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Reclaiming nonracialism: reading The Threat of Race from South Africa

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Gillespie challenges David Theo Goldberg's critique of the project of nonracialism (antiracialism) in The Threat of Race. Goldberg's critique understands nonracialism to forbid the racial terms that would allow for racism to be named and dismantled, and thus sees nonracialism as a variation on white privilege. She tests the book's most general claim by looking carefully at how this claim is substantiated in the chapter on South Africa. She argues that Goldberg's critique of nonracialism relies on a historiography of South Africa that excludes radical traditions of anti-apartheid nonracialism that would complicate the ease with which nonracialism might be seen as an ally to racism. The history of the Unity Movement is drawn on to illustrate a radical organization in the anti-apartheid tradition that explicitly advocated the principle of nonracialism. Gillespie looks at the Unity Movement as an example of radical experimentation with nonracialism as a way of dismantling race-class oppression under white supremacy. She advocates nonracialism as a practice that attempts to contend with oppression in the present while at the same time employing future-oriented principles that prevent the terms of anti-oppression from becoming mired in a dangerous redeployment of the categories of race.

Keywords: David Theo Goldberg; South Africa; The Threat of Race; Unity Movement; antiracialism; apartheid; nonracialism; racism

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2010

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