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Racial Order and Reorder: Tracing Genealogies of the ‘Post-Racial’

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Abstract:

By the end of the nineties, racialized social justice, in particular, state programs for affirmative action in the United States had sustained a series of vitriolic and devastating assaults. Cultural mythologies of bootstraps individualism dovetailed with moral panics over ‘welfare queens’ as anxious whiteness claimed a new and paranoid victimhood within shifting realities of American labor markets. The wrongs of ‘reverse racism,’ it would appear, could only be righted by a return to mythic meritocratic fairness, by snapping ourselves out of our ‘absolutely stupid race mentality,’ by securing a ‘colorblind’ America. A decade later, as ascendant discourses of neoliberalism worked to edge the state out of indexing, auditing, indeed seeing race, a new generation of black elites – hip hop moguls and media mavens, corporate leaders and state elites – ascended visible hierarchies of economic and political power, taking shape as rich cultural metonyms for ‘how far we have come.’ As civil rights solidarities faltered and racial constituencies reformulated into new political configurations, voices from the right as well as the left joined in a national introspection about the arrival of a ‘post-racial’ America.
Reordering race as ‘the difference that makes no difference at all,’ the idea of the ‘post-racial’ has emerged, in recent years, as a key cultural signifier of powerful shifts in the discursive logics of race, a potent sign of what David Theo Goldberg views as the “neoliberalization of race.” Imbricated within larger mythologies that authorize white claims to racial victimhood and black discipline toward proper standards of American individualism and entrepreneurialism, these national introspections reveal the terms of the discursive bricolage of the idea of the ‘post-racial.’ Political commentaries and op-eds published in major national newspapers, the agendas of think tanks, policy symposia, and public conferences thematizing the end and/or future of race in America, interviews and ‘race’ speeches by public figures, and popular cultural refrains that echo these articulations – each, as Michel Foucault has suggested, carries a special potency to say what counts as ‘true’ and each articulates the discursive logics of these shifts.
I propose a careful analysis of elements of this bricolage, tracing claims and counter-claims that have circulated in political and popular discourse in recent years, toward a rough genealogy of the idea of the ‘post-racial.’ Drawing upon a range of the foregoing sources, the analysis maps the semiotic trajectories and epistemic influences of the idea of the ‘post-racial.’ My point in the essay is to construct a brief discursive history of the term itself – what it means, how it functions, what shifts it has endured, and with what consequences – in ways that would help unpack the discursive power and vulnerabilities of the idea of the ‘post-racial,’ and crucially, to illuminate its service, at the current moment, to the racial labors of neoliberalism.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p497317_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Mukherjee, Roopali. "Racial Order and Reorder: Tracing Genealogies of the ‘Post-Racial’" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p497317_index.html>

APA Citation:

Mukherjee, R. "Racial Order and Reorder: Tracing Genealogies of the ‘Post-Racial’" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p497317_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: By the end of the nineties, racialized social justice, in particular, state programs for affirmative action in the United States had sustained a series of vitriolic and devastating assaults. Cultural mythologies of bootstraps individualism dovetailed with moral panics over ‘welfare queens’ as anxious whiteness claimed a new and paranoid victimhood within shifting realities of American labor markets. The wrongs of ‘reverse racism,’ it would appear, could only be righted by a return to mythic meritocratic fairness, by snapping ourselves out of our ‘absolutely stupid race mentality,’ by securing a ‘colorblind’ America. A decade later, as ascendant discourses of neoliberalism worked to edge the state out of indexing, auditing, indeed seeing race, a new generation of black elites – hip hop moguls and media mavens, corporate leaders and state elites – ascended visible hierarchies of economic and political power, taking shape as rich cultural metonyms for ‘how far we have come.’ As civil rights solidarities faltered and racial constituencies reformulated into new political configurations, voices from the right as well as the left joined in a national introspection about the arrival of a ‘post-racial’ America.
Reordering race as ‘the difference that makes no difference at all,’ the idea of the ‘post-racial’ has emerged, in recent years, as a key cultural signifier of powerful shifts in the discursive logics of race, a potent sign of what David Theo Goldberg views as the “neoliberalization of race.” Imbricated within larger mythologies that authorize white claims to racial victimhood and black discipline toward proper standards of American individualism and entrepreneurialism, these national introspections reveal the terms of the discursive bricolage of the idea of the ‘post-racial.’ Political commentaries and op-eds published in major national newspapers, the agendas of think tanks, policy symposia, and public conferences thematizing the end and/or future of race in America, interviews and ‘race’ speeches by public figures, and popular cultural refrains that echo these articulations – each, as Michel Foucault has suggested, carries a special potency to say what counts as ‘true’ and each articulates the discursive logics of these shifts.
I propose a careful analysis of elements of this bricolage, tracing claims and counter-claims that have circulated in political and popular discourse in recent years, toward a rough genealogy of the idea of the ‘post-racial.’ Drawing upon a range of the foregoing sources, the analysis maps the semiotic trajectories and epistemic influences of the idea of the ‘post-racial.’ My point in the essay is to construct a brief discursive history of the term itself – what it means, how it functions, what shifts it has endured, and with what consequences – in ways that would help unpack the discursive power and vulnerabilities of the idea of the ‘post-racial,’ and crucially, to illuminate its service, at the current moment, to the racial labors of neoliberalism.


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