Re-Situating Identities

Re-Situating Identities: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

VERED AMIT-TALAI
CAROLINE KNOWLES
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 313
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttq9d
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  • Book Info
    Re-Situating Identities
    Book Description:

    These essays seek to re-energize race and ethnic studies by moving away from the extremes of statistical reductionism and textual preoccupation that have marked the field and focusing instead on systematic and empirically grounded investigations of the production of identities in power relationships.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0294-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Introduction: Against Parochialism and Fragmentation
    (pp. 9-18)
    Vered Amit-Talai and Caroline Knowles

    Like its subjects, the study of race and ethnicity has combined an enthusiasm for invention and border crossings with an equally determined parochialism. For nearly three decades, anthropologists and sociologists have stressed the socially constructed and situationally contingent nature of racial and ethnic distinctions. With the end of the Cold War, more people moving than ever before, and the relentless innovation of communication technologies, the boundaries and identities of local political units appear increasingly uncertain. Indeed in the ensuing scholarly celebration of border zones, the Local sometimes seems in danger of a premature epistemological oblivion: people may still be living...

  4. Part I: Race and Racism

    • Introduction
      (pp. 21-23)

      Contemporary accounts of race and racism frequently begin with what has become a mantra: statements of urgency and political potency urging the reader to understand the demands which race and racism make upon the lives and bodies of those whose social locations they frame. Despite more than thirty years of theoretical framing and reframing in the social sciences, racial distinctions and the social inequalities and forms of violence with which they are arranged are, as ever, pressing issues of social reform. Racism has eluded sustained attempts to understand it, and to challenge it. Racial and ethnic cleansing in various parts...

    • 1 Does “Race” Matter? Transatlantic Perspectives on Racism after “Race Relations”
      (pp. 24-46)
      Robert Miles and Rudy Torres

      In April 1993, one year after the Los Angeles civil unrest, a major U.S. publisher released a book with the creatively ambiguous titleRace Mattersby the distinguished scholar Cornel West. The back cover of the slightly revised edition published the following year categorized it as a contribution to both African American studies and current affairs. The latter was confirmed by the publisher’s strategy of marketing the book as a “trade” rather than as an “academic” title: this was a book for the “American public” to read. And the American public was assured that they were reading a quality product when...

    • 2 Racism, Biography, and Psychiatry
      (pp. 47-67)
      Caroline Knowles

      Racism is embedded in political discourses and actions (Knowles 1992, Back and Solomos 1992), in the procedures and practices of public and social policies (Cambridge and Feuchtwang 1990), in national identities (Feuchtwang 1992:129), and in the many forms of collective representation of the “other.” Racism concerns the exclusions, the marginalization, and the social inequities attached to imagined collectivities and identified through the visibility of bodies. This paper explores, through the narratives of a black teacher living in Québec, some of the interconnections between two dimensions of racism: the administrative and the existential.

      Administrative racism consists of a multifaceted series of...

    • 3 Homing Devices
      (pp. 68-82)
      Phil Cohen

      The work of Benedict Anderson (1983) has helped us to recognize some of the more intimate registers through which imagined communities of “race” and “nation” are lived through in everyday life. Reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, or watching TV, in the apparent “privacy” of one’s own home – it is in these small quiet moments of “withdrawal,” as much as in the grand occasions and narratives of history that the work of nation-building goes on. And this should maybe alert us to the fact, which has perhaps been insufficiently explored, that domestic metaphors and images of privacy are frequently...

  5. Part II: The Politics of Identity

    • Introduction
      (pp. 85-88)

      As a term, the “politics of identity” has become popular only over the last few years. Ethnic politics, however, is hardly new (Esman, 1994) nor is the notion of collective identity as a political resource. Earlier constructions regarded ethnicity as a resource for group mobilization in pursuit of members’ common political interests. Ethnic boundaries emerged and were perpetuated through the competition between ethnic groups for scarce resources, often distributed and controlled by state agencies (Cohen 1969; Glazer & Moynihan 1965; Keyes 1981). In this version, ethnic politics operated in the shadows with little or no official acknowledgement. In the more...

    • 4 The Minority Circuit: Identity Politics and the Professionalization of Ethnic Activism
      (pp. 89-114)
      Vered Amit-Talai

      Within the metropolitan district of Greater Montreal, there are many hundreds of ethnic voluntary organizations. Small, large, ephemeral or enduring, single purpose or comprehensive, this extraordinarily varied array of associations involves thousands of organizers and volunteers. This chapter isnotabout these participants. It is, instead, concerned with a small, select set of high-profile Montreal activists, numbered in the dozens rather than the hundreds, who are regular players in an ongoing if somewhat inchoate circuit of public exercises in ethnic minority consultation and representation. While most of these events and many of its principal protagonists are publicized and contested, the...

    • 5 Mediating Identity: Kashtin, the Media, and the Oka Crisis
      (pp. 115-136)
      Val Morrison

      In this chapter I will show how the issue of mediated identity is crucial to understanding the dual roles of popular culture and ethnicity in contemporary Western societies. The empirical focus of the paper is on the First Nations³ musical duo, Kashtin, popular in Québec, and the media coverage surrounding them during the Oka Crisis in 1990. During the armed stand-off between Mohawks at the Kahnawake and Kanesatake Indian reservations and both provincial and federal levels of government, the music of Kashtin, who are not Mohawk, was boycotted by several influential French-language radio stations in Québec. The only direct link...

    • 6 Canada’s Visible Minorities: Identity and Representation
      (pp. 137-160)
      Anthony Synnott and David Howes

      This paper reviews the origins and development of the concept “visible minority” in Canada, reveals some critical limitations to its formulation and utility, and offers some directions for empirical sociological research to clarify the significance and role of visibility in the construction of minority ethnic identities.

      The concept “visible minority” was apparently coined in the early 1970s with a descriptive and egalitarian purpose in mind: to avoid some of the pejorative connotations of such terms as “non-whites” and “coloureds,” and to stress the common problem faced by all visible minorities, namely, white racism and the colour prejudices of the white...

    • 7 The Beauty of Valuing Black Cultures
      (pp. 161-184)
      Alrick Cambridge

      Many black cultural critics are silent about the very thought of making explicit the principles by which they value black artistic creations and expressive cultures. Instead, what we are likely to find in their work is a continual play upon certain metaphorical figurations. For example, we find the quoted category “race,” and the presumption that its symbolism is all important, yet not much analysis of the causal force of racial categorization (racism) itself; meanwhile we find the categories ofambivalence, hybridity,andrepresentation,all of which in their repetitive and uncritical use are denuded of meaningful content. Sometimes the latter...

  6. Part III: Memory and Histories

    • Introduction
      (pp. 187-189)

      Interest in the individual as a source of memory and meaning has led to the repositioning of the relationship between agency and social structure across a range of social science-related disciplines. Memory, and its place in the reconstruction of historical accounts, is now a large and significant intellectual and political enterprise (Passerini 1992). The past has never been more contingent, as the greater certainties of public historiography are contested by individual and collective memories. How events, people, and places invoking racial and ethnic identities are remembered recalls Portelli’s (1993) image of a haunted house. But memory is a haunted house...

    • 8 Remembering Forgetfully
      (pp. 190-217)
      Henri Lustiger-Thaler

      The lines separating remembering and forgetting have tightly woven cultural borders. One group’s need to remember is often grist for another’s desire to forget. It is not surprising that acts of public commemoration have as much strategically inscribed within them as they have excluded. Memory and forgetting are hence part of an embedded historical discourse that evokes as it simultaneously erases, inevitably unfolding on many different social registers and in different “memory encounters” between groups, as they attempt to articulate their sense of (dis)location within the present.

      This chapter is about the border-crossings of memory and forgetting that have been...

    • 9 Shared Memory in Community: Oral History, Community, and Race Relations
      (pp. 218-239)
      Tracy E. K’Meyer

      With these words Kay Weiner opens a book of reminiscences published for the fiftieth anniversary of Koinonia Farm, a Christian cooperative in southwest Georgia. Koinonia combined agricultural extension, rural missions, and community living in an effort to improve race relations in Sumter County, Georgia. Its fifty-year history raises issues of race and community, and provides the opportunity to consider the memory of them. Remembering happens on several levels. In personal interviews individuals recall their experiences and motivations. In conjunction with the recent fiftieth anniversary, Koinonians shaped a shared public memory. Finally, the anniversary coincided approximately with other civil rights landmarks,...

    • 10 Dilemmas of Discovery: Europeans and “America”
      (pp. 240-262)
      Robert Paine

      The focus of this essay is on the European following the Discovery. Nonetheless, this leads us back to the ontology of the Other in which Europeans cast Amerindians. I also hope to put into context thelack ofexcitement which the Discovery occasioned in Europe, even though it was, in so many ways, without historical precedent. Throughout, and especially, I try to illuminate and explicate the sense of dilemma which the Discovery of America and contact with the aboriginal inhabitants presented to late Medieval/early Renaissance European thought. Essentially, what I offer is a report on some recent scholarly writings that...

  7. Part IV: Nationalism and Transnationalism

    • Introduction
      (pp. 265-266)

      Given the extraordinary complexity of cultural and social organization, it is hardly surprising that multi-level analysis has posed so formidable a challenge. Unfortunately, rather too often we have converted an unavoidable analytical shortfall into a competition for sociological primacy. In the field of ethnic studies, this rivalry has manifested itself in successive claims for the greater generative significance of what are in fact complementary processes. Consideration of state and more recently global impetuses have, therefore, sometimes come at the expense of individual experience and local groupings, trading one partiality for another. People, however, cannot step out of the local to...

    • 11 Owning the Nation, and the Personal Nature of Nationalism: Locality and the Rhetoric of Nationhood in Scotland
      (pp. 267-282)
      Anthony P. Cohen

      The language of ownership lends itself well to the expression of identity. Identity “belongs to” someone, even though it may be by public attribution rather than (or conflicting with) self-ascription.² Indeed, children may come to experience identity through the expression of possession. The British child talks, with emphasis, of “myMum,” “myhouse,” “myschool,” as if these were extensions of herself. These possessive associations extend also into the arena of social membership which characterizes a more mature assertion of identity:myfamily,mycountry. This paper focuses on the last instance, the ownership of nation; and, in particular, on...

    • 12 The Multiple Landscapes of Transnational Asian Women in the Diaspora
      (pp. 283-303)
      Parminder Bhachu

      In this paper, I discuss the complex nature of migration and settlement. I point to the variations in migration and settlement trajectories, which produce a range of diasporic cultures in which Asian women are situated internationally. The vast majority of literature available on the subject treats migration as a single first movement of direct migrants to their destination economies. Yet there are direct, twice, and thrice migrant women, many of whom are involved in fourth movements, especially in the 1990s. These multiple migrations are important to the ways different migrants view themselves, to their orientations to a homeland, and to...

  8. Index
    (pp. 304-313)