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Debate | GLASS Roundtable

Blind Spots: Seeing Race in the 21st Century

  • Ann Stoler
Thursday 19 May 2016
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

To wrap up her GLASS program, Ann Stoler will lead the GLASS Roundtable, which will feature other Leiden researchers engaged in the topic of race as a blindspot. All are welcome.


Blind Spots: Seeing Race in the 21st Century

The denial of race as a persistent organizing principle of quotidian and institutional politics marks a distinct ‘blindspot’ —to borrow from W. E. B. Du Bois’ famous 1936 formation—that keeps the issue of race in the margins of dominant political discourse. Our denial removes race from its embedded-ness in questions of gender, ethnic conflict, class struggle, and increasingly, religiosity, domestic and foreign policy, migration, and displacement. Racial identities are products of racial oppression, never natural but constructed, as Paul Gilroy noted. Histories of colonialism, struggles and activism have marked the discourse of race, and yet, after the high noon of the civil rights movement in the twentieth century, race has largely fallen away as an analytic that illuminates significant fault lines in historical and contemporary projects of nation-building, capitalism, citizenship and governance. Only recently - and only in very specific articulations - has race re-emerged as an issue in mainstream political and cultural discourse: #blacklivesmatter (US), Zwarte Piet is Racisme (NL), and #RhodesMustFall (SA) all comprise context-specific expressions of experiences and histories of racism that are far from finished.

While these social movements forefront enduring configurations of racism in the present, race haunts rather than explicitly animates various other global discourses on social justice, repair, equality, and political recognition. Etienne Balibar has argued that racism in the era of ‘decolonization’ is a ‘racism without races’, one that has shifted the basis of its argument from nature (inherent biological difference) to culture (insurmountable cultural difference): "we now move from the theory of races… to a theory of ‘race relations’ within society, which naturalizes not racial belonging but racist conduct" (1992: 22, original emphasis). This panel seeks to discuss how and where to look for race in the twenty-first century. It poses questions that engage with the meta-politics of our recent past and contemporary realities, to probe the internal mechanisms, assumptions and denials that displace the question of race ever into the margins, or at best to national, regional politics.


Questions for Thought

  • In current globalized, multicultural societies, what are the political complexities and consequences of inserting explicitly racialized discourse back into discussions of immigration, religion, citizenship and

  • How have the ideology of free-market and its critiques deployed race? In what ways is the rise of neoliberalism linked to the idea of post-racialism?

  • What is it about this particular conjuncture and historical moment that seems to be giving rise to a revitalized, movement towards racial consciousness and activism?

  • What is the continued analytical potential of race and what are its limitations?

  • How does race speak to and inflect the struggles and triumphs of gender identities?

  • How does race articulate with notions of religiosity and secular modernity? 

  • Can race be rethought beyond discrimination and memories of oppression, and into the new post-globalization politics of belonging?



Chair: TBA

Professor Ann Stoler (New School) 
Dr. Tsolin Nalbantian (LIAS, Leiden) 
Dr. Guno Jones (History, Leiden) 
Prof. Robert Ross (History, Leiden)

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