RELATIONAL FORMATIONS OF RACE—THEORY AND METHOD



TEXTS


  • Daniel Martinez HoSang and Natalia Molina, "Introduction" in Relational Formations of Race
  • Antonio Tiongson Jr. "Afro-Asian Inquiry and the Problematics of Comparative Critique." Critical Ethnic Studies, vol. 1, no. 2, 2015, pp. 33-58
  • Claire Jean Kim, "The Racial Triangulation of Asian Americans." Politics & Society. Vol 27(1), March, 1999: 105-138
  • Paul Kramer, "Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U.S. Empire: The Philippine-American War as Race War," Diplomatic History, Vol. 30, No. 2 (April 2006).


INTRODUCTION & PROBLEMATIC


The readings for this week introduce different frameworks and concepts for studying race relationally in general and for studying Afro-Asian formations in particular. In the introduction to their edited volume, HoSang & Molina highlight the rationale and logics for a relational study of race and discuss some of the genealogical strands of this work. Tiongson and Kim, by contrast take up the more particular challenges presented by analyzing and conceptualizing Afro-Asian relationality within the US racial order. We might take note here of both the particular interventions they offer and the ways their respective disciplinary training (in political science for Kim and American/Ethnic Studies for Tiongson) shape their respective analyses. Finally, Paul Kamer, a historian of US imperialism and US foreign policy, offers us a concrete historical episode to consider: The ways in which Filipinos were racialized during the US counterinsurgency in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century, and the ways those regimes in turn shaped US domestic racial orders. (See primary documents/media files at the bottom of this page).


KEY INTERVENTIONS


  • The relational study of race has a long scholarly genealogy and history within the US, rooted in women of color feminism, Third World political formations, and queer of color politics, among others
  • Relational formations of race also have a particular political genealogy, one that has stressed anti-imperialism and internationalism and the eradication of global regimes of colonialism and white supremacy.
  • At the same time, the relational study of race race must not elide the specificities of particular racial formations, nor the tremendous heterogeneity within those formations (i.e. the ways that gender, wealth, immigration history, sexuality, language, etc structures and shapes every racial formation).
  • U.S. imperialism and militarism in the Philippines demonstrates the ways that racialization of Filipinos shifted tremendously within a relatively short period in relation to US geopolitical imperatives, and in relation to constructions of Blackness and indigeneity within the US.
  • Racial formation as a process--mutually constituted racial formations


QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION


Bringing Kim and Tiongson together, how can we navigate the hierarchical nature of Kim's 'racial triangulation' model--as it pertains with Asian and African Americans--with Tiongson's critique? Are there models of racial relationality that deviate away from hegemonic racial hierarchies, and if not, should there be?How might bringing in the more prominent role of gender in racialization serve to further complicate the way race is viewed relationally. What would be the possibilities and problems of theorizing gender and racial triangulation together? How do internal differences within the racial formation "Asian American" (i.e. between Southeast Asian refugee communities and professional/managerial ones) complicate or extend Kim's analysis? How and why does racialization differ when it's done by the state (i.e. war propaganda) as when its done in everyday settings (i.e. soldiers in combat)?


PRIMARY DOCUMENTS/MULTIMEDIA


RAPPORTEUR REPORT


Class discussion combined a variety of analytical modes—folks doing historical analyses, visual studies, and legal studies-to study the process of race-making (i.e., reading race as a verb). This process of race-making is deployed through a variety of institutional measures such as law, cultural productions, and militarized violence. Race-making also takes shape in more mundane ways, such as letter-writing or diary entries.

Another main takeaway from group discussion is the difficulty of mapping race relations like Claire Jean Kim does in her racial triangulation model. Simply put, it was hard to pinpoint the specific role the West Point graduates or David Fagen play in a broader imperial context. For example, in the West Point photo, people drew out paradoxes of the Black graduates who are simultaneously symbols breaking the mold of a white military male through their embodied performance in the posing of the photo, yet they are nevertheless participating within an imperial system.

Other takeaways:

1. Materialism at both macro and micro levels are central to race-making

2. Field of racial triangulation: "less of a "single-scale hierarchy (A over B over C), but a field structured by at least two axes: that of superior/inferior and that of insider/foreigner"

3. Relational frameworks allow us to not only better understand the dynamic process of race-making but it also exposes the fluidity and protean quality of whiteness; Whiteness as elusive, contingent, and historically constructed; Studying relational formations of race within a context of U.S. imperialism reveals domestic conceptions of race and ethnicity