M asaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies

National Consciousness and Political Awakening in an Era of Globalisation

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2.3National Consciousness and Political Awakening in an Era of Globalisation

According to Frantz Fanon, the national consciousness or nationalism is a stage that possibly leads to (political) awakening and should not be seen as a final step because the next stage is transnationalism or internationalism which "does not forsake the concern of local populations, but rather recognizes the systemic relationship of national causes to global capitalism" (Richards). More importantly, the national consciousness may help to "decolonize the minds". Nevertheless, there is one aspect of identity politics (as, for example, diaspora politics) - identity politics run the danger of essentialising cultures and hardening ethnic boundaries (Smith 163).

Globalization has the important impact on societies all over the world, Pilkington defines it as a tendency to undermine tradition while people become acquainted with other ways of living which results in an increased reflexivity with regards to the collective identities (197) and it is possible to discern a certain tendency to view diversity as very positive. One of the consequences of a more globalised world is the Western consumption of otherness. Such consumption has an impact on the ´others´ whose products and supposed lifestyles are devoured and the consequences are dual – it is possible to approach the West in certain areas (clothing, housing, etc.) and to “internalize the West´s exotic image of oneself” (Classen and Howes 187).

2.4Race, Ethnicity and Identity

Race is used to distinguish among people using physical markers such as skin pigmentation, hair texture and facial features. Ethnicity is applied to distinguish among people using cultural markers such as language, religion and shared customs. Ethnicity in this sense distinguishes key social groups (Pilkington 2).

It is agreed upon in general that the idea of race has no intellectual credibility. Even though it uses physical markers, race stays a concept that socially defines people. As the general agreement has it, people should not be treated differently on the basis of race (ibid., 3). Humans are psychologically conditioned to categorize events, objects and other humans and as such, race is just another category – (Bolaffi et al. 239). Therefore race is just a category whose manipulation had sinister historical consequences. Such psychological conditioning also influences the establishing of one´s “essential identity” when diversity and similarity are identified comparatively (ibid., 239).

Identity is a key issue on the political or personal level. Due to the rapid change, national identities lost their strength and identities have been gradually recognized as multiple – hybrid or syncretic (Rattansi and Phoenix qtd. in ibid. 141).

2.5Racism, Discrimination and End of Binary Oppositions

Stuart Hall views the discourse as the division between the "West" (an idea or a concept of a type of society which is developed, industrialized, urbanized, capitalist, secular and modern; a concept which is used to classify other societies that are then the "Rest" (“The West and the Rest” 277), Gilroy speaks of cultural racism (There Ain´t No Black in the Union Jack 66), many other authors forward the term cultural imperialism and Said has coined the term Orientalism which focuses on the opposition of West/Europe (familiar) and the East (strange). Cultural difference transcends into the biological differences as well since we associate certain characteristics with both cultural and biological markers.

The difference between racism and racial discrimination resides in the ascription of superiority or inferiority to groups of the former and treatment of someone less favorably of the latter on the basis of group membership, determined by skin colour, ´race´, national or ethnic origin (Bolaffi et al. 260). At present, the concept of race has vanished from the terminology used by sociology or policy makers (Pilkington 18). As such, race is a very problematic concept. It is also noteworthy to remember that racial (or ethnic) expressions are fortuitous and temporary (Cohen and Kennedy 109) – while West Indians of Afro-Caribbean descent had to endure outright hostility in the postwar period, their position of the foreign intruder threatening the British national identity has been taken over by fear of militant fundamentalist Islam which identified the new predominant enemy since the eighties (Ratcliffe 114) and Islam became the “archetypal emblem of Otherness” (Castles and Davidson 80) which clearly establishes the social constructivism and shift from defining the ´Other´ on the basis of skin colour to creating relevant cultural criteria. Modood states that the post-war period used mainly "racial dualism" framework to describe relationships, and the primary emphasis was on the skin colour. Social scientists used this framework to explain the social differences between 'White' and 'Black' (qtd. Pilkington 1). This framework is not applicable nowadays and Stuart Hall has proposed the term 'cultural turn' which involves deconstruction of the central categories (White and Black), recognition of diversity in the majority group and emphasis on individual's multiple and shifting identities (qtd. in ibid., 2). Currently, the framework of 'racial disadvantage and ethnic diversity' is applied.

2.6 Myth, Prejudice, Stereotype and Sexuality

Myths are generally “ostensibly explanatory or historical in nature” and Freud saw them as conscious manifestations of fantasies and desires of the unconscious (Bolaffi et al. 190). Myths are important for group cohesion and national identity (ibid., 191). The importance and presence of myths will be shown in the discourse Britain has embarked upon to signify and delineate British identity in the postwar period.

Prejudice signifies pre-judgment and it is generally associated with “inflexibility, dogmatism and narrow-mindedness”; prejudice contains cognitive (beliefs and stereotypes) and affective dimensions (active dislike and aversion), ibid., 228). Prejudice is often explained by the identification with the aggressor (postulated by Anna Freud in 1936) and self-fulfilling prophecies while T. W. Adorno asserted the need of certain types of personalities to harbour prejudice (Bolaffi et al. 140). Such feelings of racism and consequent forms of racial and ethnic prejudice are believed to be located in the unconscious (ibid., 321). Prejudice and actions it provoked had a long-term impact on discriminatory treatment of West Indians in Britain. Blumer defines four dimensions of race prejudice, one of them is “a feeling of proprietary claim to certain areas of privilege and advantages” (112) which then leads to housing and job discrimination and segregation – practices which will be depicted in the analysis as they are crucial to the West Indians´ experience of Britain.

Stereotypes are closely linked to prejudice since they are its mechanism and are considered by social psychologists as very difficult to eradicate, with restructured education seen as the only way to change them (Snyder 30). Prejudice and discrimination “magnify the dangers of stereotyping” because of them being based on natural laziness which is extended by “tenuous generalization” (Enteman 10). Stereotyping is a means of categorising and ordering but if one has a stereotyped way of thinking about certain groups, such process involves remembering selective memories that fit the stereotype and ignoring those which resist it (Snyder 33).

Sexuality is treated in this subchapter because of the manipulation of popular myths and beliefs and its influence on treatment of West Indians in Britain – ideological representations induce a need to negotiate ideological presuppositions in the public and private sphere (Cameron and Kulick 147). In the times of the British Empire, nationalism came to be seen as a synonym for racial purity and virility (Dean 8) while racism against blacks had relied on many stereotypes or myths from the past, some based on sexuality: "The Black body is situated as a sign of particular cultural and political meanings in the Diaspora" (Brand 35). A hostile rejection and fears of racial impurity in the postwar period mellowed into the exoticisation and eroticisation of the ´Other´ later on: "On one hand 'Others' are sexualized, and on the other, declared sexually taboo" (Nederveen Pieterse 172). The connection between sexual repression and power was described also by Foucault (ibid., 175) and has various representations in history (a system of slavery in the US, Nazism etc., ibid. 175). Baudrillard finds that blacks and women are sexualised for the same reasons - repression of the body and exploitation (137). Such mythical and stereotypical representation produced more prejudice and is inherent in the experience of discrimination in Britain.

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