Crossed Lines in the Racialization Process: Race as a Border Concept

In: Research in Phenomenology
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  • 1 Pennsylvania State University

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Abstract

The phenomenological approach to racialization needs to be supplemented by a hermeneutics that examines the history of the various categories in terms of which people see and have seen race. An investigation of this kind suggests that instead of the rigid essentialism that is normally associated with the history of racism, race predominantly operates as a border concept, that is to say, a dynamic fluid concept whose core lies not at the center but at its edges. I illustrate this by an examination of the history of the distinctions between the races as it is revealed in legal, scientific, and philosophical sources. I focus especially on racial distinctions in the United States and on the way that the impact of miscegenation was negotiated leading to the so-called one-drop rule.

  • 3)

    Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power. Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 144. See also “Racial Histories and their Regimes of Truth,” in Diane E. Davis, ed., Political Power and Social Theory, 11 (1997): 183–255.

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  • 4)

    Ariela J. Gross, What Blood Won’t Tell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 11.

  • 6)

    For example, Michelle Brattain, “Miscegenation and Competing Definitions of Race in Twentieth-Century Louisiana,” The Journal of Southern History 71, no. 3 (August 2005): 648.

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  • 7)

    Audrey Smedley, Race in North America Origin and Evolution of a Worldview (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993), 109 and 264–65. See now, Audrey Smedley and Brian D. Smedley, Race in North America. Origin and Evolution of a World View (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012), 118 and 262.

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  • 9)

    Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, De generis humani varietate nativa (Göttingen: Vandenhoek and Ruprecht, 1795), 285; translated by Thomas Bendyshe as The Anthropological Treatises of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (London; Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1865), 264.

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  • 11)

    Mark S. Weiner, Americans Without Law. The Racial Boundaries of Citizenship (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 100–102.

  • 12)

    Jean Lamarck, Philosophie zoologique (Paris: Schleicher Fieres, 1907), 199–200, translated by Hugh Elliot as Zoological Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 113.

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  • 13)

    [Clarence King], “Style and the Monument,” North American Review 141(November 1885): 443–44, On King, See Martha A. Sandweiss, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception across the Color Line (New York: Penguin Press, 2009). See also Frederick Douglas, “The Future of the Colored Race,” North American Review 142 (May 1886): 639.

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  • 15)

    Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrunderts (Munich: F. Bruckmann, 1899), 343; translated by John Lees as Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (London: John Lane, 1913), 354.

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  • 16)

    “Statement of Race. Paris, July 1950,” in Four Statements on the Race Question (Paris: UNESCO, 1969), 31.

  • 21)

    See Lauren L. Basson, White Enough to be American? Race Mixing, Indigenous People, and the Boundaries of State and Nation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 6.

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  • 25)

    On Bernier, see Pierre H. Boulle, “François Bernier and the Origins of the Modern Concept of Race,” in The Color of Liberty, ed. Sue Peabody and Tyler Stovall (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 11–27.

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  • 26)

    See Robert Bernasconi, “Proto-Racism. Carolina in Locke’s Mind,” in Racism and Modernity, ed. Iris Wigger and Sabine Ritter (Zürich: Litt, 2011), 68–82. The question of whether and to what degree a term like “Negro” is already a racial term prior to any clear understanding of race is too complex to be considered here.

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  • 28)

    Ibid., 3:87. At the same time, 1691, fines were imposed if “any English woman being free shall have a bastard child by any negro or mulatto.”

  • 31)

    Robert Bernasconi, “Kant as an Unfamiliar Source of Racism,” in Philosophers on Race, ed. Julie K. Ward and Tommy L. Lott (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 152–160.

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  • 32)

    See Robert Bernasconi, “True Colors: Kant’s Distinction Between Nature and Artifice in Context,” in Klopffechterein—Missverständnisse—Widersprüche? Methodische und Methodologische Perpektiven auf die Kant-Forster Kontroverse, ed. Rainer Godel and Gideon Stiening (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2012), 191–207.

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  • 34)

    Paul Finkelman, “The Crime of Color,” Tulane Law Review 67, no. 6 (1993): 2081–87. For the later period see, Robert Bernasconi, “The Policing of Race Mixing,” Bioethical Inquiry 7 (2010): 205–16.

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  • 37)

    Annette Gordon-Reed, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997), 7–58. See also Frank W. Sweet, Legal History of the Color Line (Palm Coast, Florida: Backintyme, 2005), 153–56. Some contributions to the literature suggest that James Madison Hemings must have looked light enough to pass for white but this is far from clear: E. M. Halliday, Understanding Thomas Jefferson (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 178.

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  • 38)

    Jefferson, Writings, 14: 270.

  • 44)

    Brattain, “Miscegenation and Competing Definitions of Race,” 650.

  • 45)

    Victoria E. Bynum, “ ‘White Negroes’ in Segregated Mississippi: Miscegenation, Racial Identity, and the Law,” The Journal of Southern History 64, no. 2 (May 1998): 247–76.

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  • 47)

    See Robert Bernasconi, “The Logic of Whiteness,” Annals of Scholarship 14, no.1 (2000): 88n23.

  • 51)

    J. C. Nott, “The Mulatto a Hybrid—probable extermination of the two races if the Whites and Blacks are allowed to intermarry,” American Journal of the Medical Sciences 6 ( July 1843): 252. Reprinted in Race, Hybridity, and Miscegenation, ed. Robert Bernasconi and Kristie Dotson, 1: 6.

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  • 52)

    For example, Sandweiss, Passing Strange, 187.

  • 54)

    George B. Tindall, “The Question of Race in the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1895,” The Journal of Negro History 37, no. 3 (July 1952): 299.

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  • 55)

    Plecker, “Virginia’s Attempt,” 116.

  • 56)

    J. Douglas Smith, “The Campaign for Racial Purity and the Erosion of Paternalism in Virginia 1922–1930,” The Journal of Southern History 68, no.1 (February 2002): 95.

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  • 57)

    Plecker, “Virginia’s Attempt,” 114–15.

  • 58)

    Smith, “The Campaign for Racial Purity,” 85–87.

  • 59)

    John H. Burma, “The Measurement of Negro ‘Passing’ ” American Journal of Sociology 52, no.1 (July 1948): 20–21. The figure of twenty-five thousand was supplied by Hornell Hart in 1921, in Selective Migration as a Factor in Child Welfare in the United States (Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1921), and referred to the 1890s. The lower figures were the more recent figures.

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  • 63)

    Victor Clark, et al., Porto Rico and Its Problems (New York: Brookings Institute, 1930), 546; quoted in Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire. Race, Sex, Science and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 88, but the page number is mistakenly cited as 576.

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  • 64)

    Bailey W. and Justine Whitfield Diffie, Porto Rico: A Broken Pledge (New York: The Vanguard Press, 1931), 8.

  • 66)

    See Ruth Pike, Linajudos and Conversos in Seville (New York: Peter Lang, 2000). On the place of the purity of blood statutes in the history of racism, see Richard Popkin, “The Philosophical Basis of Modern Racism,” in The High Road to Pyrrhonism, ed. Richard A Watson and James E. Force (San Diego: Austin Hill Press, 1980), 79–80.

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  • 70)

    See J. Douglas Smith, Managing White Supremacy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 89–106. There were similar problems in Louisiana where the term “colored” became synonymous with “Negro” only in the post-Civil War era, according to Sunseri v. Cassagne, 191 La. at 214; cited by Michelle Brattain, “Miscegenation and Competing Definitions of Race in Twentieth-Century Louisiana,” 646.

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  • 71)

    Basson, White Enough to be American?, 177.

  • 72)

    Robert Bernasconi, “Can Race Be Rethought in Terms of Facticity? A Reconsideration of Sartre’s and Fanon’s Existential Theories of Race,” in Rethinking Facticity, ed. François Raffoul and Eric Nelson (Albany: SUNY Press, 2008), 195–213.

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