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Lighter than Blood: Ethnic Statistics as an Equality Tool in Racialized European Societies

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Abstract:

“Ethnic statistics” have a long history made of domination, exclusion and mass murder. In reaction to these (mis)use of statistics, alternative strategies have been implemented. We identify four types of historical setting of data collection’s regimes, the last of which, “counting to justify positive action” has appeared recently and implies a complete reversal of the racist and discriminatory perspective of the first case.

This last type, I will argue, is opening a new era of “ethnic statistics” where the ascription’s dimension of categorization is jeopardized by self-identification methods which create the condition for a more fluid and blurred process of classification. In a certain way, ethnic and racial statistics are exemplifying the constructivist dimension of categorization, against all ideas of essentialism behind identities and figures. In multicultural societies, ethnic statistics are then designed to implement and monitor equality policies which strive to redress the historical wrongs generated during slavery, colonial times, and more generally the European expansion and domination of the world. Beyond the pragmatics of identity politics which try to reconcile self-definition of identity and identification of potential victims of discrimination, I will trace back the process of racialization to the failure of the post-1945 strategy to erase race and racism through colorblind policies.

I will use France as a case study on the contradictions within colorblind strategies. The saliency of race and ethnicity in everyday life, media and public discourses in contemporary France calls for a reappraisal of the alleged colorblindness of French society. The credo of indifference to differences - the French colorblind approach – has led to promoting what I call the choice of ignorance by removing any reference to ethnic or racial origin from policies or laws -- in compliance with the Constitution -- as well as from statistics. But this official ignorance does not mean that “race” is not perceived and used as a cognitive category, or that it does not serve for the purpose of identification and affiliation of a growing number of racial minority members who claim recognition. Is colorblindness as horizon should be achieved with colorblind tools? And how the new equality policies that have been put forward by antidiscrimination directives in Europe can be combined with colorblind societies? These crucial issues will be discussed from the perspective of categorization for statistical purpose,, both at the European level and the French case.
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Association:
Name: Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies
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http://www.ces.columbia.edu


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p400453_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Simon, Patrick. "Lighter than Blood: Ethnic Statistics as an Equality Tool in Racialized European Societies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies, Grand Plaza, Montreal, Canada, <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p400453_index.html>

APA Citation:

Simon, P. "Lighter than Blood: Ethnic Statistics as an Equality Tool in Racialized European Societies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies, Grand Plaza, Montreal, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p400453_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: “Ethnic statistics” have a long history made of domination, exclusion and mass murder. In reaction to these (mis)use of statistics, alternative strategies have been implemented. We identify four types of historical setting of data collection’s regimes, the last of which, “counting to justify positive action” has appeared recently and implies a complete reversal of the racist and discriminatory perspective of the first case.

This last type, I will argue, is opening a new era of “ethnic statistics” where the ascription’s dimension of categorization is jeopardized by self-identification methods which create the condition for a more fluid and blurred process of classification. In a certain way, ethnic and racial statistics are exemplifying the constructivist dimension of categorization, against all ideas of essentialism behind identities and figures. In multicultural societies, ethnic statistics are then designed to implement and monitor equality policies which strive to redress the historical wrongs generated during slavery, colonial times, and more generally the European expansion and domination of the world. Beyond the pragmatics of identity politics which try to reconcile self-definition of identity and identification of potential victims of discrimination, I will trace back the process of racialization to the failure of the post-1945 strategy to erase race and racism through colorblind policies.

I will use France as a case study on the contradictions within colorblind strategies. The saliency of race and ethnicity in everyday life, media and public discourses in contemporary France calls for a reappraisal of the alleged colorblindness of French society. The credo of indifference to differences - the French colorblind approach – has led to promoting what I call the choice of ignorance by removing any reference to ethnic or racial origin from policies or laws -- in compliance with the Constitution -- as well as from statistics. But this official ignorance does not mean that “race” is not perceived and used as a cognitive category, or that it does not serve for the purpose of identification and affiliation of a growing number of racial minority members who claim recognition. Is colorblindness as horizon should be achieved with colorblind tools? And how the new equality policies that have been put forward by antidiscrimination directives in Europe can be combined with colorblind societies? These crucial issues will be discussed from the perspective of categorization for statistical purpose,, both at the European level and the French case.


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