Contesting racism: locating racist discourse through discourses on racism in an Irish working class neighbourhood
This is a study of the politics of identity in a working class setting in Galway on Ireland's west coast. It is based on twenty one months of fieldwork using ethnographic research techniques, and several years of library based research. Both of these aspects of research are integral to the analysis, which is centred around the argument that "racism‟ relies on discourse on "racism‟ for its ontological status (an issue which "anti-racism‟ must begin to engage with if it is to be more effective). Particularly since the 1950s when "racism‟ lost its scientific grounding, this study argues that academia has become just another player in this game of ideological construction (an issue which it must engage if it is to be more useful to "antiracism‟). Two equations sum up the contemporary dominant academic discourse on "racism‟: "racism = racialisation/ethnicisation + exclusion/denigration‟; and "racism = power (the power to exclude/denigrate) + prejudice (prejudice based on racialised/ethnicised identity)‟. According to these equations, the dominant discourse (made up of a complex combination of state and non-state discourse) on "ethnic‟ and "national‟ identity produced in Ballybane, Galway, and Ireland constructs three "racialised‟/"ethnicised‟ "communities‟ - the Traveller "community‟, the Immigrant "community‟ and the Settled Irish "community‟. Such identity construction involves "self-racialisation‟/"self-ethnicisation‟ as well as "racialisation‟/"ethnicisation‟ by the other. Indeed, Ireland is witnessing a growth in the field of "ethno-politics‟, where "community development‟ is now a political buzz word, state resources are often distributed according to "community‟ need and entitlement, and recognition of, and recourse for, "racist‟ victimhood via "anti-racism‟ often necessitates self-identity in "racialist‟/"ethnicist‟ terms. Once constructed in "racialist‟/"ethnicist‟ terms, the potential is, arguably, ever present for any of these "communities‟ to fall victim to "racism‟ as defined by dominant academic discourse on "racism‟. Indeed, in terms of such discourse the Traveller "community‟ and the Immigrant "community‟ in Ireland are victims of endemic popular and state "racism‟. A glitch appears in this picture, however, when one re-situates the evidence from academic discourse on "racism‟ to state discourse on "racism‟ (which essentially excludes any conceptualisation of "state racism‟) and popular discourse on "racism‟ (which, in line with traditional scientific "racist‟ doctrine sees "racism‟ as something white people intentionally do to black people). Therein is revealed the biggest problem facing "anti-racism‟ today – fighting a demon that eludes any clear understanding of its form let alone its causes.