‘Black Is’ and ‘Black Ain’t’: performative revisions of racial ‘crisis’



Publication Details

Ehlers, N. 2006, '‘Black Is’ and ‘Black Ain’t’: performative revisions of racial ‘crisis’', Culture, Theory and Critique, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 149-163.


Race is rigorously policed through, and predicated on, a crisis of maintaining a claim to supposed racial ontology. The language of crisis pervades race; yet crisis is only brought into focus – shows itself – when racial ontology is called into question or threatened as an axiomatic reality. This essay argues, however, that it is crisis, in the form of the imperative regulatory call to race or the intricate operations of racialising discipline that constitutes raced subjects. The crisis is one of belonging or of successfully representing a ‘racial truth’. The objective of this analysis is to demonstrate that it is when race is viewed as performative that crisis becomes evident as the ever-present condition of racial identity formation. From this vantage point, the concept of crisis as a point of danger can be revised to be seen as a turning point when an important change can take place: then, crisis might be envisaged as a positive means through which to imagine and realise new enactments of racial being.

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