The Volokh Conspiracy

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"Metaphors of Color Made to Matter Through the Matter of Different Bodies"

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From a Call for Papers from Verge: Studies in Global Asias Issue 10.1; Special Issue: brown/ness(es):

We consider race and ethnicity as co-constitutive logics and forms of difference across different geohistories, including the ways in which these logics form, transform, transfer, congeal -- or not. We ask after brown, black, yellow, red, and white (and bright) as codes for difference, as metaphors of color made to matter through the matter of different bodies. We prompt reflection on how race, religion, ethnicity, and caste overlap and congeal into one another, troubling normative vocabularies of difference and relation.

I just wrote a book on racial classification, and I have no idea what this is trying to say. If I ever start to write like this, it will be time to retire from the academy.

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  1. A lot of academics would benefit from paying the janitor 20 bucks to review their work.

    1. You can say that again. And again.

      1. *sigh* I should be able to resist but I can't.

        And again.

  2. Is the author some "Sokal" perchance?

    1. You can do the same thing with AI these days.

      1. Lots of bots on twitter and reddit and other places these days, that would past the Turing Test, at least in what goes for online debate.

        1. I disagree.
          That collection of words in no way indicates a human mind as the composer.

          1. The original post, yea, it's a word salad. I'm just saying that there are very convincing bots on twitter an reddit these days, very convincing.

  3. I kinda liked the use of the word "congeal." It is a rather vivid metaphor, and no more opaque than any of the rest of the words in that paragraph (how many logics can dance on the head of a pin?).
    But then they went and ruined it by repeating the word in the very same paragraph.

  4. What’s interesting is the aesthetic, almost poetic quality.

    It suggests that the author is part of a cultural society that tends to go for aesthetic effect, perhaps based on an assumption, conscious or unconscious, that if it sounds nice, if it is artful in its construction, it must be so.

  5. Legalese is every bit as weird & obtuse as this kind of academic language. Both come from taking words & their analysis' way too seriously. They are just different styles. That writing is pretty amusing though. But not really hard to parse. Even though it doesn't really say much. I suspect having just written a book on racial classification actually got in the way of reading this. Different assumptions.

    1. Not if it is done well. An elegant contract is like a well written computer program, full of nested subroutines.

  6. It's okay stewardess, I speak jive:

    "We consider race and ethnicity as co-constitutive logics...."

    Race and ethnicity presuppose objective facts; this is a denial of positivism.

    "....and forms of difference across different geohistories,...."

    Race may filter facts, but not universally. Black. in Africa, subject to their own social forces have a different lens than blacks in America.

    "....including the ways in which these logics form, transform, transfer, congeal -- or not."

    This racial/ethnic lens for understanding the reality makes it difficult to make bright lines, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    "We ask after brown, black, yellow, red, and white (and bright) as codes for difference, as metaphors of color made to matter through the matter of different bodies."

    We use a person's body color (race is partially a social construct after all), in a qualitative sense, as an independent variable.

    "We prompt reflection on how race, religion, ethnicity, and caste overlap and congeal into one another...."

    We acknowledge social class (capital/labor) does not trump race/ethnicity/caste as Marxist theory originally presumed. People identify more strongly often as one demographic though they my overlap several.

    "...., troubling normative vocabularies of difference and relation."

    All this overlap makes it difficult to be inclusive and exclusive at the same time, because fundamentally knowledge is (usually) about making classification and boundaries. But we are gonna make an attempt anyway.

    1. This verbiage protects against being found to be factually wrong.

      1. I believe that's part of it, yes. I also believe that they believe what they say is a good qualitative approach to social science. Likewise, if you ever see "auto-ethnography" in an academic work's abstract, just put it down and walk away.

    2. Thank you ... now I have a headache (accurate translation tho!)

    3. Impressive. I must admit I got stuck trying to figure out how race and ethnicity were 'logics'.

      However - Can you explain what "bright" is as a race/color?
      I did a search, and discovered skin lightening products and some video game but nothing that would seem to fit in here.

      1. Search on "The Brights" movement. Narrow 21st Century offshoot of Rationalism and Rationalists.

        1. So it looks like "The Brights" are a modern movement that is secularist, rationalist, anti generally anti-theist/supernaturalist.

          I'm afraid I do not see how that relates to race, color, or ethnicity as used in the original paper, though. I can find nothing on their website, or any of the other descriptors of the movement, relating to race/color.

      2. I took it as a reference to how smart people are called "bright", and this is an example of white supremacy because white is a bright color.

        But I agree with Roger S above that the writing style is intentionally opaque and non-falsifiable, so I'm not confident that my interpretation is "correct".

    4. Somehow, the translation makes this word salad even worse. I didn't think that was possible, but here we are.

  7. "We prompt reflection..."

    Who is "we," Kemosabe????"

    1. The author and the frog in their pocket, to borrow a colorful metaphor I read here the other week.

  8. I'm not totally sure what they're saying (i can kind of get the gist - i have to read this kind of word salad way too often for my health), but i know the last comma should be a semi-colon.

  9. "We consider race and ethnicity as co-constitutive logics and forms of difference across different geohistories, including the ways in which these logics form, transform, transfer, congeal -- or not."

    Says exactly the same thing as "With respect to societal advantage, race and ethnicity are analogous."

    Unlike non-Progs, Progs always, or near as dammit, write like this.

    1. Hm, I'm not so sure. Anyone who claims that race and ethnicity construct "logics" is just slinging the bull. Shoot, I don't think "logics" is even a word. And even if they are building something, exactly how does one go about building "forms of difference"? "Differences" aren't nouns, they don't have "forms". Bah. This is just nonsensical fluff.

      1. I completely agree it is nonsensical fluff.

        But beyond that, it is egregiously wordy in a way that is unique to progressives.

  10. Dave Barry wrote that this is a characteristic of sociologists:

    For example, suppose you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write: "Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a casual relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or 'crying,' behavior forms." If you can keep this up for fifty or sixty pages, you will get a large government grant.

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