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Race in Translation

Race in Translation: Culture Wars around the Postcolonial Atlantic

Robert Stam
Ella Shohat
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 383
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  • Book Info
    Race in Translation
    Book Description:

    While the term culture wars often designates the heated arguments in the English-speaking world spiraling around race, the canon, and affirmative action, in fact these discussions have raged in diverse sites and languages. Race in Translation charts the transatlantic traffic of the debates within and between three zones - the U.S., France, and Brazil. Stam and Shohat trace the literal and figurative translation of these multidirectional intellectual debates, seen most recently in the emergence of postcolonial studies in France, and whiteness studies in Brazil. The authors also interrogate an ironic convergence whereby rightist politicians like Sarkozy and Cameron join hands with some leftist intellectuals like Benn Michaels, iek, and Bourdieu in condemning multiculturalism and identity politics. At once a report from various fronts in the culture wars, a mapping of the germane literatures, and an argument about methods of reading the cross-border movement of ideas, the book constitutes a major contribution to our understanding of the Diasporic and the Transnational.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2392-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. 1 The Atlantic Enlightenment
    (pp. 1-25)

    THE ENTIRE ATLANTIC world was shaped by 1492 and what is euphemistically called the “encounter,” which engendered not only a catastrophe for indigenous peoples but also a crisis in European thinking. The clash of Europe and indigene provoked a multifaceted reflection on utopia (Thomas More) and dystopia (Bartolomé de las Casas). The intertextual backdrop of the contemporary “culture wars” lies in the contradictions of an Enlightenment that was not exclusively European. The phrase “ Atlantic Enlightenment” refers both to a geography and a concept. Enlightenment thought was a hybrid intellectual production; it was generated not only in Europe but also...

  6. 2 A Tale of Three Republics
    (pp. 26-60)

    HAVING SKETCHED OUT the larger Atlantic seascape as the backdrop to our discussion, we now examine the long-term strands of historical connection between the United States, Brazil, and France as three national zones positioned both similarly and differently toward the race/colonial question. Our trilateral focus is on (1) a “paradigmatic” European nation-state— France—an erstwhile imperial power with a defined territory and a common language, a country historically linked to foundational theorizations of nations and nationalism; and (2) a continent-sized colonial-settler “nation of nations”—the United States—the superpower headquarters of an empire of bases classified with the “First World”...

  7. 3 The Seismic Shift and the Decolonization of Knowledge
    (pp. 61-92)

    CENTRAL 20TH-CENTURY EVENTS—WORLD War II, the Jewish Holocaust, and Third World independence struggles—all simultaneously delegitimized the West as axiomatic center of reference and affirmed the rights of non-European peoples emerging from the yoke of colonialism. Although resistance to colonialism has existed since the very beginnings of colonization, this resistance reached critical mass in the postwar period. In the wake of centuries of struggles, decolonization achieved climactic expression with Indian independence in 1947, the Chinese revolution in 1949, Algerian independence in 1962, up through the independence of Mozambique and Angola in the mid-1970s. Thus, if Nazism, fascism, and the...

  8. 4 Identity Politics and the Right/Left Convergence
    (pp. 93-131)

    PREDICTABLY, CONSERVATIVES in many countries were not enthusiastic about the “seismic shift” manifested in these decolonizing projects. In the United States, the right accused multicultural “ identity politics” of causing racial “balkanization” and “ethnic separatism.” In a faux populist attack stagemanaged by elite circles in the Republican Party, the right ridiculed these projects as a new politically correct version of the communist menace. Right-wing polemicists mocked what they saw as oversensitive do-gooders stifling free speech in the name of touchy-feely sympathy for minorities. In an analogy that aligned the tumultuous 1960s with the French Revolution and the politically correct 1990s...

  9. 5 France, the United States, and the Culture Wars
    (pp. 132-174)

    AS WE NOTED in chapter 3, France and the Francophone zones formed key sites in the postwar paradigm shift in thinking about race and colonialism, with May 1968 forming the high-water mark of Third Worldism. While de Gaulle pursued his independent path between the United States and the Soviet Union, the left mounted massive demonstrations, along with an immense intellectual production in support of Third World revolutions and resistance movements in the United States. The postwar period also witnessed the emergence of an embryonic black movement ensuant to the arrival in France of a new generation of African and West...

  10. 6 Brazil, the United States, and the Culture Wars
    (pp. 175-208)

    THE POST–WORLD WAR ii period in Brazil was a time of relative democratization after the demise in 1945 of Vargas’s authoritarian New State first installed in 1937. Internationally, the defeat of Nazism led to the global discrediting of fascist racism. After 1945, the chauvinistic right-wing movement called “Integralism” was on the defensive, and democratic, union, and black movements were on the upswing. At the same time, Brazilian left intellectuals expressed support for the decolonization of much of Asia and Africa, including in the region that most directly concerned Brazil: the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé,...

  11. 7 From Affirmative Action to Interrogating Whiteness
    (pp. 209-243)

    THIS CHAPTER ADDRESSES, within a larger Atlantic context, two issues that might at first glance seem to be only vaguely related: Affirmative Action and whiteness studies. While the former represents concrete remedial measures, the latter forms part of an innovative academic trend. Yet the two issues are linked in that they address two forms of white privilege, one social and material, the other subjective and cognitive. Remedial measures have the effect of “outing” and “naming,” as it were, a preexisting white advantage accumulated over centuries. While Affirmative Action centers on those who have been disadvantaged by a racialized system, whiteness...

  12. 8 French Intellectuals and the Postcolonial
    (pp. 244-269)

    IT IS IN FRANCE, one of the key sites of Enlightenment thinking, that the contemporary debates are most explicitly seen as continuous with early debates aroundLes Lumièresand the Revolution. Both the popular media and high-profile public intellectuals portray the conflict as one between universal secular Enlightenment and religious and communitarian particularism. As we saw earlier, the dominant line in French intellectual life during much of the 1990s was antagonistic to discourses of critical race, identity politics, and multiculturalism. Until recently, postcolonial theory too formed a structuring absence in the dominant French discourse. This absence contrasted not only with...

  13. 9 The Transnational Traffic of Ideas
    (pp. 270-300)

    IN THIS CHAPTER, we theorize the multidirectional traffic of ideas concerning race/coloniality across the three zones through an analysis of a quadrille of readings whereby intellectuals from one country engage with intellectuals from a second country who make claims about a third country. We also sketch out the history of U. S. and French academic studies of Brazil, while intervening in the debates about the dissemination of French theory in the Americas. As part of our transnational and translational approach, we analyze Bourdieu/Wacquant’s critique of Michael Hanchard’s work on the black consciousness movement in Brazil, including a discussion of that...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 301-334)
  15. Index
    (pp. 335-362)
  16. About the Authors
    (pp. 363-363)