Race And The Habits Of Scholarship Of Critical Social Thought

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International Journal Of The Humanities


African American Studies


This paper interrogates the status of race as a valid social problematic in critical social thought, with particular regard to its role in the production of what counts as the political. This path of interrogation is animated by a particular problem with the timely and galvanizing treatment of the very valuable meta-categories, ‘redistribution’ and ‘recognition’, that feminist political philosopher Nancy Fraser contributes to the critical conversation about the state of the political, primarily through her 1997 ‘Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the Postsocialist Condition’. Fraser diagnoses an interruption in the ‘grammar of political claims-making’ in late capitalist globalization which is so severe that a condition of ‘justice interruptus’ and ‘postsocialist commonsense’, implied also as a postmodern one, is enacted in the ordering of the political. In this condition ‘claims for the recognition of group difference have become intensely salient’ resulting in a ‘relative eclipse’ of a ‘politics of redistribution’ by a ‘politics of recognition’ and a ‘decoupling’ of them. Fraser addresses this breach by reappraising the meanings and performances of these two dimensions of the political and re-associating them within a ‘bivalent’ rubric. Deploying ‘an archaeology of memory’ mode of inquiry, culled from the work of Robert Hill, David Scott, Raymond Williams and Sylvia Wynter, this paper argues that race surfaces as a false conscious, materially deficit, subordinate and second-guessed rendering of the critical political. This disturbing situation, termed the beleaguered status of race, constrains and complicates the purchase of Fraser's prospectus. The paper implicates historical, ethical, and ideological habits of the transdisciplinary and differential terrain of critical social thought in effecting this status on race.