There are many critical points raised that I agree with in the comments made above. I thought that most of the critiques have rightly centred on the issues that were the most difficult, but also, of course, the most rewarding, intellectually for me to work out: the question of the relation between nationalism and racism, and the related analysis of Hansonism. Publishing, by its very nature, is an invitation to suspend artificially a process of critical interrogation over a certain issue. This has negative effects as it sometimes creates an illusion of finality where no such thing is possible. But it has positive effects too in that one can go on engaging in private critical ruminations endlessly without subjecting them to external confirmation or refutation. So, let me say, I am not convinced myself that what I ended up with regarding the relation between nationalism and racism is conclusive enough to be satisfactory. But if I hesitate in fully identifying with my artificially ossified conclusions, I don't h esitate for one moment to identify with the necessity and the fruitfulness of the analytical path that led to them. That is why if a critique is indicating that I haven't gone far enough along that path, I cannot but welcome it as an invitation to continue moving in the same direction.
I take some of what Bruce Kapferer has to say about state and nation as a critique of that order. I think that Kapferer is exaggerating when he says that there is no analysis of the relation between state and nation in my work. His critique is relevant precisely because it speaks to something that is present in my text even though not in the way he articulates it. I analyse Hansonism as precisely the failure of the relationship between nation and state. Indeed the Hansonite fantasy is built on the idea of the breakage in an imagined synthesis between nation and state. But it is important to recognise that this imaginary synthesis often takes the form of wishful thinking. Hansonites are people who imagine a time when the state expressed directly their imagined national interest and go on to conceive of their current plight as a betrayal by the state of its vocation as the expression of a national will. To what extent such a time existed is certainly open for questioning. Nevertheless, I found Kapferer's much stronger emphasis on the state-nation relation very useful for a continuing investigation of the discourse of White Decline.
In much the same way, I agree with Friedman's invitation for a further exploration of the question of whiteness and its relation to the nation. This is also a point emphasised by Gill Bottomley. I think myself that this is the least satisfactory aspect of the book. Despite my analysis of Whiteness as cultural capital linked to origin and class, I don't think the issue is as empirically investigated as it should be relative to the importance I give to this question. I thought it interesting that Friedman should wonder whether I consider the category migrant 'an insult'. I am not sure how knowledgeable Friedman is of the Australian situation. If he is not, I think he has inadvertently put his finger on an important issue: it is not me who treats the category migrant as an insult. This is how this category has been constructed in Australia and it is certainly worth investigating how and why the category has evolved in such a way.
Friedman wonders if my critique leads to unreasonable assumptions such as a multiculturalism without a centre, and a nation without nationalists trying to control the numbers. But my critique is more about who has the right to do the number crunching not about whether there should be number crunching. Any national belonging will imply established and outsider. The migrant who has just arrived in Australia can never belong nor experience governmental belonging in the same way. White Nation does not operate from an ideal where there is no such thing as nationals capable and willing to police national belonging. Rather, it is criticising the monopolisation of this policing by White people who are working on excluding non-Whites from such a symbolically important national function. I would probably risk saying that once a culturally plural population does this policing it loses its racialising quality and becomes national policing disentangled from racism.
That brings us again to the relation between nationalism and racism and to Andrew Lattas's critique which is of a somewhat different order to that of the others. While Andrew has indeed many positive things to say about the work in general and some of his critical comments are, as always, astute and inspiring, the core of the critical part of his text is not. His critique of my analysis of the relation between nationalism and racism does not try to push me to deepen the path I have engaged in. Which is 'fair enough', of course. But, he does not try to suggest that I am following an incorrect path either, nor that I should be following a different one in dealing with this issue. Andrew's position as far as I can gather is this: I have written 'one of the best analyses of contemporary racism', why ruin it all by saying that it is an analysis of nationalist practices rather than racism. His critique reads like an attempt to convince me that there is no problem in the first place111 where I am huffing and puffin g: nationalism is racism, racism is nationalism and let's leave it at that. Let's not 'engage in tortuous hair splitting'.
This is a strange accusation to me for I fully identify1 with an image of myself as engaging in 'tortuous hair splitting'. I would have thought Andrew also would agree that this is what we academics are paid to do when we research. Who else is going to do it otherwise? I don't think that this abandoning of an academic ethos by Andrew when dealing with the issue of racism is accidental for his critique is above all political. The crux of the argument for him is that: 'Hansonites represent the normal face that can be assumed by good white Australian citizens who require a certain normal amount of bad faith to live with themselves in ethically compromising situations'. So there is a kind of 'don't give the racist bastards any intellectual room to breathe' ethos in his critique.
For giving the Hansonites such room, I am accused of 'denying the tacit forms of racism that are in Hansonism' and of 'playing down race even when confronted with it'. Andrew makes me 'accept too readily a sympathetic reading of Hanson supporters as people who see racism as ugly and bad and have no wish to see themselves as ugly and bad'. But, how about if I accept this, but not 'too readily' as he claims. What if I want to move a step further than all the sharp people who have discovered that racist discourse today begins with 'we are not racist but[ldots]'?
I am supposedly substituting space for race, but for Andrew, 'space cannot be disentangled from race.' That is great news but is a simple statement enough in this regard? How did we get from that reasonably straightforward meaning of what race was, that is, race as a specific phenotypically defined category of human beings, to a concept of race that means space, that means nationalism, that means practice and much more beside that. In White Nation I try to differentiate between 'racism' as categorisation, racist practices and national-ist practices. I tried to argue that as an analyst such a passe-partout concept that does everything and nothing has become analytically unsatisfying. I don't think that Andrew's strategy of hitting back by precisely doing what I am arguing against, that is, use race and racism all over the place, is a move that I am likely to find convincing.
But let me make this clear. I never say there is no racism. I say there are no 'racial practices' in the sense of practices whose ultimate goal, so to speak, is racial construction. Andrew asks: why aren't racist categorisations already a form of practice? If we want to stretch practice to mean anything that directly or indirectly has an impact on the social world, or if we want to give them an Althusserian meaning, yes, racist categorisations are certainly practices. Still, the question remains: what do they do? Andrew's answer seems to be that they construct 'race'. To this I can only reiterate my argument that 'race' is not a significant fantasy goal in Australia, and probably the world, today except for a not very significant minority. Not many people sit around dreaming of their 'race' and how good it is or ought to be and just stop there.
Racism on the other hand is alive and well as a mode of categorising otherness in so far as this categorisation is functional towards achieving other fantasies and practical goals that have nothing intrinsically racial about them. If I am prejudiced against chicken feet in a Chinese restaurant, I will not find one pair of chicken feet digestible while three are not. I just don't like chicken feet. That is what not liking a specific category means and that is what racism ought to be referring to. If I don't like Vietnamese, I won't feel that one is acceptable and three in the neighbourhood aren't. If I find that three aren't while my Vietnamese neighbour is interesting, there is something other than the 'racial' Vietnameseness of these people that bothers me, and that is what I have tried to analyse in Hansonite thought. This is what I engaged in a considerable amount of hair splitting to demonstrate.
Andrew could be read as sharing the patronising view of people who think that when someone says 'one of my best friends is[ldots]' that this is a matter to be scoffed at. I don't share this view. My research (which did not only consist of interviews by the way) has demonstrated to me beyond doubt that when people say 'my best friend is Vietnamese[ldots]' they often mean what they are saying. They like their Vietnamese friend and like to live and interact with his or her Vietnameseness, loving it one day, hating it the other. Now why does such a person turn into a 'racist' when confronted with the prospect of 'too many Vietnamese'. I insist on saying that there is more than racism here if there is racism at all (and sometimes there is) and Andrew is not facing up to the complexity of this situation except by collapsing everything into the category racism.
Choosing a paragraph from Robert Miles as an example of a tendency in the sociology of racism I wanted to criticise might have obscured the fact that my whole critique above is in sympathy with and inspired by Miles' own critique of what he calls 'conceptual inflation.' This brings me to Nikos Papastergiadis' critique. Nikos seems to see my reliance on Bob Miles as a failure to be in touch with what he thinks is a more current list of who's who in the sociology of racism in Britain and elsewhere.
I guess it is fair from what I make available in the book for someone to think that I am not very well read, or that I do not make use of what is available, in the international literature on racism. A more important and more serious point, however, is that Nikos ends up treating my critique of the 'sociology of racism' too lightly by dismissing it in this way. I might not have exhibited the depth of my knowledge of the literature on racism but I did not choose Bob Miles lightly. Nikos is certainly wrong, to minimise the importance of Bob Miles' old and more recent work and its influence on the sociology of racism in Britain. Furthermore, Miles' recent work is more, or at least as, up-to-date and innovative as many of the people Nikos mentions. It is because of this importance that I felt I could get away with using from his work an example of the tendency I wanted to criticise. Nikos minimises the depth and the reach of my critique by reading it as if unable to speak to the work of someone like Stuart Hall or Nira Yuval Davis, etc[ldots]
One of the practical difficultiesly of writing White Nation was that from the moment I decided to publish it with Pluto, I very clearly wanted it to be both a professional academic work and a popular book. I did not want it to be in-between but both. Inevitably, some material lent itself to this aim more than others. While some sections remained very theoretical, some ended up being too popular -- which is I think the target of Eva's critical points concerning my metaphoric usage of family and other terms. But some ended up being in-between despite my best effort. Nevertheless, it is certain that one of the strategies I consciously used to try and achieve this was to minimise theoretical referencing except when I used a text in a very direct manner. I am very conscious today that this has been interpreted as an 'arrogant' disregard of Australian and international people who have been of major importance in helping me develop my theoretical position. This is something I can only regret.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2000|
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