2019 Visiting Scholar Seminar Series - The Debatability of Racism: Postracialism, digital media and public culture
Dr Gavan Titley
Dr Debbie Bargallie - Postdoctoral Senior Research Fellow
Racism, in public culture, is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. In the contemporary political context, to speak publicly about racism is to be immediately integrated into an intensive process of delineation, deflection and denial, a contest over who gets to define racism, when "everyone' gets to speak about it. In the postcolonial, migration nations of western Europe and North America, this contestation centres on the dominant imaginary of these societies as "post-racial', socio-political spaces in which, the story goes, the divisive "idea of race' no longer matters, and the violence of racism has been largely transcended. The public cultures of these societies are also shaped by dense transnational networks of media flow and communicative connectivity that provide unprecedented possibilities to both extend and challenge racializing discourses, images, frameworks and information.
The overlap between the two produces what this talk terms the debatability of racism. It argues that in contexts where official narratives and dominant public discourses assume the "end of racism' even as people who experience racism attest to its renewed formations and exclusionary and humiliating force, these everyday communicative concentrations on the status, nature and extent of racism are politically consequential - postracialism functions not only through "muting' and silencing, but through noise.
The talk suggests that this debatability, this incessant, recursive attention as to what counts as racism and who gets to define it, has political consequences for practices of antiracism - practices that want to name racism publicly, the better to mobilize to confront it.