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Epistemological whiteness is the precondition for racism, sexism, and extinction —it places whiteness as the measure for all things

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Epistemological whiteness is the precondition for racism, sexism, and extinction —it places whiteness as the measure for all things

Moreton – Robinson 04, Aileen Moreton – Robinson, 1/1/04, Moreton – Robinson is Professor of Indigenous Studies, Division of Research and Commercialisation, and Indigenous Studies Research Network, “Whitening Race,” NN
Representations of the Indigenous 'other' have circulated in white Anglo discourse since the 1700s.The most infamous was that given by Cook, who stated that the Indigenous people of Australia had no form of land tenure because they were uncivilised, which meant the land belonged to no one and was available for possession under the doctrine of terra nullius. The representation of the Indigenous other as the nomad justified dispossession. Since then we have been represented in many ways, which include treacherous, lazy, drunken, childish, cunning, dirty, ignoble, noble, primitive, backward, unscrupulous, untrustworthy and savage.-These apparently uncomplicated representations mask not only the complexity of Indigeneity but also their role as a set of differences that work to assist the constitution of whiteness as an epistemological a priori that informs one's ontology. As a categorical object, race is deemed to belong to the other. This has resulted in many theories about race being blind to whiteness. Since the Enlightenment, the dominant epistemological position within the Western world has been the white Cartesian male subject whose disembodied way of knowing has been positioned in opposition to white women's and Indigenous people s production of knowledge (Moreton-Robinson 2000). Feminists and Indigenous scholars argue that their way of knowing is connected to their positioning as sub- jects/knowers of inquiry who are socially situated and related to others in the actualities of their own living. They acknowledge that not all knowledge is chosen or actively acquired. Knowledge can be acquired outside experience but knowing is also connected to experience and understood in relation to situated acts of interpretation and representa- tion. However, within whiteness's regime of power, all representations are not of equal value: some are deemed truthful while others are clas- sified fictitious, some are contested while others form part of our commonsense takcn-ror-grantcd knowledge or the world. Imbued with a power that normalises their existence, these latter representations are invisible, unnamed and unmarked. It is the apparent transparency of these normative representations that strategically enables differentiation and othcring. Foucault explains the definitive importance of difference in moder- nity's development of knowledge: 'all knowledge, of whatever kind, proceeded to the ordering of material by the establishment of differ- ences and defined those differences by the establishment of an order' (1994:346). This has been particularly evident in the study of race in the human sciences where skin colour is the signifier of difference. Race continues to be a basic categorical object in the production of knowledge in modernity and an epistemological given in disciplines such as biology, natural history and anthropology (Goldberg 1993:149). 1 However, race is reserved for the other and the assumption is that the raced body of the knower (in contrast to the gendered body that fem- inists privilege) is irrelevant to knowledge production. A constitutive feature of modernity was the development of human- ness as a universal, which was incommensurate with inhuman qualities (Montag 1997:284).The universalisation of humanity appears paradox- ical, given the existence of racial difference. Sartre articulated this paradox by characterising the colonised experience as follows: 'your humanism claims we are at one with the rest of humanity but your racist methods set us apart' (1978:8). However, this paradox was resolved through the racialised distinction between the animal and the human. The universalisation of humanity required this separation and was enabled by social and juridical morals. These morals operated to normalise whiteness as the measure of being human. Montag argues that: the universal was one of the forms in which the white race historically appeared ... in this way, the concept of whiteness is deprived of its purely racial character at the moment of its universalisation, no longer conceivable as a particularistic survival haunting the discourse of uni- versality but, rather as the very form of human universality itself. (1997:285) it is not (animal or liminal), thereby staking an exclusive claim to the truly human. In this way, racial superiority becomes a part of ones ontology, albeit unconsciously, and informs the white subject s knowl- edge production.

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