Race & Class, July 2005

The July 2005 edition of the IRR journal Race & Class features articles on Ben Okri and postcolonial literary theory, the Black middle class in the US and the ‘mulatto’ motion picture, Afrocentrism and materialism, the politics of public transport in Santiago, the EU’s deportation programme and Portugal’s imperial neurosis.

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Ben Okri and the freedom whose walls are closing in, by Andrew Smith

Ben Okri’s celebrated Famished Road trilogy is often seen to fit well with the propositions of postcolonial theory. But this article argues, contrastingly, that it is a noteworthy example of the long-standing materialist assumption of a mappable relationship between cultural form, on the one hand, and the social conditions of cultural formation, on the other.

The Black middle class and the Mulatto genre, by Cedric J Robinson

The growth of the early film industry in the US coincided with the institutionalisation of racial segregation at all levels of society. At the same time, an increasingly self-assertive Black middle class had begun to organise itself against the virulent racism underpinning ‘Jim Crow’. This article explores the new medium’s importance in the service of White supremacy and big business.

In defence of materialism: a critique of Afrocentric ontology, by Christopher J Williams

Over the last twenty-five years, Afrocentric thinkers have made notable contributions to the ongoing task of challenging Eurocentrism. This article argues that, in the course of so doing, Afrocentrists have coupled their general critiques of Eurocentrism with specific rejections of its putatively constituent elements, one of which is materialism. This rejection of materialism has led Afrocentrists to refrain from interrogating capitalism, to downplay the structural dimensions of racial oppression, and to elevate the status of culture.

Powerful drivers and meek passengers: on the buses in Santiago, by Patricia Tomic and Ricardo Trumper

Unlike walking, driving or travelling by train, little has been written about bus travel. But imperialism and capitalism have been always premised on traffic; closely connected to traffic is speed. And both traffic and speed are woven into today’s economic, social, political, even aesthetic and cultural hierarchies; they are linked, ultimately, to power. The evolution of the transport system in Santiago reveals not only the nature of the power relations between bus-drivers and passengers, but is also a microcosm of the impact of neo-liberal economic policies.

The deportation machine: Europe, asylum and human rights, by Liz Fekete

Ever-increasing pressure to reduce the numbers of those seeking asylum, to raise the bar for successful claims and to return those whose claims have ‘failed’ has resulted in sustained abuse of human rights. Europe’s deportation programme serves to undermine not only the Geneva Convention but also international conventions on human rights and children’s rights.

Portugal: national pride and imperial neurosis, by Bernd Reiter

Portugal’s journey, from a minor colonising power to a member of the European Union, transformed its sense of national belonging and citizenship. African colonial possessions, which under the Salazar-Caetano regime had been formally incorporated into the nation as a ruse to offset international criticism of Portugal’s prolonged imperialism, were later disavowed, along with those Africans who had become Portuguese citizens under the earlier arrangement. As a result, argues this article, Portugal has failed to recognise the existence within its borders of a Black community, its history and its exclusion, which continues to the present day.

Race & Class is published quarterly, in January, April, July and October, by Sage Publications for the Institute of Race Relations; individual subscriptions are £27/$47, for four issues, with an introductory rate of £20/$35 for new subscribers.

Related links

Race & Class: a journal on racism, empire and globalisation

Plus reviews. A5, 110pp., ISBN 0 7619 4429-X.