Yesterday I had the chance to attend a lecture by David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and Professor of African-American Studies and of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California at Irvine. It was an intense experience as terms such as ‘Race’, ‘Racilization’ (a term we were advised not to use by Professor Goldberg), ‘Racial’ and ‘Racist’ were examined in the contexts of history, society and conflict.
The title of the lecture was Racial Europeanization. The title is a part of a five region study looking at racial regionaizations that also included racial Americanization, Latin Americanization, Palestinization, and South Africanization. In the European context post-1945 race has been constructed as externaility. Such situations as the South African apartheid state and the segregation and inequalities of the United States provided the expression for Europe in regards to race. Meanwhile in Europe the “touchstone for race” was the Jewish holocaust of the 1930’s and 1940’s perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the often forgotten (and numerous) collaborators to the regime.
Goldberg explained a little of his method in ‘reading’ race in society. He stated that social structures often contain “inflections with racial meaning”. In reading these inflections one must distinguish between the normative/evaluative and what is being intended.
This was expanded later in an answer to a question in regards to methodology:
1. Look at demographic representation (population make-up, groups, etc.)
2. Compare this with difference in representation of elite areas of the labor market. Also with representation at universities and within other institutional structures.
3. Look at where people live. Where they are being made to live and where they are choosing to live.
4. From this inferences can be drawn on who ‘belongs’ and who does not ‘belong’.
5. Finally how to displace distanciation and overcoming exoticisation.
What is being intended can be determined by looking at the contexts of representation. There is often a lot of ambiguity in categorization and Goldberg made reference to the belief that “race is an empty cypher” and qualified it by asking well, where does it get it’s meaning from then? The motivations behind racial representations are often regional, hence the 5 parts to the study mentioned.
He stated that race is not simply and idea or an understanding but rather a way of living and being. In analyzing this he looks as the factors of expression, imposition and exclusion in regards to race and how race is ordered by history.
We then were taken into an example of this in “the real world” centered around the 2004 murder of Theo van Gough in Amsterdam. This was discussed in detail by Goldberg and I was listening and did not take notes. As many would remember the murder of Van Gough opened a vein in the European body politic. One reference made by Goldberg in relation to this is
“The election (on 15 November) on Dutch TV of the “greatest Dutch person of all time”…Pim Fortuyn was declared the winner, but the next morning it turned out that many more votes were given to William of Orange, votes that could not be counted on time because of a technical failure.” (Open Democracy)
Goldberg identified William of Orange as the uber-architect of apartheid in South Africa, the Vader des vaderlands, “Father of the fatherland”. I remember William as the conqueror of Ireland.
This is tied as well to what Goldberg explained as colonial history being non-European history. Out of this matrix of relations that can be framed under political economy and representation.
In the discussion which followed the main part of Godlberg’s presentation he recommended “Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order” (Critical Social Studies), Stuart Hall, Charles Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke (1978).
It is important to discern what underpins forms of representation. These can be looked at in terms of signifiers and structural conditions. What is it that dominates forms of representation. Acting rather than reacting to representation is important. Goldberg pointed to the present global situation known as “the war on terror” as worrying when “militarization is the arbiter of truth”.
The film Glub was given by Goldberg as an example of positive action in regards to representations of race, visibility and invisibility:
“GLUB (Hearts) is a film about seeds; the eating of them, the shells, the shops and stalls, the people cracking the shells and spitting them out; you see it and you don’t, hidden as it is in ordinariness. It is a phenomenon that embodies the invisibility that comes with both the hyper-visibility of pervasive presence, and the formlessness of what is situated between countability and mass. Utterly material, seeds are countable items but their countability does not matter. Instead, what characterizes seeds or glub is their massive presence. This cultural habit determines the way the street looks, not only because the shells are dropped, but also because eating is a communal activity, which makes the interaction between people look different; less indifferent. Shahram Entekhabi speculated that it is this aspect, a “symptom”; of migration that only becomes visible once you notice it, that has made Berlin so much more lively, both as an urban place and, indirectly, as an art world. As soon as Entekhabi mentioned this to Mieke Bal, they had a project; they began to associate on the idea of seeds, and to collect visual memories.”