Caring for the object: On generous methods in studies of race
(University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
Paper long abstract:
How to care for something that is ugly? How to care for something that is a bad? How to care for something that you might want to get rid of altogether? And more complicated so, how to care for something that is an absent presence, or, a potentiality? In short, how to care for race?
I am not quite sure whether these questions can be answered in general, or even for race. So, I will shift my focus from race as an object of care, to method as an object of concern. Drawing on work of Jeannette Pols and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, I will ponder a position of care for race, and attend to our modes of knowing this object. However our modes of knowing race are rather restricted. We have come to know it as either a pre-given biological fact hidden in the body, or as a social construct devised in our collectives minds. Or again, as a mixture of both. These positions assume that we know what it is. Especially if we take into account that the question: what is race?, is hardly ever raised. In my view we have hardly begun to understand this unruly and wild object called race. Drawing on examples from forensic identification, in this paper I explore methods that help us to study race as a nature-culture assemblage. I will argue that such 'performative' method invite us to engage with our objects in their various guises. They thus might even give hints about how to care for them.