Duncan, N. 2003. “‘Race’ Talk: Discourses on ‘Race’ and Racial Difference.”

Duncan, Norman. 2003. “’Race’ Talk: Discourses on ‘Race’ and Racial Difference.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 27: 135-156.

Marked elevation of discourse accepting notions of race and racial difference within Black South Africans. How those experiencing racism understand experience, negotiated representation issues, problems that impact collective/collective identity (?)

In recent times, growing imperative to recognize: “The right of formerly un- or misrepresented groups to speak for and represent themselves in domains defined, politically and intellectually, as normally excluding them, usurping their signifying and representing functions, over-riding their social reality (Said, in Connor, 1999, p. 264 – here 135).

“ In this article ideology is defined as a set of ideas and discursive and material practices aimed at (re)producing and justifying systematic inequalities between ‘races’ or racialized groups” (see Section 2 below for a full discussion – here 136, footnote 1).

Those who participate in research as participants as “subjects capable of understanding and reflecting, and acting on the basis of this understanding and reflection” (Thompson 1990: 275 – here 137) – no less, while interpreting these data, sociopolitical contexts must be considered.

In keeping with the writings of Fanon (1990) and Biko (1988), a central premise

informing this article is that the manner in which different ‘races’ are constructed or represented, constitutes the principal means whereby racism as ideology justifies domination. More specifically, it is primarily in terms of the representation of the Self and the Other—with the Self in this case referring to the in-group/‘own race’, and the Other referring to the out-group(s)/‘other race(s)’—that racism is reproduced and justified. Within the ideology of racism, the dominant group represents the Self as fairly homogeneous and fundamentally superior to out-group (up to here 139) —  members. Conversely, the ideology invariably attempts to represent the out-group as fragmented and inferior or different. It has been argued that it is essentially by means of this binary representation of the Self and Other that dominant ‘races’ attempt to justify or defend their privileges and power, and the Other’s marginalization and relative lack of power (van Dijk, 1987). Important to note here is that this binary representation does not only serve to justify the Other’s oppression. It also fulfills the dominant group’s need, firstly, for psychological and social identity and pre-eminence or ‘centeredness’, and secondly, to undermine any attempts on the part of the dominated at positive self representation (Connor, 1999).  The extent of the destructive power of this representation of the Self and Other is reflected in the manner in which it tends to embed itself in the thought structures not only of the dominant and dominated ‘races’, but also of their post-colonial (/post-Apartheid, in the case of this article) descendants (Connor, 1999). Within the ideology of racism, the construction of the Self and Other obviously do not operate independently. As Miles (1989) asserts, racism ‘has a dialectical character insofar as the representation of the Other serves simultaneously to refract a representation of the Self [and vice versa]’’ (p. 79). Very important to note here is that just as the representation of the Self and Other constitutes one of the primary ways by means of which racism is justified and reproduced, it also constitutes one of the key ways in which racismis opposed (up to here 140).

Conner (1990): the psychological construction of the Other serves to consolidated anxieties, shortcomings of dominant group.

Bhabha (in Connor, 1999) argues that whites’ racist representations of blacks can largely be seen as reflections of unconscious fetishist projections  ‘‘of those things which are disavowed by the [white] self. To objectify the frightening forms and forces of irrationality, perversity and evil in the shapes of the subjugated races is reassuringly to distance these forces.’’ (p. 265 – here page 149)

Along similar lines, Spencer (in Chanock, 1999) also appears to imply that the negative essentialization of the Other constitutes an important component in imagining or building the ‘‘forms of community and solidarity’’ (p. 22) that are required to oppose the domination of the Other (here 149).

Increase in discourses of racial difference as creating protective boundaries, establishing community in response to a dominant Other – presenting them as much more complex than how the Other would display them; acting as point of resistance to experienced and systemic racism.



Biko, S. (1988). I write what I like. London: Penguin.

Chanock, M. (1999). ‘Culture’ and human rights: orientalising, occidentalising and authenticity. In M. Mamdani (Ed.), Beyond rights talk and culture talk (pp. 15–36). Cape Town: David Philip.

Connor, S. (1999). Postmodernist culture. London: Blackwell.

Fanon, F. (1990). The wretched of the earth. London: Penguin (Original work published 1961).

Miles, R. (1989). Racism. London: Routledge.

Thompson, J. B. (1990). Ideology and modern culture. London: Polity Press.

van Dijk, T. (1987). Discourse and the reproduction of racism. Amsterdam: CRES.


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