Posts Tagged ‘racism’

It’s interesting how the French police contributes to the enhancement of the political education of students at Sciences Po:

“Police reacted with deliberate and overtly racist violence during celebrations in Paris after Algeria’s footballing victory over Egypt last Wednesday, a French student of Moroccan descent has alleged. In an account written on his Facebook page immediately after the events, and re-printed as the lead story in French daily Libération on Tuesday, 21-year-old Anyss Arbib claims he was assaulted for no reason, sprayed with mace and called a “dirty Arab”. Arbib, a fourth-year student at Paris’s elite Sciences-Po (Political Sciences) university, went into central Paris from his home in the northern suburbs of Bondy to celebrate Algeria’s victory with friends. ” (from “Have your say: French police violence”, France 24, November 24 2009)

With special encouragement from the Dean:

“It was not until a day later however, that Arbib decided to publish his account, after Sciences Po dean, Richard Descoings, encouraged him to do so.” (from “Alleged victim of police brutality told by uni dean it was “essential to publicise account”, France 24, November 24 2009)

Even Eric Besson, Sarkozy’s man for immigration and national identity, seems to be looking forward to meet this newly formed politician (see “Le cabinet de Besson contacte le ‘sale Arabe’ de Sciences-Po”, Rue89, November 24 2009). Congratulations to the forces de l’ordre for this pedagogical contribution! Students from prestigious foreign schools in political sciences (here, here, etc.) can now increase their curricula with just a spontaneous encounter with the CRS in central Paris. And it’s free!


The “nazional-conservatore” politician Alfredo Mantovano, now in office in Berlusconi’s Italy, recently said the following in an interview with Il Tempo:

“As both statistical figures and sociological reality demonstrate, the Roma people are an ethnic group connected to some types of crime. Robbery, assault and, sometimes, as in Ponticelli, kidnapping.” (from “Rom, Mantovano: etnia connessa con certo tipo reati”, Reuters Italia, May 31 2008)

Of course, this can be rightly seen as yet another neo-ex-fascist call for a little pogrom, which was what happened in the Naples district of Ponticelli, incidentally, where the Camorra joined the cops into an attack on Roma camps (see “Italian tolerance goes up in smoke as Gypsy camp is burnt to ground”, The Independent, May 16 2008).

But, on another level, the excerpt exemplifies also a most outstanding evolution of the sociological epistemology of ethnic identity. No need for cumbersome explanations anymore. Sociological reality now self-demonstrates. After decades stretching out the idea that people should naturally behave in certain ways (e.g. prefer this sort of food or that sort of crime) because they have this thing called ethnicity or culture or whatever, and adding to that the clever intuition according to which correlation is not that far from causation, now Mantovano can go straight to the point (the cleansing part).

Except that, in order to have a perfectly convincing and fully sociological demonstration in that line of analysis, the following proposition should be added to Mantovano’s statement: “as statistical figures and sociological reality demonstrate, Italian fascists are a cultural group that like to fool around with gangsters and to set people on fire”.

In the morning of Thursday April 17, 2008, at the Gare du Nord in Paris, passengers were boarding into the 8:25am Thalys train to Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. No border control to pass, since all countries involved are all happy members of the European Community, and their border control policy fall into the Schengen Agreement. But still, some vigilant agents from the customs authority were there to stop and interrogate passengers that look suspicious. Poor agents, torn by the difficulties of their almost impossible semiotic venture. Who shall they pick for interrogation? On the grounds of what? Is there something in a person’s face that should tell something meaningful about faulty behavior? Or should their drop any criteria altogether and put the fate of their vital task into the hands of blind randomness? Well, no. They found the solution to their epistemic quarrel in less than a second: pick the Negro.

El Roto provides here (in today’s edition of El País) an extremely interesting lesson on political deictics (“them”, “us”, “them or us”). His cartoon clarifies Mariano Rajoy‘s xenophobic campaign for this week’s elections in Spain — “aquí ya no cabemos más ellos” best translated as “there is not enough room for all of us them”.

Tonight tg STAN gave at the Théâtre de la Bastille an astonishingly great piece about Europe — well, again about some very funny bits gathered through Thomas Bernhard.

In a recent decision about the new law on immigration control, integration and asylum in France, the Conseil Constitutionnel (an institution that verifies that laws voted in Parliament are compatible with the French Constitution) rejected the parts in which the law authorized the production and use of official demographic statistics on ethnicity (some related blogging in French here and here). SOS Racisme (a French association whose main goal is to fight racial discrimination), expressed an enthusiastic approval of the decision. This came after an important campaign against “ethnic statistics” in France in general, and more precisely against a survey on “trajectories and origins” that was being prepared jointly by the INSEE (the official French institute for statistical survey) and the INED (the French institute for demographic studies). Many issues were raised indeed about how surveys (especially official ones) on ethnic conditions, national origins or religious beliefs could eventually feed policies marked by the raise of national identity in Sarkozy’s agenda, or could also have performative effects in fostering racial categorization or communitarian identification (this being at odds with some French supposedly republican ideals).

The controversy is complex. A numerous group of researchers observes that this decision hampers scientific inquiry. They accuse SOS Racisme of mistaking grounds for a struggle against racial discrimination (knowing discrimination would be a first step in fighting against it) but also, above all, of mixing science with politics: see their counter-campaign here and here (see also an article in Le Monde here opposing this other one here, both by researchers from the INED). Their arguments in defense of research are most reasonable. But it’s perhaps a pity that they say that “it’s always dangerous when political actors want to have their say in defining what science ought to be”. We all want to know (“we” refers here to researchers, citizens and politicians altogether) and we may all have a word to say about the how. Incidentally (and despite probably gross epistemological and methodological stopgaps, of course), SOS Racisme proposes a generalization of testing as a research tool. Which is interesting indeed — interesting for the sake of scientific experimental knowledge. (For the polity of this sort of experimental science, see for instance Peter A. Riach and Judith Rich “Deceptive Field Experiments of Discrimination: Are They Ethical?”, Kyklos, 57, 2004, pp. 457-470.)