.... and now we are Reading Group 2022
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Wednesday 23 November 16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #15
Conclusion: Future Anterior
Pages 253-267 (14 pages of reading)
Some resources that may be of interest:
Some forthcoming material that might be of interest: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/unpayable-debt
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=1000517885277
Control Societies: Denise Ferreira da Silva, "A Story of Us"
Denise Ferreira da Silva with Natasha Ginwala
Denise Ferreira da Silva, Critical Theory Workshop Summer Program 2020
Denise Ferreira da Silva "Hacking the Subject: Black Feminism, Refusal, and the Limits of Critique" https://vimeo.com/146790355
PREVIOUS MEETINGS IN THE SERIES
Mon 8 Feb 2021 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 Foretold
Mon 8 Mar 2021 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 2021 16:25-18:00 READING GROUP #3
page 37-68 (31 pages of reading)
PART I Homo Historicus 3. The Play of Reason
- 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=/
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 2021 16:25-18:00 READING GROUP #4
page 69-90 (21 pages of reading)
PART I Homo Historicus 4. Transcendental Poesis
Mon 7 Jun 2021 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"
(ii) Read Fanon: Chapter Five "The Fact of Blackness" in Black Skin White Masks (1986) (1952 orig.)
(iii) Add to the mapping on the 'miro' board that Cathryn set up for the group: https://miro.com/app/board/o9J_lIik1A0=/
(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
pages 92-114 (22 pages of reading)
PART II Homo Scientificus 5. Productive Nomos
Mon 13 Sep 2021 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 2021 16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #8
Mon 8 Nov 2021 16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #9
Review of key constructs: p
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 2021 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 17 Jan 2022 16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #11
We co-read the piece and together and some discussion points came up about: the mode of address announced in the opening citations, the non-dialectical dialogical ("conversation" ... her words from my mouth...); the Hegelian and Kantian terms of reference that were put in play but also resisted by the text; the way the term "aesthetics" operated and moved through the text; the "sensus communis" and the relationship with a tradition of Black studies and the specific reference to Sylvia Wynter's (1992) 'Rethinking "Aesthetics": Notes Towards a Deciphering Practice'. A key issue was the way in which the opening paragraphs of the main text seemed to recapitulate the entire book we are reading.
Some resources for developing some of these discussion points:
Aesthetics & Kant's Critique of Judgement - an overview
In the discussion the distinction between aesthetics as a theory of sensibility in general (aisthèsis) and as a theoretical discourse on the special experience of art was mentioned as a potential source of confusion in our wider reading. Some writers move between the two senses promoting a slippage between aesthetics as a question of sensing/sensibility in general and a question of the specificity of artistic experience etc. However, some more considered writers are also quite specific in how the two senses are systematically related to each other, and this in itself is a theme within the tradition.
Also with reference to Kant the term "sensus communis" was noted to have a special task. While in Aristotle and the earlier tradition "sensus communis" was typically used to refer to a faculty that allowed the integrating of the senses." In De Anima, Aristotle refers to something he calls “koine aisthesis”. The word “aisthesis” relates to perception and “koine” pertains to that which is held in “common” - "common perception”. Thomas Aquinas wrote a commentary to Aristotle’s De Anima, and he used the Latin “sensus communis” as equivalent for the Greek “koine aisthesis” following an existing Latin translation, and so installed the term as a fixture within this tradition. As one commentator has pointed out:
"Ever since Aristotle wrote his De anima, philosophers interested in psychological questions have taken seriously the idea that there must be a kind of unifying centre in the sensitive soul. In the later tradition this centre came to be classified among the internal senses, and in the Latin West it was named the common sense / sensus communis. In medieval discussions the common sense was often thought to account for three different psychological operations: combining and comparing the information received through the external senses (i.e., an inner sense that integrated from the external senses), apprehension of the common sensibles (time, motion, number...i.e., sensible to more than one sense), and second-order perception (i.e., perceiving that one is perceiving something)" Juhana Toivanen (2013) Chapter Eleven "The Common Sense" in Perception and the Internal Senses, Brill. (parentheses added)
In Kant this term sensus communis has further developed, building upon the tradition but also innovating with the term. He formulates it in section 40, of the third critique,as follows:
"We must [here] take sensus communis to mean the idea of a sense shared [by all of us], in our thought, of everyone else's way of presenting [something], i.e., a power to judge that in reflecting takes account (a priori), in our thought, of everyone else's way of presenting [something], in order as it were to compare our own judgment with human reason in general and thus escape the illusion that arises from the ease of mistaking subjective and private conditions for objective ones." Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar, Indianapolis: Hackett. p. 160.
Black studies and the aesthetics- David Lloyd's review of Fred Moten's work consent not to be a single being contains this resonant paragraph:
As a counter-aesthetic of life-in-common, rather than a universal common sense that finds its ultimate representation in the state ‘as a kind of degraded representation of commonness’, the black radical tradition, in Moten’s reinscription of it, deconstructs this Kantian regulative discourse at every turn. This is in part because blackness can be read as the ‘anteKantian’ as much as the antiKantian instantiation of that ‘lawless freedom of the imagination’ whose wings and whose flight aesthetic judgment is tasked with clipping. Blackness historically becomes the object of an aesthetic regulation in ‘a set of brutally discursive maneuvers’ that critically exceed any of the longstanding phenomena that concern historians and sociologists, that is, the deployment of racial difference in the disciplining of coerced labour or the segmentation of the labour force and its political counterpart, a militant working class. ‘This is so even as what is continually revealed, if not confessed, is that what is now, in the wake of those maneuvers, called blackness makes those very maneuvers possible and – for and as eternally thwarted and dispersed sovereignty – necessary’. What is revealed across the extended terrain of consent not to be a single being is that the aesthetics that is and is of the black radical tradition is consubstantial with the practices of an alternative sociality or life form that ‘animaterialises’ both a constant underpresence, ‘the dynamic hum of blackness’s facticity’, and the white racial fantasies and projections that constitute the series of figures for sensuality and indiscipline. Those figures ‘have always been inseparable from a “natural” history of inequality’, calling forth and legitimating ‘a predispositional servitude, a captivity in which the embodiment of the need for constraint … precisely insofar as she [the black (woman)] is supposed to be incapable of self-regulation, is given over to the ultimate form of governance, namely that phantasmatic and im/possible condition of being wholly for another’. See more here
Christina Sharpe's (2014) essay "Black Studies: In the Wake" is also helpful in indicating this tradition.
Mon 21 Feb 16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #12
Recap of Chapters 1 to 8. We make a short mapping of the arc of the book from Introduction to Chapter 8 Set reading: Introductory paragraphs of each Chapter (approx. 25 pages)
Introduction pp. xvii-xxiv
Chapter 1 pp. 1-4
Chapter 2 pp. 21-23
Chapter 3 pp. 37-39
Chapter 4 pp. 69-71
Chapter 5 pp. 97-101
Chapter 6 pp.115-118
Chapter 7 pp. 153-155
Chapter 8 pp. 177-179
I add this (2009) text by da Silva here as a supplement, because it details exactly what it means to produce a "global" distribution of violence based on the "analytics of raciality": "No-Bodies, Law, Raciality and Violence" Griffith Law Review, 18:2, 212-236.
Tuesday 20 Sept 16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #13
Meeting will begin with a re-focusing session that provides a summary account of PARTS I and II of the volume.
We will then discuss PART III Homo Modernus 9. The Spirit of Liberalism
pages 197-219 (22 pages of reading)
Monday 3 October 16:30-18:00 READING GROUP #14
10. Tropical Democracy
pages 221-251 (30 pages of reading)