Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Ehlers, N. 2008, ''Retroactive phantasies: discourse, discipline, and the production of race'', Social Identities: journal for the study of race, nation and culture, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 333-347.


The present inquiry considers how the practice and notion of race can be figuredas a type of discipline that functions to achieve the subjection of the individual to form the individual as a racial subject. Focusing on the constructions ofblackness and whiteness within US racial rhetoric, and engaging the work ofMichel Foucault and Judith Butler, I propose that racial identity is a retroactivephantasy that is always conditional on the subject enacting the very power thatmarks them: the formation and maintenance of subjectivity is premised on theindividual being formed and forming themselves in relation to a normalizedidentity site and is, thus, always an action. Precisely due to this necessity to act,and to the incoherence of power, innovative acts of anti-discipline re-negotiate theways in which racial subjectivity is lived and realized.