Chapter

The Politics of Purity: Colonialism, Reason, and Modernity

Michael J. Monahan

in The Creolizing Subject

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234493
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240715 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823234493.003.0006

Series: Just Ideas

The Politics of Purity: Colonialism, Reason, and Modernity

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In terms of racial ontology, the politics of purity operates normatively to prescribe clearly bounded categories of being admitting of necessary and sufficient conditions for membership such that each individual is unambiguously a member of one and only one racial category. This chapter proposes an approach to race such that it is understood as a dynamic process of contesting and negotiating the position from and through which we constitute meaning in and of the world, including especially the meaning of race itself. It offers an account of how the politics of purity impacts our understanding of racism as a social phenomenon, attending especially to its norming function in relation to racial whiteness, and its links to the hegemony of a particular understanding of reason. It argues that racism is intimately connected to the politics of purity, insofar as it has functioned as an effort to purify the self on the more individual level, and to purify humanity as a whole at the more social and political levels. This chapter also discusses colonialism, mixed race, and modernity.

Keywords: racial ontology; politics of purity; race; racism; whiteness; humanity; reason; colonialism; mixed race; modernity

Chapter.  20619 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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