Toward a Global Idea of Race

A new, and I project very interesting book is Denise Ferreira da Silva’s Toward a Global Idea of Race (Minnesota, 2007). From the publisher (emphasis added):

[W]hy, after more than five hundred years of violence perpetrated by Europeans against people of color, is there no ethical outrage?

Rejecting the prevailing view that social categories of difference such as race and culture operate solely as principles of exclusion, Silva presents a critique of modern thought that shows how racial knowledge and power produce global space. Looking at the United States and Brazil, she argues that modern subjects are formed in philosophical accounts that presume two ontological moments—historicity and globality—which are refigured in the concepts of the nation and the racial, respectively. By displacing historicity’s ontological prerogative, Silva proposes that the notion of racial difference governs the present global power configuration because it institutes moral regions not covered by the leading post-Enlightenment ethical ideals—namely, universality and self-determination.

When I have the book in my hands, I will discover what Silva means by historicity and globality, and how (or whether) she thinks racial difference could govern “the present global power configuration” if it did not “institute moral regions not covered by the leading post-Enlightenment ethical ideals.” I thought that was precisely what racial difference had been created to do.


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