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Reviewed by:
  • Racism Postrace ed. by Roopali Mukherjee, Sarah Banet-Weiser, and Herman Gray
  • Stefanie Boulila
Racism Postrace. Edited by Roopali Mukherjee, Sarah Banet-Weiser, and Herman Gray. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019. Pp. 352. Paper $28.95. ISBN 978-3503122196.

Racism Postrace presents postracialism as the defining racial project in the present era. Although postracialism has different histories in the US and Europe, its effects are both material and discursive in each context. In the US, "postrace" became part of the public vocabulary with the election of Barack Obama as the first African American president. In Europe, the ascent of the postracial has been less overt. Postracialism is a productive imaginary that denies racial hierarchies and places antiracism in the realm of excess. In 2010, Prospect Magazine claimed that Britain is postrace due to the high number of Black and ethnic minority senior civil servants and an allegedly colorblind economy. Apart from this explicit attempt to introduce postrace into the British political vocabulary, postracialism in Europe unfolds its power out of sight and through a different vocabulary. It is a logic that has been identified to materialize through resistances to "multiculturalism" and depoliticized diversity paradigms as well as through anti-PC rhetoric and resistances against calls for reparation for crimes committed under colonial rule. As in the US, postracialism denies the political power of race, doing so from an unmarked position.

The term "postrace" seems untranslatable to many European languages, including German. Sometimes mistranslated as Postrassismus (postracism), the lack of language points to an analytical failure to engage with race as a technology of power. It is a failure to retreat from the UNESCO-induced antiracialism that has dominated European antiracist struggles in the aftermath of Nazism as Alana Lentin has argued in Racism and Anti-Racism in Europe (2004). Antiracialism in Europe follows the logics of the UNESCO statements on "the race question" that in the 1950s banished the term race from political debates. However, this reductive view of race as a descriptor for biologists' claims to human difference undervalues what race has enabled as a political dimension of power. As a signifier, race has referred to multiple archives throughout the European history of colonialism. These have included religion, claims to cultural superiority, and claims to natural difference, as David Theo Goldberg has shown in The Racial State (2002). Banning the term race but making racial claims through alternative notions, like culture or ethnicity, has allowed existing power relations to remain in place. [End Page 450]

The alleged untranslatability of both antiracialism and postracialism into German points to an unwillingness to engage with processes of racialization and historically grown racial power relations. It is also a refusal to engage with people of color's experiences of racialization, racial state structures, and racializing cultural scripts. The lack of vocabulary poses difficulties for critical German scholars who want to engage with racism and its representation. It also leaves an analytical void for those studying institutional racism, which remains a pressing issue in the aftermath of the unresolved National Socialist Underground murders, the rise of far-right attacks on people of color and refugees and the debate about racist policing practices following the death of Oury Jalloh in police custody in Saxony-Anhalt. Throughout its thirteen chapters and divided into two parts titled Assumptions and Performances, Racism Postrace, though mainly rooted in the American experience of postracialism, presents many analyses that are relevant to European and German-speaking contexts.

Critically engaging with Assumptions and race-making, Herman Gray, for example, prompts us to look closer at the media and digital technologies of postracialism. Gray illustrates that in the digital age, racial science has flourished beneath the official scientific repudiation of race. "Modern" racial science claims its innocence as it is deployed in struggles for the protection of land rights of indigenous populations and in targeted medical therapies for Black and ethnic minorities. Gray demonstrates the adaptive lure of racial science as race making is immanent in those seemingly progressive promises. Another promising avenue for the exploration of European contexts is Cynthia A. Young's theorization of postracial whiteness. Analyzing the cultural politics surrounding right-wing conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck, Young...


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pp. 450-452
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