The Nonperformativity of Antiracism

  • Ahmed S
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Abstract

This paper examines six different modes for declaring whiteness used within academic writing, public culture and government policy, arguing that such declarations are non? performative: they do not do what they say. The paper offers a general critique of the mode of declaration, in which 'admissions' of 'bad practice' are taken up as signs of 'good practice', as well as a more specific critique of how whiteness studies constitutes itself through such declarations. The declarative mode involves a fantasy of transcendence in which 'what' is transcended is the very 'thing' admitted to in the declaration (for example, if we are say that we are racists, then we are not racists, as racists do not know they are racists). By investigating declarative speech acts, the paper offers a critique of the self? reflexive turn in whiteness studies, suggesting that we should not rush too quickly beyond the exposure of racism by turning towards whiteness as a marked category, by identifying 'what white people can do' , by describing good practice, or even by assuming that whiteness studies can provide the conditions of anti?racism. Declarations of whiteness could be described as ''unhappy performatives', the conditions are not in place that would allow such declarations to do what they say.

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Authors

  • Sara Ahmed

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