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Toward a Global Idea of Race

Toward a Global Idea of Race

Series: Borderlines
Volume: 27
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Toward a Global Idea of Race
    Book Description:

    Rejecting the view that social categories of difference such as race and culture operate solely as principles of exclusion, Denise Ferreira da Silva presents a critique of modern thought that shows how racial knowledge and power produce global space. Silva proposes that the notion of racial difference governs the global power configuration because it institutes moral regions not covered by post-Enlightenment ethical ideals.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5438-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface: Before the Event
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Glossary
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: A Death Foretold
    (pp. xvii-xlii)

    What does Nietzsche’s madman already know when he yells, “I seek God”? What does he mean when he says that the “murder” of God unleashed a history “higher than all history hitherto?” Why does he ask, “Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?” and “Is not night continually closing in on us?”¹ What he knows—and what his listeners do not care to hear—is this: that the great accomplishment, the culmination of the victorious trajectory of reason that instituted man, the Subject, also foreshadowed his eventual demise. He knows that the philosophical conversation that instituted Man at...

  7. 1 The Transparency Thesis
    (pp. 1-16)

    Not the conversion of “such” peoples’ souls, it would turn out, but the cataloguing of their minds, undertaken about three hundred years later, produced the strategies of power governing contemporary global conditions. Early colonial texts, like Pero Vaz de Caminha’s letter of 1 May 1500 to King D. Manuel, are mostly tales of conquest: letters and diaries that provide the European traveler’s point of view; write the “native” first as “innocent” and “brute,” then as “irrational” and “savage”; and narrate the mishaps of the trips, the beauty and wealth of the newly appropriated royal lands, and the need to teach...

  8. PART I Homo Historicus

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      What Fanon’s account of the “fact of blackness” suggests is a formulation of the modern subject in which speech announces the precedence of the text, of language, of writing—a promise not undermined even when he refuses dialectics but embraces eschatology to reposit humanity at the horizon of racial emancipation. Holding onto this promise, I find in Fanon’s ([1952] 1967) account of racial subjection indications for a rewriting of the modern play that would reconcile his seemingly contradictory statements: “The black man isnotaman” (9 , my italics) and “The Negro isnot.Anymorethan the white man”...

    • 2 The Critique of Productive Reason
      (pp. 21-36)

      Following the ghost, seeking the lost treasures it announces, reason’s accursed offerings that refigure no -thing, require an exploration of the grounds it haunts—the recuperation of the site where thetransparent “I”and its “others” emerge as such, necessarily before each other. My task in this chapter is to describe analytical position and the toolbox I deploy to write modern representation “other”-wise. Both enable the refashioning of modern representation as themodern text,an account of the symbolic that describes how the “being and meaning” universal reason institutes are manufactured as byproductive strategies that both presuppose and institute a...

    • 3 The Play of Reason
      (pp. 37-68)

      What does history realize when “becoming” unfolds before the horizon of death? Precisely because it introduces an answer to this question, Frantz Fanon’s “Fact of blackness” offers a powerful point of departure for the critique of transparency. Not, however, as the ruling historicity imposes, because it describes a black or white subject of the frightened gaze trembling behind the veil of elusive transparency. Whatever blackness threatens to bring into (modern) representation will render the speech of man one, and just one, possible reference to the ontological context in which the black and the white man emerge as such. For if...

    • 4 Transcendental Poesis
      (pp. 69-90)

      Refashioning the modern subject without the desire that renders racial emancipation contingent on something hidden behind an ideological veil—just waiting for the “right” tools to “free” it from the alienating debris over which modernity was built—is not the declaration of the death of the “other of modernity.” By approaching the racial as the productive tool of reason that writes the “I” and its “others” before the horizon of death, I seek to understand the ways in which what has gone remains. For I am convinced that it exists in another fashion, that it does so because, as Jean-Luc...

  9. Part II Homo Scientificus

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 91-96)

      When mourning the death of his best friend, Dr. Frankenstein recalls that he “had never sympathized in my tastes for natural science, his literary pursuits differed completely from those which had occupied me” (Shelley [1818] 1991, 53). Evoking Clerval’s historic preferences, his interest in the East, religion, and language, Victor Frankenstein laments his own tragic choice. As his now deceased family, friend, and fiancée often reminded him, his scientific pursuits entailed hours, days, and weeks locked in his laboratory or searching for suitable body parts in hospitals and morgues—a life spent away from the warm world of the living...

    • 5 Productive Nomos
      (pp. 97-114)

      My charting of the context of the emergence of theanalytics of racialityin the previous part of this book shows how both versions of the play of reason,universal nomosanduniversal poesis,retain self-consciousness secure in interiority, subjected solely to its “inward determinations.” No writer of the scenes of reason addresses the mind as an affectable thing, that is, as subject to outer determination. Not even the formulators of scientific universality ever questioned the mind’s self-determination; none dared to bring it into the scrutiny of the tools of universalnomos.Not until the account oftranscendental poesisreconciled...

    • 6 The Science of the Mind
      (pp. 115-152)

      From its initial outlining in Descartes’s founding statement and in every later refashioning in the scenes of reason, self-consciousness, the self-determined thing, has been kept outside thestage of exteriority,the dominium of universal reason inhabited by the spatial (exterior/affectable) things. Before Hegel’s resolution of regulation into representation, in which self-consciousness becomes thetransparent “I,”neither the placing of man at the summit of nature nor the connection between bodily and social configurations allowed and/or necessitated projects of knowledge that deployed the tools of scientific reason to uncover the “truth” of the mind. What did not exist before the mid–...

    • 7 The Sociologics of Racial Subjection
      (pp. 153-170)

      When Robert E. Park appropriates the “stranger” to describe “the problem of race relations,” he does not inaugurate a project of knowledge that, as Yu (2001) poses, is “predicated on a definition of the exotic, of what is absolutely foreign and different about one place and another” (6). For the sociology of race relations was not the first social scientific project to write the “others of Europe” as “absolutely” (irreducibly and unsublatably) different. The figure of the stranger does no more than to refigure previous writings, those of the science of man and twentieth-century anthropology, of the others of Europe...

  10. PART III Homo Modernus

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 171-176)

      What, the reader may ask, can the tale of Prospero and Caliban teach about the effects of the writing of the “others of Europe” as affectable consciousness? When revisitingThe Tempest,like other postcolonial critics, I read the play as an allegory of conquest. However I choose to read in the account of Prospero’s magic—the circumstances it creates, its reach and limits, and the subject it creates—an outline of the modern grammar, I readThe Tempestas an account of engulfment. Although I acknowledge that, unlike Shakespeare’s play, which ends with a gesture of deference but not perhaps...

    • 8 Outlining the Global/Historical Subject
      (pp. 177-196)

      Why has the productive force of theanalytics of raciality,which Du Bois already articulated in the 1930s, been missed in both critical racial theorizing and postmodern critiques of modern thought? Though I could explore how theoretical and methodological choices—actually, the impossibility of forfeiting these choices to explore how they have become the only ones available—limit their comprehension of the political-symbolic operatives in the contemporary global configuration, I will engage what I think is the most crucial determination, that is, the assumption that the racial is a “‘scientific’ fabrication,” a signifier of colonial always already white anxiety and...

    • 9 The Spirit of Liberalism
      (pp. 197-220)

      Notwithstanding the U.S. liberal-capitalist configuration, at the turn of the twentieth century Europeans still questioned whether their North American cousins were building a “modern civilization.” Most doubted that its “progress,” economic prosperity, and democracy actualized a particular historical collective, that the people of the United States constituted a “spiritual individuality,” that is, a nation. In Brander Mathews’s (1906) reply to an unnamed French journalist, he indicates that such doubting could not be taken lightly: what Europeans call a “money-making” attitude behind U.S. economic prosperity, he says, was inherited from Pilgrim settlers whose courage and aggressiveness were pivotal for the conquest...

    • 10 Tropical Democracy
      (pp. 221-252)

      In 1848, Emperor Dom Pedro II went on his first and perhaps only trip to northern Brazil. Fresh memories of a few uncomfortable weeks spent at sea probably accounted for the grumpiness one senses in the journal entries written in the city of Salvador, in the northeastern state of Bahia. While there, the emperor divided his noble time between visits to unfinished construction sites and attendance at cultural events. Nevertheless, he still found time to observe the local faces. Surprised with the composition of the National Guard, he commented in his diary (1959 ): “I forgot to say that I...

  11. Conclusion: Future Anterior
    (pp. 253-268)

    What sort of answers would one find if she addressed the founding statements of modern representation, questions that already presuppose “Other”-wise? If abandoning “discovery,” the routine of “normal science,” which all too often repeats “thus it is proved” kinds of statements (Kuhn 1970), the analyst of the social asks other, disturbing, questions—for example, ones that assume that Don Quixote is both “right” and “wrong,” that windmills were indeed knights, though knights could never be/come windmills. For such questions to be imagined, the master account should not begin, as it does, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 269-300)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-318)
  14. Index
    (pp. 319-335)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 336-336)