Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Race, Culture and Livelihood

Yesterday I had the chance to attend a lecture by David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and Professor of African-American Studies and of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California at Irvine. It was an intense experience as terms such as 'Race', 'Racilization' (a term we were advised not to use by Professor Goldberg), 'Racial' and 'Racist' were examined in the contexts of history, society and conflict.

The title of the lecture was Racial Europeanization. The title is a part of a five region study looking at racial regionaizations that also included racial Americanization, Latin Americanization, Palestinization, and South Africanization.
In the European context post-1945 race has been constructed as externaility. Such situations as the South African apartheid state and the segregation and inequalities of the United States provided the expression for Europe in regards to race. Meanwhile in Europe the "touchstone for race" was the Jewish holocaust of the 1930's and 1940's perpetrated by Nazi Germany and the often forgotten (and numerous)collaborators to the regime.

Goldberg explained a little of his method in 'reading' race in society. He stated that social structures often contain "inflections with racial meaning". In reading these inflections one must distinguish between the normative/evaluative and what is being intended.

This was expanded later in an answer to a question in regards to methodology:
1. Look at demographic representation (population make-up, groups, etc.)
2. Compare this with difference in representation of elite areas of the labor market. Also with representation at universities and within other institutional structures.
3. Look at where people live. Where they are being made to live and where they are choosing to live.
4. From this inferences can be drawn on who 'belongs' and who does not 'belong'.
5. Finally how to displace distanciation and overcoming exoticisation.

(more on Goldberg's Lecture Here)

Following the lecture I came home and in the course of the evening I watched the Swedish program Uppdrag Granskning ("Mission Investigate") about a local court case between the Sámi reindeer herders and land holders. It seemed to be a life example of many of the points David Theo Goldberg was making in his lecture earlier in the day. One of the land holders, when asked about the survival of the nomadic culture of the Sámi said that it was good if it survived just as long as he did not have their practices (particulalry the driving of reindeer to seasonal pastures) near him. He wanted it to be invisible but present. This seems like a contradiction and a racially based one. Indeed the example of nomadic life practice seems to cross over the boarders (pardon the pun) between race, identity and ethnicity. Maybe this is why the Swedish state is having such a bother with it. The governemnt has largely ignored the whole issue, refusing to legislate in regards to "ancient land use", and to help with the huge financial cost to Sámi communities when they must launch cases against the land holders (the situation is the reverse in Norway where land holders must initiate cases against the "orginal people"; the Sámi). The communiites must borrow money from their own funding bodies to protect their material culture. Several of these cases have already been lost by the Sámi communities.
Meanwhile the Swedish government refuses to become involved, even continuing to use paternalistic terms such as "our Sámi" in parlimentary debate, and refusing to sign the United Nations Charter Convention (No. 169) concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (my homeland Australia has not signed either). Debate from the television documentary was large. Opinions expressed circle around themes of difference and likeness, who gets to say which is which and even non-Sámi peoples saying what is a Sámi (language, technology, and location seem to be important).

Some more links to David Theo Goldberg should be recomended to anyone trying to articluate a race based agenda:
Post-Racial States
Review of David Theo Godlberg’s lecture The Death of Race

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