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ASCA Critical Race Theory Seminar

Hardly any topic conjures up more tension and discomfort than the combination of race/racism. The ASCA Seminar Series “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) is designed to offer an overview of this relatively new and burgeoning field. The seminar is organized and hosted by Praveen Sewgobind. To register, please send a message to asca-fgw@uva.nl.

Hardly any topic conjures up more tension and discomfort than the combination of race/racism. The very pairing of these two concepts is often considered a problematic move, although the latter obviously is derived from the former. Critical theoretical approaches to race seek to address the entanglement of race with lived social realities in which injustices and inequalities emanating from racial formations are profoundly consequential.
The ASCA Seminar Series “Critical Race Theory” (CRT) is designed to offer an overview of this relatively new and burgeoning field, which emerged and developed in the United States at the end of the 20th Century. The seminar will investigate methodological and theoretical modes of evaluating race as a social construct. Moving beyond the American framework, many critical race theorists have been focusing on other parts of the world while integrating novel transversal configurations. In recent years these efforts by activists and academics have broadened and enriched this profoundly interdisciplinary field of study.
Often described as a movement rather than a scientific discipline, CRT asks us not only to critically address issues of racial injustice and racial inequalities, it importantly re-centers the focus on the immanence of power and privilege in social contexts. CRT touches upon and questions deeply ingrained ideological structures that inform our lives, such as meritocracy, individualism and universalism. Moreover, CRT urges us to reconsider the ways in which epistemology, ontology and colonialism are framed, as well as providing us with tools to assess diversity, identity, and intersectional politics.
The seminar series is born out of and grounded in a dedicated anti-racist tradition, a practice that will be nurtured as the host is experientially aware of the necessity of creating safe spaces for people of colour in particular. A commitment to being empathetic and considerate given ubiquitous systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, and heteropatriarchy becomes a prerequisite for introspection and understanding. This, then, enables critiquing the status quos that perpetuate racist and other power structures. As CRT was mainly channeled through and by anti-racist activism, the productive intertwining of theory and praxis will be centerstage during our collaborative effort to come to terms with the challenging and fascinating dynamics of Critical Race Theory.
Each session will be introduced textually and/or visually by a set of relevant materials which can be found below. Rather than trying to solely disseminate knowledge on CRT, the seminar will stimulate participants to actively reflect on the materials presented by means of an alignment with their own contributions, which may stem from their own research. This could be another text or audio-visual material, or any other medium that would further the discussion on the particular subtopic of the session. To this end, two participants will be asked to volunteer to cohost one session, which will be coordinated with the host, Praveen Sewgobind.
As the seminar series is envisioned as a collaborative project, participants are warmly encouraged to initiate and organise the seventh session. Please contact the host so that we can embody and materialise this assemblage. Wholeheartedly following one of the aims of the general ASCA Theory Seminar, this seminar series foregrounds a social learning process highlighting community building. It aims to bring together PhD candidates from the diverse disciplines within ASCA to learn about each other’s research projects, struggles and joys, and to make new friends. To serve this latter purpose, each session will end in a café with drinks.

The seminar series will be structured as follows (all materialities will be distributed after registration at asca-fgw@uva.nl):

Session one : Tuesday 8 September 2020, 14:00-17:00 hours - Race, “race,” and ethnicity

Critical Race Theory came to fruition in an era during which many believed race was off the table. Terms such as postraciality and colourblindness have become central in ideological and
institutional positionings. However, from the perspective of many people of colour and critical
whiteness theorists, constructs of race continue to operate relentlessly, often felt as the proverbial
elephant in the room. In this first session we will come to terms with the history and emergence
of Critical Race Theory and will specifically examine the divergent perceptions on and tensions
between the notions of race and ethnicity. In a space where racial profiling is referred to as ethnic
profiling, critically assessing the very terms that underlie CRT will be our starting point allowing
us to dive into and discuss the vastness of the web of meanings spawned by the concept of race.
Materiality:
Linda Martín Alcoff . Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self. Oxford University Press, USA (2005) > Pages 179-223.
Audiovisuality:
Authors Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi on how to become aware of privilege. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dteOQPzc_so
Further reading:
Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, Chike Jeffers, Quayshawn Spencer. What Is Race: Four Philosophical Views. Oxford University Press (2019).
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic NYU Press (2017).

Session two : Tuesday 22 September 2020, 14:00-17:00 hours - Race and colonialism

In settler-colonial spaces such as the United States or Canada CRT has firmly emanated from the nexus of race and colonialism. Scholars like Jacqueline Battalora and Ibrahim Kendi have pointed to the importance of understanding the willful construction of whiteness and racial hierarchies that have shaped the making of contemporary nation-states such as the U.S. Colonial legacies, however, have deeply structured many other parts of the world where the interlocking of race and colonialism has been rather undertheorized. In this session we will explore the extent to which and the reasons why colonial legacies often seem to be detached from racial configurations. These formations can said to have been structured as a global system of white supremacy that arose more than 400 years ago.

Materials :
George Yancy. Look, A White! Philosophical Essays on Whiteness. Temple University Press (2012) > Pages 82-106.
Charles W. Mills. “White Supremacy.” In The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race.
Paul C. Taylor (editor), Linda Martín Alcoff (editor), Luvell Anderson (editor). Routledge (2017).
Audiovisuality:
M. NourbeSe Philip reads "Discourse on the Logic of Language" from She Tries Her Tongue.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=424yF9eqBsE

Session three: Tuesday 6 October 2020, 14:00-17:00 hours - Walkshop 1: Tropenmuseum tour

Session four: Tuesday 20 October, 14:00-17:00 hours - Whiteness and gazes

The discipline of Critical Whiteness Studies arguably materialized out of CRT with the aim to study the specifics of white identities and white normativity from a critical perspective. Centering and analyzing whiteness/white supremacy/the white race has caused tremendous antagonisms, particularly generated by those who do not wish to view themselves as white.
Approaching whiteness as a topic for study is done in myriad ways, and during our fourth session we will ask which methods and theories can be productive to stimulate a fruitful discussion. Given the fact that academia itself represents what critics have argued are white spaces or “seas of whiteness” (cf. Sara Ahmed), issues of visibility, invisibility, and hypervisibility become crucial topics to discuss as affective gaze technologies continue to engender massive levels of anxiety.
Materials :
George Yancy. Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers (2008) > Pages 12-77.
Audiovisuality:
Keynote Speaker George Yancy | 2018 #NightofPhilosophy at Brooklyn Public Library
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsTtNM2Jc88&t=3s
Further reading:
Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege. Shannon Sullivan. Indiana University Press (2006) > Pages 17-118.
Robin DiAngelo. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard to Talk about Racism. Beacon Press (2018).

Session five : 3 November 2020, 14:00-17:00 hours - Diversity and intersectionality

In the fifth session of the series we will scrutinize two interrelated concepts that have become buzzwords in the eyes of some, serious policy and academic issues in the eyes of others, and cause for repetitive eye-rolling exercises according to a famous remark by Sara Ahmed. Referred to as “institutional plumbing,” Ahmed has also pointed the danger that diversity politics could actually lead to a practice of non-performativity whereby an institution’s whiteness is de facto perpetuated. As her work and activism are highly regarded among critical race theorists, critical whiteness theorists, and racial justice and queer activists, we will dedicate this session to her important contributions that have paved the way for many to critically engage with diversity politics and the intersection of race, class, and gender.
Materials:
Sara Ahmed. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Duke University Press (2012).
Audiovisuality :
RACE2014 Keynote 2: “Brick Walls: Racism & Other Hard Histories,” Unsettling Conversations, Unmaking Racisms & Colonialisms.
https://vimeo.com/110952481

Session six : 17 November 2020, 14:00-17:00 hours - Walkshop 2 : Bijlmer trip

Session seven : 1 December 2020, 14:00-17:00 hours - PhD open initiave (please contact the host)

Session eight : 15 December 2020, 14:00-17:00 hours - Dutch critical race theory & practice

Having travelled across the globe and through its racial spatio-temporal configurations, we will for the final session focus on that tiny country along the North Sea, where Dutch innocence remains to be paired with what many feel is the annual reenactment of slavery. Much, however, has changed since Philomena Essed published her groundbreaking book on everyday racism in the Netherlands, three decades ago. A new generation of woke and outspoken people of colour and white people have begun to raise their voices and demand changes to what is seen as enduring structural racism. During this session we will discuss how race and racism functions in our lives as we lead them here, at this university, in this city, and in this particular country. The host would finally like to remind all participants that this series was merely an attempt to continually reassess our own criticality towards ourselves and among others. Critical race theory, in other words, is not merely a discipline, but a life-long practice of transformative change.
Materiality :
Gloria Wekker. White Innocence: Paradoxes on Colonialism and Race. Duke University Press (2016) > Pages 1-80.
Audiovisuality :
Aamer Rahman (Fear of a Brown Planet) - Reverse Racism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw_mRaIHb-M
Further reading:
Isabel Hoving & Philomena Essed (Editors). Dutch Racism. Editions Rodopi B.V. (2014