MA in “Race”: Difference and Domination
Scientific advances have provided us with a wealth of knowledge about human beings, and one of the most important advances relates to “race” – it does not exist. Yet, despite general acceptance that “race” has no biological basis, individual societies, and much of the world, still appear to racialise human beings and to employ raciaIised categories as if they were both real and permanent. The Race Relations Acts of the UK are a prime example of how legislation reproduces racialisation. In popular culture, other discourses tell us that we are post-racial, suggesting that “race” no longer exists in society (but did once), or that we are now colourblind, suggesting that “race” still exists in society, but that we (nobly) choose not to see it. Even in academic discourse, research looking at many topics that never or rarely name “race”—topics such as terrorism, immigration, crime, development, and identity—often actually implicate “race” and are deeply racialised. If the ways in which racialised discourses are being articulated is changing, then we require new conceptual tools to identify, analyse, and evaluate them.
The demographics of Britain, and London in particular, are changing. This holds particular relevance for UCL, London’s Global University Far-right political parties and organisations have used this fact to gain political capital. Some academics have described this fact as “superdiversity”, analysing racialised difference through a range of indicators, such as ethnicity, religion, language, heritage, or culture. Many heads of state in Europe (including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron), have declared multiculturalism a failure. In these discourses, difference is, at times, descriptive, and at others, considered a political project. It can be considered as such, especially when debate about mere difference is unmasked as debate about segregation, devolution, secession, integration, or assimilation. Indeed, many institutions today have policies, dedicated staff members, or even whole departments dedicated to “Equality and Diversity”, which appears to marry the descriptive “diversity” with the much more normative and politically prescriptive “equality”.
As the historical process of decolonisation gained traction, academics have been compelled to think seriously about just how it is that racialisation is ideologically charged. This school of thought, followed by critical race theories, looked back at modern European imperialism and competitive colonisation of our planet, with a more critical eye. Rather than “race” being something (be it biological or cultural) to be managed, critical thinkers argued that people were, and are, divided into racialised categories for ideological reasons, reproducing and thereby stabilising Eurocentric hierarchies of power. Looking at hegemonic global power today, they were able to trace its routes from competitive European imperial expansion, the invasion of the so-called “New World” and the transatlantic traffic in African peoples, to the height of the British Empire and the invention, in London, of National Eugenics. Intersectional theorists developed these ideas, by showing how “race”, in general, and the eugenic ideal, in particular, always intersects with ability, sexuality, gender, and class, in ways which can be empowering to some, but disempowering to others. It is therefore vital that we understand “race” as not simply a description of difference, but a tool of domination.
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