Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rancière on Racism

Wrong Arithmetic has posted a rough translation of Jacques Rancière's recent talk "Racisme, une passion d'en haut" (delivered at a forum on the expulsion of the Roma from France. The title translates as "Racism, a passion from above"). Rancière, like Badiou, is a long time critic of both state racism in France and the so-called left wing intellectuals that support it. Rather than view the expulsion of the Roma as a ploy to exploit racist passions for electoral gain, Rancière notes (I'm using Wrong Arithmetic's translation below) that:
The last racist campaign wasn’t at all organised by the so-called ‘populist’ extreme-right. It was directed by an intelligentsia that claims to be a Leftist, republican and secular intelligentsia. Discrimination is no longer based on arguments about superior and inferior races. They argue in the name of the struggle against ‘communitarianism’, universality of the law and the equality of all citizens before the law and the equality of the sexes. There again, they are not embarrassed by so many contradictions; these arguments are made by people who otherwise make very little of equality and Feminism. In fact, the argument mostly creates an essential relation [l’amalgame requis] for identifying the undesirable: thus the relation between migrant, immigrant, backward, Islamist, chauvanist and terrorist. The recourse to universality in fact benefits its contrary: the establishment of a discretionary state power that decides who belongs and who doesn’t belong to the class of those who have the right to be here; the power, in short, to confer and remove identities.
He concludes that:
a lot of energy has been spent against a certain figure of racism—embodied in the Front National—and a certain idea that this racism is the expression of ‘white trash’ (‘petite blancs‘) and represents the backward layers of society. A substantial part of that energy has been recuperated to build the legitimacy a new form of racism: state racism and ‘Leftist’ intellectual racism. It is perhaps time to reorient our thinking and the struggle against a theory and a practice of stigmatisation, precariatisation and exclusion which today constitutes a racism from above: a logic of the state and a passion of the intelligentsia. 

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