University of Minnesota Press

Difference Incorporated

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

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Difference Incorporated

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Represent and Destroy

Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism

Jodi Melamed

In the global convulsions in the aftermath of World War II, one dominant world racial order broke apart and a new one emerged. This is the story Jodi Melamed tells in Represent and Destroy, portraying the postwar racial break as a transition from white supremacist modernity to a formally antiracist liberal capitalist modernity in which racial violence works normatively by policing representations of difference.

Following the institutionalization of literature as a privileged domain for Americans to get to know difference—to describe, teach, and situate themselves with respect to race—Melamed focuses on literary studies as a cultural technology for transmitting liberal racial orders. She examines official antiracism in the United States and finds that these were key to ratifying the country’s global ascendancy. She shows how racial liberalism, liberal multiculturalism, and neoliberal multiculturalism made racism appear to be disappearing, even as they incorporated the assumptions of global capitalism into accepted notions of racial equality.

Yet Represent and Destroy also recovers an anticapitalist “race radical” tradition that provides a materialist opposition to official antiracisms in the postwar United States—a literature that sounds out the violence of liberal racial orders, relinks racial inequality to material conditions, and compels desire for something better than U.S. multiculturalism.

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Troubling the Family

The Promise of Personhood and the Rise of Multiracialism

Habiba Ibrahim

Troubling the Family argues that the emergence of multiracialism during the 1990s was determined by underlying and unacknowledged gender norms. Opening with a germinal moment for multiracialism—the seemingly massive and instantaneous popular appearance of Tiger Woods in 1997—Habiba Ibrahim examines how the shifting status of racial hero for both black and multiracial communities makes sense only by means of an account of masculinity.

Ibrahim looks across historical events and memoirs—beginning with the Loving v. Virginia case in 1967 when miscegenation laws were struck down—to reveal that gender was the starting point of an analytics that made categorical multiracialism, and multiracial politics, possible. Producing a genealogy of multiracialism’s gendered basis allows Ibrahim to focus on a range of stakeholders whose interests often ran against the grain of what the multiracial movement of the 1990s often privileged: the sanctity of the heteronormative family, the labor of child rearing, and more precise forms of racial tabulation—all of which, when taken together, could form the basis for creating so-called neutral personhood.

Ibrahim concludes with a consideration of Barack Obama as a representation of the resurrection of the assurance that multiracialism extended into the 2000s: a version of personhood with no memory of its own gendered legacy, and with no self-account of how it became so masculine that it can at once fill the position of political leader and the promise of the end of politics.

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Under Bright Lights

Gay Manila and the Global Scene

Bobby Benedicto

Gay-friendly dance clubs, upmarket bars, and party circuits—such commercial venues evoke the image of a gay globe, but what happens when they are bound to a landscape of disorder, mass poverty, and urban decay? Vividly describing this world of contradictions through the prism of twenty-first-century Manila, Under Bright Lights challenges popular interpretations of the “third world queer” as a necessarily radical figure.

Drawing on ethnographic research, Bobby Benedicto paints a remarkably counterintuitive portrait of gay spaces in postcolonial cities. He argues that Filipino gay men’s pursuit of an elusive global gay modernity sustains the very class, gender, and racial hierarchies that structure urban life in the Philippines. Benedicto examines, for example, how practices such as driving enable the emergence of a classed gay cityscape, and how scenes of networked global cities engender discourse that positions Manila within a global system of “gay capitals.” And yet he also analyzes how the fantasy of gay globality is imperiled when privileged gay men from Manila, while traveling abroad, encounter Filipino labor migrants and come face-to-face with the exclusionary racial orders that operate in gay spaces overseas.

Unique in its methodological approach, Under Bright Lights employs affective, first-person storytelling techniques to capture the visceral experience of Manila and gay life in a third world city.

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The Value of Homelessness

Managing Surplus Life in the United States

Craig Willse

It is all too easy to assume that social service programs respond to homelessness, seeking to prevent and understand it. The Value of Homelessness, however, argues that homelessness today is an effect of social services and sciences, which shape not only what counts as such but what will—or ultimately won’t—be done about it.

Through a history of U.S. housing insecurity from the 1930s to the present, Craig Willse traces the emergence and consolidation of a homeless services industry. How to most efficiently allocate resources to control ongoing insecurity has become the goal, he shows, rather than how to eradicate the social, economic, and political bases of housing needs. Drawing on his own years of work in homeless advocacy and activist settings, as well as interviews conducted with program managers, counselors, and staff at homeless services organizations in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Seattle, Willse provides the first analysis of housing insecurity organized as a governable social problem.

An unprecedented and powerful historical account of the development of contemporary ideas about homelessness and how to manage homelessness, The Value of Homelessness offers new ways for students and scholars of social work, urban inequality, racial capitalism, and political theory to comprehend the central role of homelessness in governance and economy today.


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