Welcome-Reading Group 2021

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Denise Ferreira da Silva’s (2007) Toward A Global Idea of Race, University of Minnesota Press.

“I began this project because of my dissatisfaction with the way the sociology of race relations “explains” racial subjection. The matter became all the more urgent to me when I realized how the sociological account of racial subjection continues to govern the contemporary global configuration: cultural difference, the mode of representing human difference presupposed and (re)produced by the sociology of race relations, has become the obvious basis for framing demands for global justice and for punishing the global subaltern as well. From my desire to understand the conditions of emergence of this double-edged weapon, and seeking to avoid rehearsing the dominant ideology thesis, I have generated an account of racial subjection, which can no longer be distinguished from global subjection, that refuses to either resurrect the (universal) subject or write its others as dormant, innocent, particular (historical) beings. Instead, I argue that the markers of the death of man —the proliferating subaltern (racial, ethnic, postcolonial) “ontologies and epistemologies” —indicate how the powers of the subject remain with us, that the strategies of the modern Will to Truth, the tools of science and history, remain the productive weapons of global subjection.” (da Silva, 2007)

In this reading group for doctoral researchers, staff and associates of Hdk-Valand we follow this simple protocol.

  • We read the pre-defined sections of the book.
  • We meet online and discuss those aspects of the text that we find most challenging and interesting.
  • We gather each month to build a relationship with the book’s thinking and project.
  • We stay with the text, always returning to read it together.
  • We rotate (i) who chairs the meeting and (ii) who starts the discussion by giving a short summary of the issues they see in the section being read together.
  • This is pre-agreed in advance for each session: At the end of session 1 for session 2, at the end of session 2 for session 3…
  • At the end of each meeting we also note questions that we have that we want to bring forward in helping to develop our reading.
  • We share small tasks with respect to clarifying secondary materials & following up on external references.

JOIN: If you wish to join the group - just email xwimic@gu.se with READING GROUP GLOBAL IDEA RACE in the message header. We will try and help you access the text, if you don't have a copy already. This reading group is organized as part of the EARN working group on methodology.Links to an external site.


Mon 8 Feb        16:25-18:30 READING GROUP #1

From the beginning to page xli (30 pages approximately reading)

Preface: Before the Event / Glossary / Introduction: A Death ForetoldLinks to an external site.


Mon 8 Mar       16:25-18:00 READING GROUP #2

page 1 to 35 (35 pages of reading)

1. The Transparency Thesis & PART I Homo Historicus 2. The Critique of Productive Reason


Mon 19 Apr      16:25-18:00 READING GROUP #3 - note changed date

page 37-68 (31 pages of reading) 

PART I Homo Historicus  3. The Play of Reason

  1. We said we would start a drafting of a conceptual map / network of key ideas and terms  - a kind of diagram to help thinking and for this we will use a MIRO board that Cathryn has generously agreed to set up: Here is the link and we can talk a little more about how we can use it at the next meeting: https://miro.com/app/board/o9J_lIik1A0=/Links to an external site.
  2. We said that we would invite Denise to come and present to us in late 2021 / early 2022 so we could discuss our reading with her.
  3. We said that we would use the session on Monday 7th June to review the progress so far of the book and re-trace our steps. We can plan a little more how to do this when we meet in May.
  4. We said that we would look at a text by Du Bois on double consciousness that might help better understand the “transparent” / “affectable” subject contrast; and a text from Fanon that might help with unpacking more of the scene of death. We can agree these in May for part of our conversation in June.
  5. We said that we might ask someone to join and help with our reading of the early modern philosophical canon on the subject and the “history” and “science” domains of “interiority” and “exteriority” etc.
  6. Mick said that he would prepare a short kick start response to “PART I Homo Historicus 4. Transcendental Poesis” for the next session; and Martin agreed to chair



Mon 17 May     16:25-18:00 READING GROUP #4

page 69-90 (21 pages of reading)

PART I Homo Historicus 4. Transcendental Poesis


Mon 7 Jun        16:25-18:00 READING GROUP #5

For this session we agreed to:

(i) Read Du Bois on double consciousness: W. E. Burghardt Du Bois (1897) "Strivings of the Negro People"

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1897/08/strivings-of-the-negro-people/305446/Links to an external site.

(ii) Read Fanon: Chapter Five "The Fact of Blackness" in Black Skin White Masks (1986) (1952 orig.)

https://monoskop.org/images/a/a5/Fanon_Frantz_Black_Skin_White_Masks_1986.pdfLinks to an external site.

(iii) Add to the mapping on the 'miro' board that Cathryn set up for the group: https://miro.com/app/board/o9J_lIik1A0=/Links to an external site.

(iv) review our notes from the reading of the first 4 chapters and work together to consolidate a shared reading of these as a basis for proceeding after the summer break.

Mon 30 Aug      16:25-18:30 READING GROUP #6 note changed date

pages 92-114 (22 pages of reading)

PART II Homo Scientificus 5. Productive Nomos


Mon 13 Sep      16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #7

pages 115- 152 (37 pages of reading)

PART II Homo Scientificus  6. The Science of the Mind


Mon 11 Oct      16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #8

Meeting deferred.


Mon 8 Nov       16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #9

Review of key constructs: productive nomos (Mick); the analytics of raciality (Nick) Transcendental poiesis (Eva) Affectability (Vivi)

Other constructs of interest: globality; Interior poesis; strategy of engulfment; strategy of intervention; play of reason; stage of exteriority; strategy of particularisation; transparency:  (see shared documentLinks to an external site.)

pages 153-170 (17 pages of reading)

PART II Homo Scientificus 7. The Sociologics of Racial Subjection

One of teh key referenecs in Chapter 7 is the work of Robert E. Park. Here is a link to the etxt of a speech by Park outlining some of his segregationist urban theory and racist sociology: "The Concept of Position in Sociology" (1925) https://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/images/asa/docs/pdf/1925%20Presidential%20Address%20(Robert%20Park).pdf

In the speech racialised and social-spatial segregation are described as follows:

"One of the incidents of the growth of the community is the social selection and segregation of the population, and the creation, on the one hand, of natural social groups and on the other, of natural social areas. We have become aware of this process of segregation in the case of the immigrants, and particularly in the case of the so-called historical races, peoples who, whether immigrants or not, are distinguished by racial marks. The Chinatowns, the Little Sicilies, and the other so-called “ghettos” with which students of urban life are familiar are special types of a more general species of natural area which the conditions and tendencies of city life inevitably produce.

Such segregations of population as these take place, first, upon the basis of language and of culture, and second, upon the basis of race. Within these immigrant colonies and racial ghettos, however, other processes of selection inevitably take place which bring about segregation based upon vocational interests, upon intelligence, and personal ambition. The result is that the keener, the more energetic, and the more ambitious very soon emerge from their ghettos and immigrant colonies and move into an area of second immigrant settlement, or perhaps into a cosmopolitan area in which the members of several immigrant and racial groups meet and live side by side. More and more, as the ties of race, of language, and of culture are weakened, successful
individuals move out and eventually find their places in business and in the professions among the older population group which has ceased to be identified with any language or racial group. The point is that change of occupation, personal success or failure—changes of economic and social status, in short tend to be registered in changes of location. The physical ecological organization of the community, in the long run, responds to and reflects the occupational and the cultural. Social selection and segregation, which create the natural groups, determine at the same time the natural areas of the city."

The speech closes with the paragraphs:

"Ultimately the society in which we live invariably turns out to be a moral order in which the individual’s position, as well as his conception of himself—which is the core of his personality—is determined by the attitudes of other individuals and by the standards which the group uphold. In such a society the individual becomes a person.

A person is simply an individual who has somewhere, in some society, social status; but status turns out finally to be a matter of distance—social distance. It is because geography, occupation, and all the other factors which determine the distribution of population determine so irresistibly and fatally the place, the group, and the associates with whom each one of us is bound to live that spacial relations come to have, for the study of society and human nature, the importance which they do.

It is because social relations are so frequently and so inevitably correlated with spatial relations; because physical distances so frequently are, or seem to be, the indexes of social distances, that statistics have any significance whatever for sociology. And this is true, finally, because it is only as social and psychical facts can be reduced to, or correlated with, spatial facts that they can be measured at all."


Mon 13 Dec      16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #10

pages 171-196 (17 pages of reading)

PART III Homo Modernus 8. Outlining the Global/Historical Subject


Mon 16 Jan      16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #10

pages 196-220 (24 pages of reading)

PART III Homo Modernus 9. The Spirit of Liberalism

pages 221-268 (47 pages of reading)


Mon 14 Feb       16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #11

10. Tropical Democracy & Conclusion: Future Anterior

To join the group . email xwimic@gu.se with "Toward A Global Idea of Race" in the message header.



Some resources that may be of interest:

Some forthcoming material that might be of interest: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/unpayable-debtLinks to an external site.

Ana Teixeira Pinto in conversation with Denise Ferreira da Silva | The White West: Whose Universal? HKW Podcast The legacies of colonialism tend to find expression in a language that contemporary audiences find familiar and compelling, and hence remain largely unquestioned. In the run-up to the conference The White West IV: Whose Universal? (summer 2021), the podcast invites participants of the conference to discuss the overlaps between metaphysical predicates and colonial formations. https://podcasts.apple.com/ie/podcast/hkw-podcast/id1265775679?i=1000517885277Links to an external site.


Control Societies: Denise Ferreira da Silva, "A Story of Us"Links to an external site. 

Denise Ferreira da Silva with Natasha GinwalaLinks to an external site.

Denise Ferreira da Silva, Critical Theory Workshop Summer Program 2020Links to an external site.

Denise Ferreira da Silva "Hacking the Subject: Black Feminism, Refusal, and the Limits of Critique" https://vimeo.com/146790355Links to an external site. 


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