a modern, post-colonial cultural space in which slavery remained a part of modern black consciousness. His book is particularly noted for the introduction of race as a critical consideration in exploring the Black Atlantic.

It is fitting then, that we kick off our week-long discussion of the Black Atlantic with a post by Marley-Vincent Lindsey, which explores considerations of race in the Iberian Atlantic. Subsequent posts will consider Black responses to freedom (and unfreedom), historical narrative, race, and of course, power.

Juan Garrido was a typical conquistador: arriving in Hispaniola by 1508, Garrido accompanied Juan Ponce de León in his invasion of Puerto Rico, and was later found with Hernan Cortés in Mexico City. Yet his proofs of service, a portion of which was printed by Francisco Icaza in a collection of autobiographies by the conquistadors and settlers of New Spain, made a unique note: de color negro, or “of Black color.”1

What significance was the color of his skin? From our crystal ball of future development, the answer is obvious: Spain had developed a particularly unique concern for racializing individuals, and the Iberian excursions throughout the western and southern coasts of Africa added fuel for “hardening identities” of what was significant about being Black or White. This unique historical contingency, argued James Sweet, was the genesis for American conceptions of race.2

Supporting this construction is the intuitive power of 1492, when Columbus invaded the ocean blue. Iberia’s box score for the year also included the seizure of Granada and the expulsion of Jews who refused conversion. For the century prior, there existed a rich vocabulary through which differences of religion were literally racialized: by 1611, Corrubias’ Spanish dictionary defined raza in reference to humans as being bad lineage, like Jewish or Muslim ancestry. Medievalists like David Nirenberg have traced these discourses through which raza gained biological potency through Castilian and Aragonese experiences with Jews and Moors.3

Read the entire article here.

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Paul Gilroy: Race and ‘Useful Violence’

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy, United States on 2016-07-09 15:22Z by Steven

Paul Gilroy: Race and ‘Useful Violence’

Public Seminar

McKenzie Wark, Professor of Culture and Media in Liberal Studies
The New School for Social Research

#BLM passes The New School.

Aimé Césaire called it: the so-called west is a decaying civilization. In both the United States and Europe, where institutions are receding, a base level of race-talk and racial solidarity is revealed as metastasizing beneath them. In such dim times, I turn to the writings of Paul Gilroy as offering an anti-racist vision that is transnational and cosmopolitan, but which draws on popular and vernacular forms of hybridity rather than elite ones.

In Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (Harvard 2010), Gilroy offers a series of essays on the culture of what he has famously called the Black Atlantic (Verso 1993) as an alternative to race-talk but which is also outside of the various alternative nationalisms that flourish as a response. It is not reducible to liberalism, and it also attempts to fend off incorporation into the culture industry. That might be an urgent project for this “age of rendition.” (87) One in which in Judith Butler’s terms that which is grievable, or in Donna Haraway’s that which is killable, are respectively diminishing and expanding categories.

Gilroy is wary of responses to racism that borrow from it. He would probably strongly reject Chantal Mouffe’s understanding of all politics as necessarily based on a tangible equality of participation in a shared substance, which the necessarily excludes the other as unequal to us. Hence he is not any more inclined towards Black nationalism than towards any other. Instead, he builds upon the moral economies of the Black Atlantic, in which the struggle against slavery and racism pose the question of a trans-national belonging, or what I would call he problem of species-being. Just as EP Thompson saw the English working class as self-making, Gilroy is interested in the coming in to being of a people in struggle, but beyond Thompson’s rather provincial national frame. Along with others influenced by the cultural studies tradition such as Andrew Ross and Angela McRobbie, he is interested more in vernacular than elite cultural forms…

…Gilroy: “What answers does the mixed-race person give to the apostles of purity, who can be found in all communities?” (103) Marley borrowed from Jamaican rude boys, from Curtis Mayfield, but also from Black Power: ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ as a famous Marley song has it – but not the deputy. For Gilroy, Marley is a version of Blackness that can include, but is not reducible to, African-American culture. It borrows from the diasporic cult of Ethiopia but makes it more a symbolic than an actual homeland. From the Rastafarians it also takes a view of wage-work not as self-mastery but as an extension of slavery. From the discovery of swinging London it evolves into the ‘Kinky Reggae’ of the ‘Midnight Ravers’.

Where Marley had been an itinerant worker, Hendrix was a former soldier, who swapped the ‘Machine gun’ for the electric guitar, itself also bound up in curious ways with military technology. He produced an Afro-futurist sound that was, as Caetano Veloso put it, “half blues, half Stockhausen” (130) Gilroy: “Hendrix’s career tells us that by this point, black music could produce its own public world: a social corona that could nourish or host an alternative sensibility, a structure of feeling that might function to make wrongs and injustices more bearable in the short term but could also promote a sense of different possibilities, providing healing glimpses of an alternative moral, artistic, and political order.” (147)…

Read the entire article here.

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Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Europe, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-10-05 17:56Z by Steven

Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe

264 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-89743-3

Edited by:

Michael McEachrane

Foreword by:

Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature
King’s College, London

Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe challenges a view of Nordic societies as homogenously white, and as human rights champions that are so progressive that even the concept of race is deemed irrelevant to their societies. The book places African Diasporas, race and legacies of imperialism squarely in a Nordic context. How has a nation as peripheral as Iceland been shaped by an identity of being white? How do Black Norwegians challenge racially conscribed views of Norwegian nationhood? What does the history of jazz in Denmark say about the relation between its national identity and race? What is it like to be a mixed-race black Swedish woman? How have African Diasporans in Finland navigated issues of race and belonging? And what does the widespread denial of everyday racism in Nordic societies mean to Afro-Nordics?


  • Foreword Paul Gilroy
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction Michael McEachrane
  • Part I: The Nation
    • 1. Imagining Blackness at the Margins: Race and Difference in Iceland Kristín Loftsdóttir
    • 2. “Struggling to Be Recognized as Belonging to the Fauna of Norway”: On Being Black Norwegian Women madeleine kennedy-macfoy
    • 3. The Midnight Sun Never Sets: An Email Conversation About Jazz, Race and National Identity in Denmark, Norway and Sweden Cecil Brown, Anne Dvinge, Petter Frost Fadnes, Johan Fornäs, Ole Izard Høyer, Marilyn Mazur, Michael McEachrane and John Tchicai
  • Part II: Racism
    • 4. There’s a White Elephant in the Room: Equality and Race in (Northern) Europe Michael McEachrane
    • 5. Racism Is No Joke: A Swedish Minister and a Hottentot Venus Cake—An Email Conversation Beth Maina Ahlberg, Claudette Carr, Madubuko Diakité, Fatima El-Tayeb, Tobias Hübinette, Momodou Jallow, Victoria Kawesa, Michael McEachrane, Utz McKnight, Anders Neergaard, Shailja Patel, Kitimbwa Sabuni and Minna Salami
    • 6. Being and Becoming Mixed Race, Black, Swedish and a Nomadic Subject Anna Adeniji
    • 7. Bertrand Besigye’s Civilization Critique: An Aesthetics of Blackness in Norway Helena Karlsson
    • 8. Two Poems by Bertrand Besigye: (i) How A Black African Orders Black Coffee (To Barack Hussein Obama); (ii) You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down. Or Black Hail Over All of West Side (Translated by John Irons) Bertrand Besigye
  • Part III: Diaspora
    • 9. Talking Back: Voices from the African Diaspora in Finland Anna Rastas
    • 10. Den Sorte: Nella Larsen and Denmark Martyn Bone
    • 11. A Horn of Africa in Northern Europe—An Email Conversation Abdalla Duh, Mohamed Husein Gaas, Abdalla Gasimelseed, Amel Gorani, Nauja Kleist, Anne Kubai, Michael McEachrane, Saifalyazal Omar, Tsegaye Tegenu and Marja Tiilikainen
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“I Want to be Nothing”. Challenging Notions of Culture, Race and Identity

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-08-27 04:01Z by Steven

“I Want to be Nothing”. Challenging Notions of Culture, Race and Identity

Studia Humanistyczne AGH
Volume 10, Issue 2 (2011)
pages 75-83

Agata Lubowicka
University of Gdansk, Poland

This article tackles the issue of “hyphenated identities” in Heidi W. Durrow’s novel The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010), whose main topic is growing up as a girl of mixed race in a dominant black culture. This article examines how Rachel Morse, the main character in the novel, challenges racism and the essentialist notion of identity. Firstly, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy’s approaches to that issue are introduced and discussed. Then in relation to their theories an interpretation of Durrow’s fictional character is delivered. As the third part of the article, elements of Danish culture appearing in Durrow’s are presented and analyzed as well as the novel’s explicit intertextual references to Nella Larsen’s authorship, another mulatto woman writer of half-Danish origin. In accordance with Gilory’s theory, the article’s aim is to show that Rachel’s identity is born in the process of self-reflection where Danishness becomes her ‘crossroads’ and thus to confirm that such phenomena as culture, ethnicity and identity are constantly constructed and altered.

Read the entire article here.

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Against Race: Imagining Political Culture beyond the Color Line

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-04-03 00:38Z by Steven

Against Race: Imagining Political Culture beyond the Color Line

Belknap Press (an imprint of Harvard University Press)
January 2002
416 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
1 halftone
Paperback ISBN: 9780674006690

Paul Gilroy, Anthony Giddens Professor of Social Theory
London School of Economics

After all the “progress” made since World War II in matters pertaining to race, why are we still conspiring to divide humanity into different identity groups based on skin color? Did all the good done by the Civil Rights Movement and the decolonization of the Third World have such little lasting effect?

In this provocative book Paul Gilroy contends that race-thinking has distorted the finest promises of modern democracy. He compels us to see that fascism was the principal political innovation of the twentieth century—and that its power to seduce did not die in a bunker in Berlin. Aren’t we in fact using the same devices the Nazis used in their movies and advertisements when we make spectacles of our identities and differences? Gilroy examines the ways in which media and commodity culture have become preeminent in our lives in the years since the 1960s and especially in the 1980s with the rise of hip-hop and other militancies. With this trend, he contends, much that was wonderful about black culture has been sacrificed in the service of corporate interests and new forms of cultural expression tied to visual technologies. He argues that the triumph of the image spells death to politics and reduces people to mere symbols.

At its heart, Against Race is a utopian project calling for the renunciation of race. Gilroy champions a new humanism, global and cosmopolitan, and he offers a new political language and a new moral vision for what was once called “anti-racism.”

Table of Contents


I. Racial Observance, Nationalism, and Humanism
1. The Crisis of “Race” and Raciology
2. Modernity and Infrahumanity
3. Identity, Belonging, and the Critique of Pure Sameness

II. Fascism, Embodiment, and Revolutionary Conservatism
4. Hitler Wore Khakis: Icons, Propaganda, and Aesthetic Politics
5. “After the Love Has Gone”: Biopolitics and the Decay of the Black Public Sphere
6. The Tyrannies of Unanimism

III. Black to the Future
7. “All about the Benjamins”: Multicultural Blackness–Corporate, Commercial, and Oppositional
8. “Race,” Cosmopolitanism, and Catastrophe
9. “Third Stone from the Sun”: Planetary Humanism and Strategic Universalism


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IRISH-GA 1085: Black Irish Writing

Posted in Course Offerings, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-06-05 21:09Z by Steven

IRISH-GA 1085: Black Irish Writing

Gluckman Ireland House
New York University
Spring 2010

This course examines the textual force-fields of similarity and difference in the writing of racial and ethnic identities in the Atlantic World.  It begins by considering works of Irish writers who engaged with Atlantic slavery and the sympathetic and testamentary discourses within abolitionism in the late 18th century; authors discussed include Hugh Mulligan, Mary Ledbetter, Edmund Burke, Thomas Brannigan, and Denis Driscoll.  The course then examines the over-lapping traces of radical and revolutionary memory in American slavery and in Irish politics, concentrating on the roles of Irish figures in the writings of Frederick Douglass and Black figures in the writings and speeches of Daniel O’Connell.  The mid-19th century explosion of writing about race and ethnicity following the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin will be explored in relation to the many imitations of Stowe’s novel that sought to explain post-famine Ireland.  The course then considers the proliferation of texts that sought to understand the antinomies of desire and prohibition surrounding persons of mixed race, reading works by Mayne Reid, Dion Boucicault, and Charles Chesnutt. Texts that convey the fusion of African-American and Irish cultural forms will be discussed, including Blackface, Minstrelsy, and Dance.  After consideration of the use of race in the development of anti-Irish caricature (via readings of English (Punch) and American (Thomas Nast and the Nativists) cartoonists), the course will conclude by looking at shared and divergent textual and political strategies in writers of the Irish and Harlem Renaissances, concentrating on the ambivalence of dialect writing (Finley Peter Dunne, John Synge, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Claude McKay), and the limits of modernist primitivism (Eugene O’Neill’sThe Emperor Jones”).  The course will conclude with a discussion of the politics of memory along and across the color line in contemporary Irish and American public life.  Primary readings will be supplemented by theoretical and critical texts, including works by Paul Gilroy, Ian Baucom, Eric Lott, Robert Young, Perry Curtis, Marx, Freud, and Foucault.

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‘The rivers of Zimbabwe will run red with blood’: Enoch Powell and the Post-Imperial Nostalgia of the Monday Club

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United Kingdom on 2011-11-15 20:34Z by Steven

‘The rivers of Zimbabwe will run red with blood’: Enoch Powell and the Post-Imperial Nostalgia of the Monday Club

Journal of Southern African Studies
Volume 37, Issue 4 (December 2011)
pages 731-745
DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2011.613691

Daniel McNeil, Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies
Newcastle University, United Kingdom

In his influential account of post-colonial melancholia, Paul Gilroy suggests that contemporary reports of violence in Southern Africa reveal Britain’s inability to work through its grim history of imperialism and colonialism. Gilroy’s study links recent discussions of tragic Southern African themes to Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968. However, it does not mention Powell’s critique of Britain’s ‘post-imperial nostalgia’ in a speech about Rhodesia later that year. This is not entirely surprising – the Conservative Central Office did not disseminate Powell’s call for Britons to move beyond sentimental attachment to ‘kith and kin’ in Rhodesia, and Rhodesian sympathisers in the Conservative Monday Club attempted to work around Powell’s refusal to support the ‘White Commonwealth’. Moreover, Powell opposed non-white ‘communalism’ whether he was emphasising the importance of the British Empire to English identity or challenging the ‘harmful myth’ of empire as an English nationalist. Consequently, this article uses archival material relating to the Monday Club and the Rhodesian Ministry of Information in order to document three of the main strands of post-colonial melancholia that apply to Powellite figures on the right who defended (white) minority rule in Rhodesia and/or demonised (non-white) minority cultures in the United Kingdom. The first main strand of post-colonial melancholia involves the belief that racial intermixture will lead to violence and economic instability. The second emphasises the importance of strong white rule to limit racial violence and industrial retardation. The third attempts to contest and then seize the position of victim, alleging one set of standards for the ‘civilised’ West and another set of standards for ‘failed, incompetent and pre-modern states.’

Read or purchase the article here.

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Boundaries Transgressed: Modernism and miscegenation in Langston Hughes’s “Red-Headed Baby”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2010-04-15 22:50Z by Steven

Boundaries Transgressed: Modernism and miscegenation in Langston Hughes’s “Red-Headed Baby”

Atlantic Studies
Volume 3, Issue 1 (April 2006)
pages 97 – 110
DOI: 10.1080/14788810500525499

Isabel Soto

This essay is an expanded and revised version of a paper read at the 8th International Conference On the Short Story in English, organized by the Instituto Universitario de Investigación en Enstudios Norteamericanos, Alcalá de Henares (Spain), 28–31 October 2004.

This essay argues that while Langston Hughes‘s short story “Red-Headed Baby” (from The Ways of White Folks) may initially seem to depart from the Hughes repertoire (through its dizzying modernist style, for one), it ultimately endorses the author’s signature concerns of race, genre transgression and imaginative appropriation of alterity. I also seek to historicize Hughes’s text, inscribing it within a modernist practice, studies of which have traditionally promoted the Euro-American paradigm of a dehistoricized “modernist construction of authorship through displacement” (Cora Kaplan). Few writers of the first third of the twentieth century have undertaken travel—figurative and literal—as intensely as Hughes has. His work is anchored in representations of displacement and “Red-Headed Baby” is no exception, with its miscegenation motif and sailor protagonist. Hence my reading of Hughes’s short story will also draw on modes of inquiry that promote displacement as central to an understanding of cultural practice. I draw substantially on Paul Gilroy‘s black Atlantic model and formulations of diaspora—not least because his influential work barely mentions Hughes, that most diasporic of modernist writers. I will argue that travel was aesthetically enabling for Hughes, enhancing what elsewhere I have termed his poetics of reciprocity or mutuality. Finally, Duboisian double consciousness also contributes to my discussion, which proposes a dialogic relationship between The Souls of Black Folks and The Ways of White Folks.

Read or purchase the article here.

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