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Author Topic: Gilroy: Beyond Race
Trespasser
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1204

posted 17 June 2002 01:06 PM      Profile for Trespasser   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
This might be another one of my Gilroy threads that get 0 hits, but what the hell: this inteview rocks and it's worth the entire read.

Thou Shalt Click Here.

quote:
Bola Gibson – In your most recent book, Between Camps, you argue for the necessity of moving beyond the language of race. But isn’t your idea of removing the concept of race, or transcending race, quite dangerous? I’ve lived as a black person in a range of places: I was born in Jamaica, raised in England, lived in Zimbabwe for five years, studied in America, and then came back here to London. If we seek to transcend race in our existing societies, we won’t recognise and appreciate cultural differences. What happens is we assimilate into the majority culture, and cultural identity is lost. Doesn't your argument run the risk of there being an amalgamation of very many different cultures into one? Won’t this mean a dominant race with people sifting into it? Won’t we lose the richness of what I think is true multiculturalism?

Paul Gilroy – I don’t see it that way, as transcendence. Because I don't see racial categories as working in the way that you imply when you speak of 'the dominant race'. For me the problem is racism. It is racism that produces races as political agents, gives them substance and makes race into a big issue. This is done in a way that prevents cultural differences from emerging. Some of those cultural differences might conform to expectations defined by race but many won't. What are these 'real differences' anyway? What I know is that, in the kind of life people live in a city such as London, these things do not become ‘issues’ unless racism intervenes to make them an issue.

Culture will take care of itself. None of us should imagine that we can command it, or regulate, organise, police or discipline it. I have tried to study the moments when the fantasy of being able to legislate for the cultural lives and development of peoples, nations and ethnic groups enters into the language of anti-colonial nation-building and anti-racist or African American civil and human rights struggles. Black Americans in the nineteenth century were offered two options, which came either from Germany or from thinkers such as Disraeli. They were offered the chance, philosophically, to be either Jews or Germans. My point is that recent history offers us other options when it comes to theorising our identities and identifications. We don’t have to be either Jews or Germans.

BG – It may be possible to separate the idea of race and culture at a theoretical level. But can you really separate race from cultures that are associated with people who are physically and obviously different, such as Blacks or Asians? Can you transcend race and still have that difference in culture?

PG – You say 'physically' and 'obviously' as if these things were self-evident. They aren’t. People have to be educated, trained and sometimes bullied into the mentalities that specify race and distinguish it from 'ethnicity'. I think race and culture are already separated. The danger lies in not making the separation of culture from colour. Otherwise you have to say that the culture of the eighteen-year-old unemployed Bengali boys in East London's Brick Lane is the same as the culture of the Volvo-driving Indians in North-West London. They may not speak the same language, they do not worship the same God, they did not come to Britain at the same time, they do not live in the same place, they do not do the same work. It is only racism that puts them into the same category: Asians.

Reject the racism that makes them interchangeable and they can be culturally separated. You can then do proper justice to the cultural variations and specificities. The idea of integral races damages the richness of cultures. The same argument applies even more from an international perspective.


And with regards to nation-states...

[ June 17, 2002: Message edited by: Trespasser ]


From: maritimes | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
mikedean
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Babbler # 2696

posted 17 June 2002 01:19 PM      Profile for mikedean        Edit/Delete Post
this is really interesting.
thank you.

From: Toronto | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 518

posted 17 June 2002 05:36 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yes, Tres, good link. It might even have relevance to places like former Yugoslavia, no? I mean the idea of race being irrelevant until asserted by someone with a political agenda?

To me, it is obvious that "race" is a political construct. I recall once asking one Julian Fantino, who was busy compiling statistics on crimes committed in his Police Division on the basis of race: Why is the son of a white father and a black mother called "black" in your statistics? The answer "Because no one would think he was white."

To me it goes back to the slave codes of the American South, where a person with 1/8th black blood was deemed "black", while the person with 1/16th black blood was "white". Obviously this conclusion is not dictated by biology.


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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Babbler # 1402

posted 17 June 2002 09:49 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Biology is relatively simple. Politics are a pain in the ass.
A while ago, i tried to get babblers to notice and describe people's true skin colour, rather than black, white, red and yellow (all of which are inaccurate). Quite a few played, but i got flak from a young Black woman, who thought i was trying to take away her political identity. People are very attached to their political identity - even if it gives them nothing but grief.

It's always heartening when somebody with a big brain tries to help us over petty differences.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Trespasser
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Babbler # 1204

posted 17 June 2002 10:14 PM      Profile for Trespasser   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Jeffry: He goes as far (and I would, any minute of the day) as to say that the concept of nationality comes into being through political agenda and as a way to silence differences, too.

Gilroy also deals with visuality of race and how it's managed and taught. It's really fascinating to be reminded that "obvious physical differences" is a way of looking that has been learned. Even deciding someone's race as Black or coloured on the basis of "even a single drop of black blood" or "x/y Black" is visual in origin.

Nonesuch: it's sometimes a matter of appropriation of voice and I absolutely understand people who argue the opposite to Gilroy. Why-can't-we-all-just-get-along-and-aren't-we-all-the-same can often be heard by (male) critics of feminism too. Those who cry universalism or transcendence do get on my nerves under many circumstances (white people telling the truth to the Black; men to feminist women, for instance) although I may personally be in favour of at least a version of it. (NB: I agree that simple belonging to a group does not legitimize anything, and that that doesn't mean that the person will genuinely be able to speak about her own condition of oppression.)

Imagine this. Imagine that Paul Gilroy speaks about gender instead of race and translate every race-related remark in this interview to a gender-related one. Imagine the title of this article as 'Beyond Gender'. "It is sexism that produces genders/sexes as political agents, gives them substance and makes sex/gender into a big issue." Etc.

But then imagine that Paul Gilroy is actually a Paula Gilroy. Does it make any difference? For me it sure does.

[ June 17, 2002: Message edited by: Trespasser ]


From: maritimes | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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Babbler # 490

posted 18 June 2002 02:39 AM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
One thing that always gets people who like to delineate using skin color is to ask at what point they would draw the line between black and white among the intermediate "shades".

No two people will draw the line at the same location.

This partially demonstrates the uselessness of "race" as an anthropological subject of study.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
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Babbler # 1402

posted 18 June 2002 12:17 PM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
But then imagine that Paul Gilroy is actually a Paula Gilroy. Does it make any difference? For me it sure does.

No, i don't think it does, for me. I would prefer to get past the gender thing. (This is personal; not for all women: i'm out of the loop.) I examine the statement for accurace and implication, not the speaker for motive.

I feel the same way about voice appropriation. As a story-teller, i might take the perspective of a cat (well, they can't, can they?) without feeling that i've stolen something from cats. I might tell a story from the point of view of a man, possibly a man of different ethnic origin from my own. As long as the story has something worth saying, i don't think i've harmed anyone.
I feel the same way if another story-teller - say, a young, dark-skinned male - borrows the voice of someone who fits my description. I haven't lost anything; i've gained another voice.


From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
frandroid_atreides
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posted 21 June 2002 11:42 PM      Profile for frandroid_atreides   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Huh, there is a difference here. Race is completely a human construct. Gender, on the other hand, has some basis in nature...
From: Toronto, Arrakis | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
nonsuch
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1402

posted 22 June 2002 12:30 AM      Profile for nonsuch     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
So?
We can still think and talk about both. We can design a perspective in which we choose to view one another, whatever our differences and/or similarities.
We can, to a large extent, design our own persona, define our own identity. We also define other people's - usually according to the role they play in our life. If we have too much power, we tend to define others as functions in our service; if we have too little power, we tend to define others as threats.
Unfortunately, most of us don't think much about how we preceive either ourselves or others.

From: coming and going | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged

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