restricted access 8. Racial Formation and Hegemony: Global and Local Developments
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Chapter 8 Racial Formation and Hegemony: Global and Local Developments Race in all its forms continues to preoccupy us, to surprise us, to shape our world. In NorthAmerica, the political clamor and deep cultural divisions over race stubbornly refuse to subside. Throughout the Americasthe quincentennial anniversary of European conquest was more deeply resisted than celebrated, for the arrival of Europe in the "new world" was a foundational racial event that echoes down the centuries to us today. In Africa we observe the crumbling of apartheid and its likelyreplacement by something more "American"; will the African National Congress's goal of a "nonracialist " SouthAfrica prove chimerical? In Europe the permanent installation of African, Turkish, and Asian immigrants is reshaping national identities as much as the inexorable drive toward integration; to what extent , and in what form, will the venerable currents of exclusivism and neofascism reappear as the cold war and the Soviet presence fade into the past? On the Pacific rim of Asia, the Chinese and Japanese struggle anew with heterogeneity and pluralism, often imbued with racial themes. While perhaps more properly defined as "ethnic," ferocious conflicts taking place at the fringes of the "developed" world, from South and Southeast Asia to the MiddleEast, from Burundito Burma, from Azerbaijan to Bosnia, exhibit at least "protoracial" features. Arguably, the world today is a vast racial battlefield. 111 112 Racial Formation and Hegemony But what is this qualitywe call race? Atonce evanescent and formidable, ephemeral yet intense, simultaneously conspicuous and unspecifiable, race is a fascinating and recondite theme precisely because of its slippery and contradictory character. There is a recognizably "interior" side to race—for anyone raised in a racialized social order—in which one's identity is indelibly marked, indeed formed, by the phenomenon. The "exterior " side of race, though, is equally familiar: it is there, for example, in systems of stratification, of segregation and coercion, of racial oppression, however various and flexible their particular forms. We see the exterior side of race in the very ubiquityof racial order, in social policy and political organization, where it takes such forms as exclusion/inclusion, pluralism/assimilation, or even genocide; in collective action, both institutionalized and spontaneous; and in the political economies of localities, nations, and, indeed, much of the globe. This chapter is an effort to specify some of the racial dimensions of hegemony in the contemporary world. It is necessarily a preliminary effort and chiefly a theoretical one. The argument is organized as follows:first I present a view of hegemony that dispenses with any notion of core agency (i.e., Gramsci's "fundamental class") and focuses instead on the interrelated structuraland signifying dimensions of hegemony.1 Such a view, necessarily schematic and open to all sorts of theoretical objections, retains from Gramsci a deep concern with hegemony as politics; it adopts from numerous poststructuralist currents an abiding interest in meaning and interpretation (R.Young 1990). Next I argue for a particular theoretical approach, racialformation theory , as the most useful frameworkwith which to analyze contemporary racial phenomena within this view of hegemony (Omi and Winant 1986). This approach understands race as pervasive throughout social life; it recognizes the expansion and intensification of racial phenomena in the contemporary world; and it adopts a much-needed historicism in the effort to connect contemporary and past racial orders in a single, unified framework . From this perspective, the link between race and hegemony can be more deeply explored. The epochal process that has constructed and reconstructed the meaning of race, and that has over and over again engraved racial signifiers on social and political institutions,collectivities, and individuals,continues to do so in the present. The study of racial phenomena is particularlyrelevant in a global political economy where classbased politics are weakening, and where flows ofpeople, capital,and ideas are ever more rapid. Racial identities are transnational and some form of racial difference nearly universal; they are also highly personal and experiential , an instantlyrecognizable part of who one is.Thus, I maintain,race Racial Formation and Hegemony 113 is simultaneously a global and a local phenomenon, politically contested from the largest to the smallest of social terrains. Having established this framework for thinking about race in terms of hegemony, I next consider the global and local dimensions of contemporary racial formationprocesses. After general discussions of each, I present two "case studies," each focused on the relationship between race and class, which I am convinced is central to hegemony in many different societies today. In respect to...


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