Sunday, January 15, 2006

A World without Race: Does black nationalism have to go too?

The Boston Review has a review by Dorothy Roberts of Paul Gilroy's Postcolonial Melancholia

"The renewed acceptance of inherent racial differences has gone hand in hand with intensified state surveillance of inner-city communities: racial profiling, mass incarceration, welfare restructuring, and the removal of children from families into foster care. As its lineage foreshadows, the biological definition of race provides a ready rationale for this disenfranchisement of black citizens and complements colorblind policies based on the claim that racism is no longer the cause of social inequality.

Given this alarming convergence, black intellectuals today face a critical question: how can we fight systemic racism without relying on the idea that biology divides human beings into races?

Paul Gilroy’s Postcolonial Melancholia is a deeply engaging exploration of this question. The book, Gilroy’s most recent assault on both racism and the concept of race, examines Britain’s urban centers to extend the cosmopolitan anti-race project he began in his influential books, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack and Against Race. Here, Gilroy applies the Freudian concept of melancholia, as it was adapted by German social psychologists to explain Germany’s postwar reactions to its “loss of a fantasy of omnipotence.” He argues that, while Britain attempts to deny the contemporary effects of its imperialist past, it has effectively reaffirmed the colonial order, with its racial divisions, through the post-9/11 “politics of security.” At the same time, this reaffirmation neglects the spontaneous and vibrant multiculturalism that has emerged in British cities and that might, Gilroy argues, provide a “bulwark against the machinations of racial politics.” (more)


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