Raced Body of Knowledge

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If race is “an epistemological problem,” as Saldanha contends “Reontologising Race: The Machine Geography of Phenotype,” then Saldanha’s assertion that “race will be approached ontologically, as a real process demanding particular concepts and commitments” becomes a means to escape how race is traditionally read: reading race as “an ideology, a narrative, a discourse.” Like Saldanha, Victor Anderson’s Beyond Ontological Blackness attempts to work outside race as an ideology, narrative, and discourse—Anderson considers race as an ontological structure, particularly “blackness,” because it is reified, categorized, and representational. Though Anderson and Saldanha share similar conceptualization of “what race is,” Anderson is more invested in what blackness is, as a category of race. Anderson argues that blackness has become too ontological, suggesting that “ontological blackness,” in light of how Anderson uses the term, is only a superficial understanding of human existence and what blackness is. For Anderson, when we speak of blackness, we are only speaking of existence in the general sense—that is, generalizing and making sweeping statements, which demand “particular concepts and commitments,” as Saldanha argues, about what blackness is. But, such generalizations never authentically get at what being is—or “being” as it is outside its racialized, ontological structure. To simply propose that race is ontological fundamentally misreads what race is, especially if we must take in consideration what being is too. Aside from the ethical messiness, is this not the crux of Heidegger’s argument in Being and Time: the need to trace “being” by what being is, and not simply as what being is “in the world”? Can the same be said of Anderson and Saldanha alike?

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