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Brian Klug, ‘Am I White? Revisiting the Language of Race’

part of: Prejudice Past, Present and Future
December 14, 2017, 2:00pm BST - 3:00pm
Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide

29 Russell Square, Bloomsbury
London WC1B 5DP
United Kingdom

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Twenty years ago I gave a paper at the conference marking the thirtieth anniversary of Patterns of Prejudice. The title, 'The Language of Race', referred to the categories used in the so-called 'ethnic question' on the 1991 British census form. The tick-boxes had a thinly-veiled racialized (or 'colourized') structure. In the course of critiquing this structure, I raised the question 'Which box should I tick?', explaining why, as a Jew, I could not tick the box marked White. In the intervening years there have been two more census forms (2001 and 2011). Both retained the question but altered the tick-boxes (with regional variations). Both also added a question about religious affiliation. Taking these changes into account, I shall revisit the critique in my 1997 paper, pondering again the question of which box to tick. The argument will respond to Fanon, who, speaking of "the Jew", remarks: "He is a white man" (Black Skin, White Masks). Who is "the Jew" of whom Fanon speaks? Is it me? Am I white?

 

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