DISTINGUISHED LECTURE SERIES | Brackette Williams | September 4, 2019

The Colour of Labour “Distinguished Lecture Series” presents:

“Black at the Bone: Race as a Semaphore Language for Assessing Moral Order”
BRACKETTE F. WILLIAMS (School of Anthropology, University of Arizona)

Guinier and Torres (2002) treated the miner’s canary as a metaphor for political race and, earlier, Copeland (1939) had investigated Negro as a moral contrast conception. Building on these insights, I argue that within the Atlantic World and its circuits of influence, race-as-blackness-descended-from-slavery-indentureship-conquest is a syncategorematic in semaphore language by which the social order’s morality is assessed. The signs, signals, symbols, and metaphors of this language shape practices that legitimate a mode of production that converts suffering and degradations and its conditions of existence into capital. This means of individual capital accumulation sets conditions for the genesis of criteria by which individuals, ideally, if not actually, are subjected to sufficient degradation to produce units of the moral substance known as character. Intergenerationally, individual character-building becomes the primitive accumulation of culture; taken as the moral quality of primary and secondary units to which individuals belong or with which they identify. The semaphore language, allows of us speak the moral implication of a seemingly unbreakable syncategorematic: race-as-moral-blackness-descended-from-slavery-indentureship-and-conquest, race-as-blackness-descended-from-degradation. Degradation by slavery, indentureship, and conquest produces the core symbols that are morally black at the bone—which, in turn, is made meaningful only when contrasted with other beings spawned by the bottom of the well; the space symbolizing lower class and estate production.

September 4, 2019
from 15H30 to 17H30

Organization: ERC project “The Colour of Labour” AdG 695573