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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The constitution of racial power: A nonracialist analysis
by Chajon, Javier, M.A., California State University, Los Angeles, 2015, 166; 1597185
Abstract (Summary)

The body of theoretical works that theorize empirical political power have largely declined addressing “racism”. Political theorists have collectively failed to arrive at a coherent and consistent definition of the term “race”. Obversely, the scholarship that makes focused normative evaluations of racialist politics has at times neglected to make a more sophisticated conception of “power” central to their analyses. This lack of conceptual precision has created an unfortunate tendency toward an uncritical deployment of “racialist” terms and “presentist” historiographies. Terms such as “negro”, “white”, “African”, “Asian”, “black”, are often provided without an accompanied explanation or justification for their usage. Typical “histories” of “racism” tend to betray a general incapacity to visualize or bring to life the nonracialist or pre-racialist character of societies in the “Old World”. Moreover, political psychologists that do address “racism” tend to contextualize this phenomenon using passively-constructed language that presents scenarios of an unfortunate racist political behavior motivated by antipathy. These analytical limitations imply a reduced capacity within the “humanities” or “social sciences” to create a nonracialist vision and conceptual language through which the analytical and normative dimensions of “race” can be fully assessed. The practice of uncritically reproducing racialist terms undermines the central goal of practicing critique itself—namely that of achieving autonomy from “truth” claims that constitute the subject within authoritarian power relations. In response, this thesis advances the following claims: (a) prior to the advent of “modern racism”, around the globe, and in the geographic spaces of “western Eurasia”, the range of “morphological” characteristics was heterogeneous and reflected the cyclical explorations, invasions, and colonization from peoples who were home to what is now known as “Africa”, the “Near East”, and “Asia” into those spaces; (b) the term “race” has undergone specific and radically transformative phases in which its meanings have been re-constituted from mere “kinship” to “meta-ancestry”, “morphology”, “anthropology” and “bio-genetics”; (c) the contemporary meaning of “race” is best conceptualized as a mosaic of constructed micro-differences (e.g. social relations, cognitive-linguistic framework, appearance, ancestry, and self- identification) reified as the markers of intrinsic “racial” distinction, which the subject measures according to a weighted-scale that she uses to ultimately assign self, group, and other membership in one (or more) “racial” group(s); and (d) racial power entails a nexus of power-knowledge whereby an authority is enabled to exercise political power to confer greater enabled agency to the social agent by virtue of discourses developed by credentialed “experts” working within a field of authoritative knowledge that objectifies that social agent as occupying a subject position that is imbued with empowerment. The intended goal of this thesis is to provide an analytic guidepost for those next generation political theorists whose analytical and normative discourses on “race” will explore the pathways to a radical transformative politics based on epistemic pluralism and autonomy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McLendon, Michael
Commitee: Bowman, Scott, Conway, Jay, Koos, Cheryl
School: California State University, Los Angeles
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 55/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy of Science, Political science, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Distinction, Nonracialism, Power, Race, Reification
Publication Number: 1597185
ISBN: 978-1-321-99916-7
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