- AfterwordRace, Desire, and Contemporary Security Discourses
Becoming could be read as the de-forming and re-reforming of the white masculine face through the absorption of the other. This is transformation, but one that expands the force of mastery as beyond the limitations of the singular face.Sara Ahmed
The nation promises its citizens security and, like a husband in a traditional marriage, expects unconditional love and devotion in return. We, the citizens, must promise to love, honour, and obey, and as such the security bargain is inescapably patriarchal. It might be said that the security bargain feminizes citizens. As the contributors to this issue show, security and securitization, where anything and everything is transformed into an issue of security, depend upon, even as they produce, race and gender hierarchies. Jiwani (this issue) suggests that the state appoints itself as chivalrous protector, a masculinist logic that structures its relation to Muslim women in general, and to Afghan women in particular. In the same vein, writing of the 'symbolic implications immigration has on national vanity,' Lauren Berlant convincingly argues that in the American national imaginary, immigrants, by choosing America, reflect for Americans their own worthiness of being chosen. The immigrant (inescapably racialized as Other), Berlant shows in her exploration of Time magazine, is 'someone who desires America,' but immigrant desire is represented as gendered. The immigrant woman is imagined as desiring freedom from patriarchal constraints, the freedom to choose her own lover, a right that she does not enjoy in her own ultra-patriarchal Third World culture (195–96). If white men can imagine themselves as desirable through the oppressed woman of colour, the nation's obsession with her is inevitable. The attraction is of course a fatal one for the woman of colour. The object of a relentless benevolence, she must reinforce her lover's ego or risk expulsion. On such a terrain, men of colour constitute the security threat par excellence, sexual competitors and themselves objects of desire – the desire, that is, for a shared humanity that must nevertheless be continually disavowed if the racial hierarchy is to stand. Security discourses are thus about becoming – a de-forming and [End Page 815] re-reforming of the white masculine face through the absorption of the other, a process meant to expand the force of mastery. It is a process that is fraught with desire and ambivalence, an ambivalence that only violence against the Other can resolve.
Brodie and McCutcheon (this issue) remind us that security discourses must be historicized. How do the familial and extra-familial relationships of the national imaginary change over time? How do we read the continuing racial demonization of Germans in Canadian popular culture, a Second World War vestige that has survived well beyond the war years? In answer, Mark McCutcheon suggests that Canadian nationalism is a nationalism defined by war. Germans as enemies whose inferiority demonstrates our own masculine mastery in the glory days of war remain as appealing as ever. I wonder, however, whether Germans were ever securely white. Anglo-Saxon settlers anxiously policing the borders of national belonging and worried about their capacity to establish a European civilization on non-European soil were apt to consider Germans foreigners. If it is hard to tell on which side of the colour line Germans belonged, it is an even greater challenge to follow the historical journey into the whiteness of Jews. McCutcheon offers the example of the German Jew in the iconic Anne of Green Gables, reading him as 'the transient and ethnically marked counterpart to Anne's own story of successful settlement.' Was it his Germanness or his Jewishness that marked him? How are we to know? As Karen Brodkin clearly showed, the entrance of Jews, like the Irish (Ignatieff) into whiteness is relatively recent, and, I would stress, provisional.
Racial Others seem to bob in and out of the national story, sometimes obviously present, at other times mere shadows. Brodie writes of Canadian Speeches from the Throne that once focused on protecting the citizen from war and want, and, for many years, from an unregulated capitalist system. After 9/11, the state emphasizes its capacity to protect its...