[Stuart Hall] wants to understand how racism is cultivated in our imaginations, of how it
works in our heads, so that we can better combat it on the streets.
Racism as a philosophy: there is a natural connection between the way people look, the differences of color, hair, and bone, and what they think and do.
Hall’s argument is that all scientific attempts to prove that blacks are not as intelligent as whites have failed.
the title “Race: The Floating Signifier” implies that there is nothing solid or permanent to the meaning of race. It changes all the time - it shifts and slides.
Understanding racism is hard analytical work - but once we understand it, we can struggle against it.
Why classification is so important to human beings?
1) until you classify things, in different ways, you can’t generate any meaning at all (fundamental to human culture);
2) a way of maintaining the order of any system;
Mary Douglas: “matter out of place” (inside a culture, you know where the things belong, inside/outside, superiors/inferiors, etc.) - essentializing of race.
p.5 - Finding the right politics: the reason why [blackness] matters is not because what’s in our genes it’s because of what is in our history.
I want people to take politics a bit more seriously and to take biology less seriously.
LECTURE AT GOLDSMITHS COLLEGE New Cross London
What More is There to Say About ‘Race’?
Race: a discursive (not a genetic or biological) construct, a floating signifier.
Henry Louis Gates, Race, Writing and Difference
Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
About this general definition of racism:
1) it is common and conventional wisdom among scientists;
2) that fact has never prevented intense scholarly activity;
3) the radicalized implication of this scientific work(i.e. race and intelligence) are refused by large numbers of people.
p.8 - Race works like a language. Signifiers: making meaning practices (due to shifting relations of difference)
Reality of Racial Discrimination and Violence.
Two Positions: The Realist & the Textual
There are irreducible differences in the question of race:
1) Realist position: differences of a physiological kind or nature really do provide
the basis for classifying human races into families (and it is represented in our systems of thought and language)
2) Purely textual/linguistic position: race is autonomous of any system reference - it can only be tested in the play of the text, in the play of differences that we construct in our own language.
3) Discursive position: there are probably differences of all sorts in the world, … - there’s no reason to deny this reality or this diversity (in the sense that what matters are the systems we use to make sense, to make human societies intelligible).
representation of racial difference -> <- writing of power-> <- production of