Boxing fans and pundits might be familiar with the term 'undisputed' champion. Reserved mainly for boxers, the 'undisputed' champion is seen as the unquestioned champion of (mainly his) weight division. To achieve this status, he must become champion of the various worldwide boxing organisations. Of course, the boxer must constantly defend this status over and over again in order to maintain his place atop the boxing hierarchy. In other words, being an undisputed champion is fleeting, unpredictable, and always in flux.
In my Identities article, ‘Undisputed’ racialised masculinities: boxing fandom, identity, and the cultural politics of masculinity', the term 'undisputed' is repurposed to theorise and allegorise how it is fraught with contradictions. My findings highlight how the undisputed status of racialised masculinity is constantly struggled over, negotiated and contested by male boxing fans of colour. Based on fieldwork observations during a Manny 'Pac-Man' Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez boxing match in 2011, interviews conducted with 1.5 and 2nd generation Filipina/o Americans, and close analysis of 'Gayweather,' it analyses how male fans of colour seek an undisputed masculinity in complex and problematic ways.
Undisputed racialised masculinities are fraught with issues of power inequalities including homophobia, sexism and conservative views of belonging to a nation. Employing a queer of colour critique and women of colour feminism, undisputed racialised masculinity is complicated by race, class, sexuality and nation. During ethnographic observations at the Manny 'Pac-Man' Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez weigh-ins for example, homosocial spaces and relations — made up primarily of Latino and Filipino men — produced racially heteronormative ideas of nationalism. These ideas were manifested in homophobic chants (fans chanting ‘puto,’ a Spanish homophobic slur) and heterosexist ideas about who can belong to the imagined national community.
Filipina/o Americans also deployed homophobia and sexism by devaluing African American boxer Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather’s masculinity. Informants pointed out that Mayweather is Pacquiao’s biggest boxing rival and a gauge with which they measured Pacquiao’s success. They shared that Pacquiao is known to take risks and invite pain. In other words, he isn’t ‘scared’ to stand ‘toe to toe’ with his opponents. In this way, Mayweather’s masculinity works in relation to Pacquiao’s boxing style.
While my article primarily documents how men of colour assert their ‘undisputed racialised masculinity,’ some women challenge this status. During an interview with Louise, a 1.5-generation Filipina American, she brought to my attention the term 'Gayweather' and the discomfort she experienced whenever some of her Facebook friends posted the image. She shared, 'I do feel uncomfortable because yes, Mayweather is Manny’s competitor, but I don’t like the way a lot of people have [given him] that nickname "Gayweather." It just makes me feel really uncomfortable because of the implications that it does have. I’m all for being proud and having support for Manny Pacquiao but when it goes into that and I know they’re doing it just because they’re rooting for Manny. But when it gets to things like that, they’re calling him names that have to do with belittling homosexuals and stuff. It makes me cringe.' In fact, the racialised, gendered and sexualised term circulates on the internet as memes and GIFs by queering Mayweather. This is accomplished by superimposing images onto his body to mark his 'queerness' (e.g. wearing pink dresses and kissing other men).
In order to combat ‘undisputed racialised masculinity,’ the article concludes by pointing to an ethics and politics of care that asks us to imagine differently. To imagine differently means changing social patterns and relations, to radically alter how we live with each other in order to imagine more egalitarian relations.
Blog post by Constancio R. Arnaldo, Jr., University of Nevada, USA
Read the full article: Arnaldo, Constancio R., Jr. 2019. ‘Undisputed’ racialised masculinities: boxing fandom, identity, and the cultural politics of masculinity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1624068
While tourists know Montreal for its cafés, festivals and old-word European 'charm'*, locals also know its boundaries that divide the city into an Anglophone West and a Francophone East. Montreal’s Black community usually occupies space according to this prevailing language divide: Black Francophones on the East side, and Black Anglophones on the West side. This pattern has had implications for relationships among Black Montreal residents, as well as for their organisation and political possibilities. Indeed, after the rise of Quebec nationalism starting in the 1960s -- which made the French language 'the distinguishing characteristic of ethnic identity' (Thomson 1995) -- it has been somewhat challenging for Black people to organise as Black people, rather than linguistically-specific 'Anglo' and 'Franco' Black communities.
Adding to the rich literature on how space and place are inherently racially produced and lived, my Identities article, 'Black in the city: on the ruse of ethnicity and language in an antiblack landscape', helps to elucidate how the politics of language and ethnicity do not occlude the ways in which race and antiblackness configure the city.
Organising across the language became crucial for Black activists in the East-end boroughs of 1990s Montreal as they fought against white racist attacks and tactics meant to push them out. Indeed, the 1990s are noted in the Montreal Black community for an increase in antiblack violence from the police and other state bodies, as well as acts of everyday terror from the white citizenry. For instance, in the autumn of 1989, a group of Black students formed the group 'Also Known as X' (AKAX). Their main goals were to organise and bring together the Anglophone and Francophone Black communities against police violence, to raise historical and political consciousness, to strengthen cultural identity and to develop economic autonomy.
Taking seriously that race always organises the geography of a place allows us to pay attention to how Black people spend much of their lives searching for ways to halt and/or undo the constraints that enclose them in states of unfreedom. In political organising, these activists articulated new Black identities and geographies. They transcended the prevailing boundaries of the nation-state, as well as the intra-city boundaries between East and West, to constitute a global Black subject position.
Key to my article were the oral histories I conducted with Black activists who lived during these events and were able to comment on white narratives of them (Stoler 2002). Until this research, existing documents from interviews that had been conducted in the 1990s with Montreal Black youth offered a Quebec nationalist — even colonial — interpretation of Black identities and solidarities, a skewed understanding of Black youth’s relationship to the Quebec state and its white citizenry, and a rose-colored portrait of the future of antiblackness in the province. These documents reveal a clear desire to convince francophone Black youth to rally around Quebec white society, and steer them away from organising towards freedom dreams that stretch from Montreal to all corners of the Black Atlantic.
As more incisive work continues to explore the history and the impact of Black organising and Black political thought in Canada, it will expand our scholarly understanding of Black radicalism takes form in the context of Quebec (Maynard 2017; Walcott & Abdillahi 2019). Learning about the Black history of Montreal has served as a point of departure to interrogate other Black political manifestations in the rest of the province, as well as the influence and impact Black activism in Montreal has had on other parts of the diaspora.
* I use quotation marks because most people refer to Montreal’s old-world European aesthetic as 'charming.' However, that period being defined by slavery, conquest and coloniallism, 'charming' is not how how a Black radical approach would define the numerous place markers of that (continued) history in Montreal.
Maynard, R. 2017. Policing black lives: state violence in Canada from slavery to present. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
Stoler, A. 2002. Carnal knowledge and imperial power: race and the intimate in colonial rule. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Thomson, D. 1995. Language, identity, and the nationalist impulse: Quebec. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 538: 69-82.
Walcott, R. & I. Abdillahi. 2019. BlackLife: post-BLM and the struggle for freedom. Winnipeg: ARP Books.
Blog post by Délice Mugabo, CUNY Graduate Center, USA
Read the full article: Mugabo, Délice. Black in the city: on the ruse of ethnicity and language in an antiblack landscape. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1545816
How much should biology matter to our identities? When it comes to race and ethnicity, many people believe there are biological differences between groups. Actually, despite what many think, geneticists have proven that all humans are more than 99% genetically similar regardless of race. Even though these discoveries made in 2000 were widely reported in the news and in academic settings, most people (including academics!) continue to use assumptions that biology is relevant to determining who we are and to what groups we belong.
In today’s society, many people believe they are 'colourblind' and that we are 'post-race' — in other words, they think race shouldn’t matter anymore, that racism is a thing of the past, and that everyone has an equal chance at succeeding in society. Another part of 'colourblind' thinking is that we have changed the way we talk about race. Today it is far more common to use code words such as 'illegals', 'inner-city', or even to talk about culture as a stand-in for talking about racial groups.
Sometimes, we continue to use the same old assumptions regarding race and ethnicity that shaped some of the most extreme forms of racism (like imperialist invasion by Europeans, U.S. slavery and the Holocaust) but use them in subtle ways. One of these assumptions is the idea that race and ethnicity are biological categories, and my research shows that society is adapting by creating subtle ways of marking racial and ethnic groups as biologically different.
My Identities article, 'Bio-logics of Jewishness: media constructions of the nuances of race and ethnicity', focuses on how major newspapers write about Jewish people in ways that rely on the belief that Jews are biologically different, which I call 'bio-logics' (a play on the words biological and logic). Articles published from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times from 2000–2010 show that there are two major ways that 'bio-logics' are used to talk about Jewishness. First, despite trends in 'colourblind' ways of talking about race and ethnicity in indirect ways, these news articles still occasionally talked about Jewish biological difference from other racial and ethnic groups in explicit ways. Some of these news articles would mention DNA tests that could 'prove' one was Jewish, and even making arguments that having 'Jewish DNA' would compel people to have an unexplained lifelong interest in Jewish culture. But what was more common in these news articles was that there were more indirect or subtle ways that Jews were defined as biologically different.
These subtle claims that biology determines Jewishness included briefly mentioning Jewish family members (parents or more distant ancestors), but never actually referring directly to someone as a Jew themselves. In fact, almost all of the times that news articles wrote briefly about someone’s Jewish ancestors, no other content about someone’s Jewish identity was discussed. Oftentimes these news stories were about a business, person, artist or celebrity, and not about someone’s life as a Jew or experiences of Jewish identity, culture, religious practice, antisemitism or other relevant aspects of being Jewish. In some of the news articles, if someone had distant Jewish ancestors they were defined as Jews, even if they practiced an entirely different religion and were raised in a completely different culture, such as Mormonism.
Some of these subtle 'bio-logics' might seem harmless on the surface, but I believe they are an indication that how we discuss race is shifting, not only for Jews but a variety of racial and ethnic groups. It is crucial that research examines changes in how society talks (or writes) about race and ethnicity, because these shifts will impact how inequalities function and how people experience and define their identities.
Blog post by Emma Gonzalez-Lesser, University of Connecticut, USA
Read the full article: Gonzalez-Lesser, Emma. Bio-logics of Jewishness: media constructions of the nuances of race and ethnicity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2019.1617529
By the 1980s a significant shift occurred in the ethnic composition of the Israeli middle class. This was the result of social and cultural changes in the Israeli society. The weakening of the Labour party, identified with European immigrants (Ashkenazim), and the rise of the right-wing Likud party, supported by Middle East and North Western Jews (Mizrahim), lowered ethnic boundaries in the labour market.
As I explore in my Identities article, ‘Invisible boundaries within the middle class and the construction of ethnic identity’, the transition from a centralised to a capitalist economy, together with the incorporation of Palestinians into the Israeli labour structure in 1967, released Mizrahi Jews from their low-status rank and enabled them to develop self-employed small businesses. A significant growth of local colleges throughout Israel in the 1990s enabled Mizrahi Jews who were not admitted to the universities to acquire higher education.
The mobility of Mizrahi Jews was also made possible by the social legitimation granted by the veteran middle class. This legitimation was the result of Zionist ideology that sought to eliminate 'ethnic' differences in order to create a unified Israeli identity. These changes narrowed the income gaps between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews, to the eightfold growth in the number of Mizrahi students earning an MA degree, and to the formation of Mizrahi elites in the political sphere, state bureaucracy, the military and academia. These processes fostered the consolidation of a prominent Mizrahi middle class, to which currently more than half of Mizrahi Jews belong. The integration of Mizrahim into the Ashkenazi middle class led sociologists to assume that this integration would lower ethnic boundaries (discrimination and ethnic segregation) with veteran Ashkenazim and weaken Mizrahim's ethnic identification.
By exploring the daily experiences of 52 middle class adolescents, my research examined if indeed the integration of Mizrahi Jews into the veteran middle class lowers ethnic boundaries and weaken ethnic identities in Israel. The research demonstrates that although Mizrahi adolescents share with their Ashkenazi peers many social and cultural patterns such as joining youth movements and taking enrichment classes, frequent travel abroad and high cultural tastes, they suffer from subtle and invisible ethnic boundaries, i.e. microaggressions.
Microaggressions are commonplace daily verbal, behavioural and/or visual acts that communicate negative slights and insults to express the superiority of the Ashkenazi group and provide verification of the inferiority of the Mizrahi group. By signifying ethnic differences between adolescents, these acts construct the ethnic identity of adolescents in three stages. In the first and second stages, everyday microaggressions classify spaces into Western/Ashkenazi and Eastern/Mizrahi sides and array them in hierarchies. In these interactions Mizrahi adolescents, who feel embarrassment, frustration and anger, internalise these classifications and thus identify with the set of cultural preferences and cognition schemes that 'belong' to the Eastern identity. In the last stage, when these adolescents move in middle-class spaces, they act in keeping with the cultural preferences and cognition schemes that they have internalised.
To conclude, this research demonstrates that as racial ideology and overt boundaries lose their formal social legitimation, dominant middle-class groups react by shaping ethnic boundaries anew in order to maintain their domination.
Blog post by Guy Abutbul-Selinger, The College of Management Academic Studies, Israel
Read the full article: Abutbul-Selinger, Guy. Invisible boundaries within the middle class and the construction of ethnic identity. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1520448
When you see images of French daily life or French people in magazines, films, or other media, what do you see?
Usually, it’s white people, with perhaps a few visibly non-white people depicted. But this is odd for multiple reasons.
One, France has a long history of immigration, primarily from its overseas territories and former colonies. Due to years of colonialism, colonial slavery, and subsequent migration, ethnic minorities, or 'visible minorities' in French academic parlance, have long been part of French society.
Secondly, France does not acknowledge or measure race as a separate identity category. So while France is a multicultural society, it does not, as a facet of law, distinguish between these different cultures. One is either French or not. This is France’s Republican model.
Yet representations in popular culture or government reveal how this ideology does not quite play out this way as representations of Frenchness, whether it’d be French people, French identity, or French culture, are usually white, in terms of positions in government or images in French cinema and television.
In my Identities article, 'Are French people white?: Towards an understanding of whiteness in Republican France', I discuss how middle-class adult children of North African immigrants – individuals who were born in France and are descendants of France’s colonial empire in the Maghreb – navigate a French society that is supposedly colorblind where whiteness is the default.
How do they wrestle with definitions of French identity as white and full belonging in French society as centered on whiteness?
One way to understand this is as part of a racial project (Omi & Winant 1994) in which distinctions among individuals are marked without explicit categories.
David Theo Goldberg (2006) argues that our ideas of Europeans and European identity more generally are also based on whiteness as default. Just as French Republicanism denies the existence of race and racism, I argue that it simultaneously denies the existence of whiteness and white supremacy.
Part of France’s racial project is the continued production and reproduction of white as normal or default.
This is one reason why France is a fascinating place to examine white supremacy and everyday racism.
Goldberg, D. T. 2006. Racial Europeanization. Ethnic and Racial Studies 29: 331–364.
Omi, M. & H. Winant. 1994. Racial formation in the United States: from the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge.
Blog post by Jean Beaman, Purdue University, USA
Read the full article: Beaman, Jean. Are French people white?: Towards an understanding of whiteness in Republican France. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2018.1543831