Complex race debate loses sight of real evil
1 June 2006
In this lecture, leading anthropologist Associate Professor Ghassan Hage argues the concept of racism has been 'banalised.'
The left's overuse of the term racist and the right's use of the concept of reverse racism has made us lose sight of the "evil dimension" of racism, the University of Sydney academic argued.
Associate Professor Hage, from the Department of Anthropology, says it is right to see racism as an ambiguous and complex reality, as the Academy Award winning film Crash showed. "The film showed first, that everybody can be racist, second, that 'racists' are not one dimensional people and can be good people too, and third, the victims of racism are not necessarily good or helpless victims, they resist and can do so very playfully".
He says however that highlighting such complexity seems to go hand in hand with a "banalisation of the concept of racism". On the right, commentators have been very active in showing how 'the Lebanese' and 'indigenous people' can engage in reverse racism, while those of the left have tended to overuse the terms "racist" as a "category of accusation".
"Historically, racism has gone hand in hand with some very evil episodes in human history … from slavery to apartheid to the Holocaust." He asks what categories can replace the concept of racism "to capture the impulse to de-humanise, exploit and/or exterminate the other that is still part of all cultures".
Associate Professor Ghassan Hage teaches and researches in the areas of globalisation, migration, nationalism, racism and multiculturalism from a comparative perspective.
The Research Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences presents the 2006 Key Concepts Public Lecture Series: seven free public lectures presented by prominent University of Sydney thinkers exploring the issues that affect our common existence.
Upcoming lectures in the series:
7 June - 'Death' - Jenann Ismael
14 June - 'Globalisation' - Raewyn Connell
Contact: Kath Kenny
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