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Racism

ALBERT MEMMI
FOREWORD BY KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH
TRANSLATED AND WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY STEVE MARTINOT
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt5vkbgd
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  • Book Info
    Racism
    Book Description:

    An eminent social analyst examines the way racism works-and how it can be overcome.Racism: It is social, not "natural"; it is general, not "personal"; and it is tragically effective. In a remarkable meditation on a subject at the troubled center of American life, Albert Memmi investigates racism as social pathology-a cultural disease that prevails because it allows one segment of society to empower itself at the expense of another. By turns historical, sociological, and autobiographical, Racism moves beyond individual prejudice and taste to engage the broader questions of collective behavior and social responsibility.The book comprises three sections-"Description," "Definition," and "Treatment"-in which Memmi delineates racism's causes and hidden workings, examines its close affinity to colonialism, and considers its everyday manifestations over a period of centuries throughout the West.For Memmi, the structure of racism has four "moments": the insistence on difference; the negative valuation imposed on those who differ; the generalizing of this negative valuation to an entire group; and the use of generalization to legitimize hostility. Memmi shows how it is not racism's content-which can change at will-but its form that gives it such power and tenacity.Born in a poor section of Tunis, Tunisia, a Jew among Muslims, an Arab among Europeans, Memmi brings his own experience of the complex contours of prejudice to his analysis of a problem that divides societies the world over. Writing in the tradition of Frantz Fanon, Memmi redirects debates about racism-and offers a rare chance for progress against social prejudice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4375-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. VII-XI)
    Kwame Anthony Appiah

    Albert Memmi is best known in the English-speaking world for his powerful complementary portraits ofThe Colonizer and the Colonized,essays in a tradition in Francophone letters of which Jean-Paul Sartre’sAnti-Semite and Jewand Frantz Fanon’sBlack Skin, White Masksare the most distinguished predecessors. In this tradition, a political problem—anti-Semitism, racism, colonialism—is explored in part through the sketching of a philosophical-psychological portrait of representative actors in the social drama; ideal types, if you will, of the Anti-Semite, the Jew, the Negro, the Colonizer. Like Sartre and Fanon, Memmi seeks to understand the processes by which the...

  4. LIST OF WORKS
    (pp. XII-XIV)
    ALBERT MEMMI
  5. INTRODUCTION: THE DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS
    (pp. XV-XXXVI)
    Steve Martinot

    When, in 1949, Albert Memmi returned to his native Tunisia from Paris, where he had been studying, it was as if from exile, and with a great sense of disillusionment. Having graduated from French schools in Tunisia, he had expected France to fulfill some of the promises of high culture and civilization made by French colonialism. Instead, he encountered alienation, venality, and dehumanizing suspiciousness. Upon his return, he involved himself in the national liberation movements that sought to free North Africa from French colonialism. He became one of the leading members of a new generation of Francophone North African poets...

  6. DESCRIPTION
    (pp. 1-88)

    There is a strange kind of tragic enigma associated with the problem of racism. No one, or almost no one, wishes to see themselves as racist; still, racism persists, real and tenacious. When one asks about it, even those who have shown themselves to be racist will deny it and politely excuse themselves: “Me, racist? Absolutely not! What an insult even to suggest such a thing!” Well, if racists don’t exist, racist attitudes and modes of behavior do; everyone can find them . . . in someone else. Racist speech and ideas should appear annoying by now, and out of...

  7. DEFINITION
    (pp. 89-122)

    The unfolding of a thought does not always resemble that of life. Were things to happen the way they should, the outcome of these long researches and theorizations should have been definitive. As it is, I have had to put these studies together in several different ways. When Lucie Faure, the editor ofLe Nef,¹ asked me to collaborate on a special issue on racism, I jumped at the chance and wrote the article “Racism: An Attempt at a Definition.” I reviewed the four points developed inThe Colonizer and the Colonized, which were further elaborated inPortrait of a...

  8. TREATMENT
    (pp. 123-166)

    It is not required of an author that he provide the practical applications of his investigations. He himself does not always perceive them. Usually, it takes other, more ingenious minds. But more important, one does not hold his theoretical work responsible if its practical conclusions seem unacceptable. That said, the empirical implications of this work seem obvious and are not wholly discouraging.

    What can we conclude from all this? First, the alarming (unconscionable)banality of racism, to paraphrase the now-famous expression of Hannah Arendt, who spoke, with respect to the Eichmann trial, of “the banality of evil.”¹ And, having brought...

  9. APPENDIX A: AN ATTEMPT AT A DEFINITION
    (pp. 169-182)
  10. APPENDIX B: WHAT IS RACISM?
    (pp. 183-196)
  11. APPENDIX C: THE RELATIVITY OF PRIVILEGE
    (pp. 197-204)
  12. APPENDIX D: THE MYTHIC PORTRAIT OF THE COLONIZED
    (pp. 205-216)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 217-243)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 244-244)