In 2007, the ›Documenta‹ made a decision which was doubly unusual. They integrated a pavilion into the exhibition that did not lay in Kassel (but on the Iberia Peninsula) and made a restaurant (the ›El Bulli‹) a location at which a chef (Ferran Adrià) explored the possibilities and limits of culinary art.1

   That this was not an easy undertaking had already been accentuated by the exalted author of a pioneering ›gastrosophy‹, Jean Anthèlme Brillat-Savarin, who, likewise, located the origins of a well-known proverb on the Iberian Peninsula: ›Sobre gusto no hay disputa‹.2

   Such tolerant conception of diverse culinary delights is being exceedingly abused – again on the Iberian Peninsula – by the winemakers António Ventura und Vera Moreira. On the Portuguese side of the Duro, they produce a red wine named ›370 Léguas‹.

370 Léguas
»... cheers to colonialism? ...«

   As the advertisement unashamedly admits, the wine got its name from the outcome of the haggling by the Portuguese with the Spanish and the pope about the division of the world in the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). The Portuguese king gambled for the unknown part of the new world of the West which was then still unexploited by the Europeans (America) while he had exclusively attributed to him access to the known worlds of the South (Africa) and East (Asia). Here, already in 1488, Bartolomeu Dias had sailed round the Cape of Good Hope and, in 1482, the fortification São Jorge da Mina had been established at the Gulf of Guinea. Trading ivory, gold and slaves promised highest earnings.3

   In the year 1502, a copy of the world map containing the conquests and spheres of influence was smuggled out of the country: the Cantino planishphere.4

Cantino Planisphere
»... the enterprising division of the world ...«

   The negotiated western line of demarcation can easily be identified. At this point in time, Pedro Àlvares Cabral had just recently explored the coast of today’s Brazil (and, in the east, Vasco da Gama advanced to India; the prospect of further ›discoveries‹ – and profits – had already been mapped). The celebration of this imperial ›self-inebriation‹ with an ideologically poisoned red wine defies description. All the more urgent the ›taste‹ displayed in this incident requires discussion (de gustibus est disputandum) – particularly because it includes a ›cheers‹ to the genocidal politics towards the indigenous population of Brazil and the mass enslavement of Africans. On these grounds, the ›370 Léguas‹ is one of many examples of this time showing that there is still a lot of work in the decolonisation of European traditions...

1   Cf. Jean A. Nihoul: De Gustibus non est Disputandem. The Culinary Arts, Ferran Adrià, and Documenta 12. Master Thesis, University of Connecticut 2014

2   Jean Anthèlme Brillat-Savarin: Fisiologia del Gusto. Mexico City: Navarro 1852, p. 92.

3    Cf. i.a. Malyn Newitt: A History of Portuguese Overseas Expansion, 1400-1668. London [et al.]: Routledge 2005.

4   Amongst other things, the map took notice that from Africa »they bring to the most excellent [...] king of Portugal in each year twelve caravels with gold; each caravel brings twenty-five thousand weights of gold, [...] and they further bring many slaves and pepper and other things of much profit« – quoted in Jerry Brotton: Trading Territories. Mapping the Early Modern World. London: Reaktion Books 1997, p. 24.



At the end of the 19th century, Alphonse Allais published a slender volume with monochrome pictures, whose bizarre titles refer to a realism of illustrations whose motives disappear in the monotony of the colouring.1 It is caricatured art, this is at least implied by the title, which announces an ›April fool’s prank‹. Nonetheless, the arrangement of the paintings allow for the reading of an art-related message. The volume begins with a black and ends with a white painting, resulting in a constellation of over-determination and obliteration, in which all the black of the first has volatilized in the mere white of the last painting.2

   The paintings not only present colours, but also captions. The black painting is called ›BATTLE OF NEGROES IN A CELLAR AT NIGHT‹ (see fig. 1), the white painting beares the title ›FIRST COMMUNION OF YOUNG CHLOROTIC GIRLS IN SNOWY WEATHER‹ (see fig. 2).

Combat   fig. 1

Communion   fig. 2

   Both lines convey no innocent messages: especially not in the Paris of the outgoing 19th century, a city which is the centre of a colonial empire and had, only recently, been the scene of an impressive as well as impertinent world fair. Would it only be a matter of the paradoxical statement, Allais could have come up with various examples – as the former chief editor of ›Le Chat noir‹3 he could have easily conceived ›black cats caterwauling in a tunnel at night‹; or a ›herd of white horses in a snow storm‹ or a ›meeting of mealworms in a sack of flour‹.

   But he confronted a ›battle‹ with a ›communion‹ and ›negroes‹ with ›anaemic girls‹. The one maltreat their bodies by beating each other. The others unite with God by imbibing symbolic blood and flesh of his son. While the one bludgeon themselves into the depths of humanity, the others elevate themselves in pious meditation.

   Even if Ralph Ellison’s ›Invisible Man‹ will not be published until 50 years later, one of the most famous scenes of this novel tells of a form of racist amusement whose beginnings dated back to the times in which Allais had come up with his supposedly funny caption. It then becomes clear that the message is discriminating and its joke is racist. Ellison describes a staged event, mainly in front of whites, that is called ›battle royale‹ and during which blindfolded young blacks were set on each other in an improvised boxing ring until only one remained, who was then allowed to pocket the meagre prize money (see fig. 3).4


   During such events, Jack Johnson, too, had to train his skills as an adolescent. One of his biographies described the events were the boxer occasionally »was forced to weat a Sambo mask«: »Battle Royals had only one theme« – »black youth fighting black youth in front of white spectators, who threw pennies and nickles to the victor [...]. Usually eight or more black youths were told to get into the ring and fight a free-for-all [...]. Occasionally, to add to the amusement of the spectators, the youths were blindfolded«.7

   When, in 1915, Alphonse Allais’s black rectangle mutated into Kazimir Malevich’s ›Black Square‹, Jack Johnson had been heavyweight world champion for almost seven years. Because an official fight between a black and a white pugilist had not been condoned in the USA, he had won his title in Sydney, a no less racist but more daring region. World-wide the press reported about this incidence (see fig. 4), including Jack London who was just staying in Australia. However, in the spring of 1915, Johnson lost his title – in a fight »that restored pugilistic supremacy to the white race« (as at least the ›New York Times‹ thought).8

   It is not out of the question that Malevich had heard of Johnson. The artistic avant-garde of the time considered »the body as a source of primary energy« and for artists like Malevich and others »the wrestler, the boxer, the weightlifter were images central to their artistic and social vocabulary«.9 Furthermore, it can be assumed that Malevich was, at least in general terms, acquainted with the history of colonialism and imperialism including the history of transatlantic slavery and of the ›Scramble for Africa‹. Since recently it is certain that he was familiar with Allais’s monochrome paintings when he painted his ›Black Square‹ (fig. 5).

...fig. 5: ›the feeling of non-objectivity‹...

   On 18 November 2015, the experts of the Muscovite Tretyakov Gallery reported on a new X-ray examination of the ›Black Square‹. During this examination, it had turned out that the characters which, barely perceptible, were located on the white border of the black square formed the phrase ›Negroes Battling at Night‹.10

   Apparently, the constituent document of suprematism and its plea for an objectless future is signed with a realistic as well as racist reference. The pure form of autonomous art seems not have been able to escape the contemporary racist discourse. The painter, who advocated the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art« and explained that »»the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless«, later maintained that his ›Black Square‹ had been the result of a »desperate attempt to free art from the ballast of objectivity« and, therefore, did represent »no ›empty square‹ [...] but rather the feeling of non-objectivity«: »The black square on the white field was the first form in which non-objective feeling came to be expressed«.11 This was not how it should remain. In retrospect, Malevich divided the emergence of suprematism in three phases: a black and economic one, a red and revolutionary one, and a white one representing »the real concept of infinity«.12

   When Malevich carved a hidden title into the white border of his black square, he unwillingly inscribed his artistic suprematism capitalising on white infinity with a message that referred to the tradition and the constitution of white supremacism, a geopolitical context which emerged in the course of European expansionism and opposed the critique and the resistance against its authority. The propagandist of ›pure art‹ could have known about this, too. News about the Mexican Revolution could hardly have evaded him any more than the founding of the ›National Association for the Advancement of Colored People‹. For certain he knew about the outcome of the Battle of Tsushima in which the Japanese had crushingly defeated the Russian fleet.

1   Alphonse Allais: Album Primo-Avrilesque. Paris: Paul Ollendorff 1897, pp. 7 u. 19 – see with French titles, English titles and German titles.

2   Cf. Horst Bergmeier: Dada-Zürich. Ästhetische Theorie der historischen Avantgarde. Göttingen: V&R unipress 2011, pp. 90-97. Arthur C. Danto: The Madonna of the Future. Essays in a Pluralistic Art World. Berkeley [et al.]: University of California Press 2000, p. 308 has referred to the paradoxical relation of imagined motives and monochrome colouring. For this he quotes an aphorist by Sören Kierkegaard from 1848: »The result of my life is simply nothing, a single color. My result is like the painting of the artist who was to paint a picture of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. To this end, he painted the whole wall red, explaining that the Israelites had already crossed over, and that the Egyptians were drowned«.

3   Cf. François Caradec: Alphonse Allais. Paris: Belfond 1994, esp. pp. 226-233.

4   Cf. Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man. New York: Random House 1952.

5   ›Ralph Ellison’s ›Battle Royale‹‹, drawing by Micah A. Clegg.

6   Headline of one of Jack London’s reports in which he stated that just because »a white man wishes a white man to win this should not prevent him from giving absolute credit to the best man who did win, even when that man was black« (quoted from Jeanne Campbell Reesman: Jack London’s Racial Lives. A Critical Biography. Athens [et al.]: University of Georgia Press 2009, p. 188).

7   Randy Roberts: Papa Jack. Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes. New York: The Free Press 1983, pp. 7 f.

8   ›New York Times‹, 6. 4. 1915

9   John E. Bowlt: Body Beautiful. The Artistic Search for the Perfect Physique. In: Laboratory of Dreams. The Russian Avant-Garde and Cultural Experiment, ed. by John E. Bowlt, Olga Matich. Stanford: Stanford University Press 1996, pp. 37-58, p. 43.

10   Cf. ›New York Times‹ (online), 18. 11. 2015.

11   Kasimir Malevich: The Non-Objective World. The Manifesto of Suprematism. Mineola: Dover Publications 2003, pp. 67 f. and 76.

12   Quoted in John Golding: Visions of the Modern. Berkeley [et al.]: University of California Press 1994, p. 180.


Ernst Fischer was a long-term member of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, for several years editor for the ›Arbeiter-Zeitung‹ (workers’ journal) and directive leader of the party’s leftist opposition. After the Austrofascist coup and the erection of a dictatorial corporate state, he flew to Prague. He became a member of the KPÖ (Communist Party of Austria), even before he continued his journey to Moscow in the same year. Since 1938, he worked as an editor for the ›Kommunistische Internationale‹ and began a text on ›Die faschistische Rassenlehre‹ (The fascist race doctrine).1

   He finished the manuscript, which contained chapters on the ›Jewish question‹ and the ›Negro question‹, in summer 1939. After the Hitler-Stalin Pact had been made in August of the same year, the printing permission had been withdrawn and Fischer had to delete the part on the ›Jewish question‹. After a revision, the remaining text was meant to be published under the title ›Die reaktionäre Rassentheorie‹ (The reactionary race theory). In the meantime, in 1941, the German-Soviet war had started and the Soviet Union had joined the anti-Hitler coalition. Now the chapter on the ›Negro question‹ seemed problematic to the censor. With the appropriate changes the book was eventually published. 2

Ernst Fischer   Fischer FRT
»... shifting priorities ...«

   It is part of the misery of the written word, that it is not easy to eliminate. Accordingly, copies of Fischer’s attempts have survived. In it the author treats ›race theory‹ as a reactionary endeavour, which was established by Gobineau and continued by Chamberlain and Rosenberg, and, in the following, had been the target of criticism only as a fascist race theory. It was said to have turned away from all scholarliness and become a »mystic hocus-pocus« of a »fascist race mysticism« (p. 10). What continued to be veiled in a coat of scholarliness, Fischer holds against »the true, the dialectic natural sciences«, which, in the form of Lyssenko and others, had »pulled the rug under the feet of the reactionary race theories« (p. 14f.).

   The long chapter on the ›Jewish question‹ ended in a fiasco: the imputed knowledge of the Jewish proletarians and the revolutionary intellectuals »that the Jewish question can only be eliminated by the complete dissolution of Judaism«. This could only be entirely accomplished in socialism: the »masses of the Jewish labourers, farmers and intelligentsia in the Soviet Union slowly cease to be Jews« (p. 44f.)

   In fact, critical words about the race societies of the time are completely missing, not least in the US…

1   Cf. Ernst Fischer: Die faschistische Rassentheorie. Moskau: Verlag für fremdsprachliche Literatur 1941; there also the following quotes.

2   Cf. Ernst Fischer: Erinnerungen und Reflexionen. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt 1969.


Reviews are supposed to inform and contribute to scientific debates? Could be – but certainly not in the opinion of the Princeton University Press. On their website for Francisco Bethencourt’s ›Racisms‹ one can find a glut of exuberant praise. But what genuinely astonishes me is that I am treated as a contributor to this business (together with Stefanie Affeldt and Malte Hinrichsen).

»... academic reviews as hanky-panky ...«

   I assume that we wrote the most comprehensive review of this study. The reason for this was that we consider the text important but, further and foremost, have a whole range of fundamental points of critique. Our entire review is dedicated to these. Already in the introduction we specifically point out the critical impetus: »Since the book's merits have already been emphasised [ a larger range of prominent reviewers], we forego their further repetition and devote ourselves to an engagement with the problematic dimensions of the text«.1

    Our detailed and fundamental critique can be freely accessed. We are gladly available for further discussion. For this, it would certainly be necessary that the publisher refers to our review and not misuses one decontextualized sentence as promotionally effective adulation (to whose widespread impact is contributed by the websites of Amazon for Germany, USA, Great Britain, Japan, India, Spain, Italy, which have taken over the information).

1   Stefanie Affeldt, Malte Hinrichsen, Wulf D. Hund: [Review of] Francisco Bethencourt, Racisms. From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, Princeton/Oxford 2013.


Three days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the ›Daily Mail‹ provided its readers with a cartoon which was intended as legitimation of atomic destruction.1 Because the artist had needed some time to finish compiling the revealing components of his picture, it was fitting that on the day his concoction was published, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.2

»... racist humanity ...«

   The drawing’s basic structure divided the contemporary western strategy of dehumanizing the Japanese. In this case, the widespread simianization was miniaturized, and the ape stereotype was combined with the stereotypes of vermin and pathogens.3 The microscopably tiny Japanese military officer was labelled dangerous by the blood dripping from his sabre, so that the ›scientific‹ identification should indicate an instant annihilation. The ›atomic energy‹ needed for this has become part of an instrument of knowledge production, and science has coalesced with war and extermination to an all-encompassing mission, that is propagated by the imprint on the scientist’s lab coat as ›humanity‹. Its principle includes not only the identification of vermin but also their disposal. Both of the interests – insight and extermination – are illustrated by the scientist’s gestures. One hand operates the microscope, the other is ready to flick the atomically defanged enemy off of the specimen slide...

1   Cf. ›Daily Mail‹, 9.8.1945.

2   Cf. ›Nagasaki: The Last Bomb‹.

3   For this see soon in detail Susan Townsend: The Yellow Monkey. Simianizing the Japanese. In: Simianization. Apes, Gender, Class, and Race [Racism Analysis Yearbook 6], ed. by Wulf D. Hund, Charles W. Mills, Silvia Sebastiani. Berlin [et al.]: Lit (in preparation).


Frantz Fanon has summarized it concisely: the cry of a little boy was enough to destroy his body scheme. »Look, a Negro! Maman, a Negro!« – and his body was »returned« to him »disjointed«; he was burned »to a cinder« by »[a]ll this whiteness«.1

   Adam Goodes wouldn't bear such racists insults any longer. He became actively involved in the indigenous community of Sydney and started a foundation for the support of young Aborigines.2 When he was selected the ›Australian of the Year‹, he stated: »Growing up as an indigenous Australian, I have seen and experienced my fair share of racism« and added: »I’m so grateful for this award and this honour. However, the real reward is when everyone is talking to their mates, their families and their children – having those conversations and educating others about racism, what it looks like, how hurtful and how pointless it is, and how we can eliminate it«.3

   Adam Goodes did not passively endure racist attacks. When, in 2013, during a football match, a 13 year old girl called him an ›ape‹, he immediately stopped playing, turned around, pointed at the girl and demanded her removing from the stadium:

   Goodes's explanation for his reaction was analytic and explanatory:

   Nonetheless (or because of that), now racism not only showed its grimace as an ideology but also its brutality as a social relation. The girl’s mother declared her innocent (as if a teenager doesn't know anything about racist slurs – which were, in all probability, not only overheard at school or in TV but also exercised at home). A known and powerful association chairman took this incident as an opportunity to joke in a radio show »that Goodes could be involved in the promotion of the musical King Kong«.4 And the audience of the football stadium commenced to regularly ruthlessly hoot the player. Two years after, he was worn down and thought about ending his career. The international press commented on the incidents with headlines like: ›Turmoil in Australia. Racists Wear Down Football Star‹.5

   Racism is explicitly not the prejudice-loaded behaviour of individuals. It is a social relation that is deeply embedded in the structures of society. Even if it is no longer being articulated as thoughtless and harmful as in former times, its discriminating tropes have not disappeared. This is evidenced, not least, by the continued existence of the ape stereotype and its dehumanizing potential.6

   This is demonstrated by the revenge of the racists. One of their victims has attempted to publicly expel one of them out of the stadium, and this they could not allow. Their »crescendo of boos« was a clear message: »To Adam’s ears, the ears of so many Indigenous people, these boos are a howl of humiliation. A howl that echoes across two centuries of invasion, dispossession and suffering«7...

1   Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks. New edition, transl. by Richard Philcox, with a foreword by Kwame Anthony Appiah. New York: Grove Press 2008, p. 93 f.

2   Cf. the go foundation.

3   Cf. ›Herald Sun‹, 30.7. 2015.

4   Cf. ›The Conversation‹, 31.5.2013.

5   Cf. ›Spiegel Online‹, 30.7.2015.

6   Cf., shortly, the contributions in Wulf D. Hund, Charles W. Mills, Silvia Sebastiani (eds.): Simianization. Apes, Gender, Class, and Race [Racism Analysis | Yearbook 6 – in preparation] Berlin (et al.): Lit 2015.

7    ›The Guardian‹, 30.7.2015.


When (re)consulting William Mitchell's ›Seeing Through Race‹ my marks and remarks on the first page of the introduction are constantly reminding me of the astonished disconcertment that overcame me on my first perusal of the text. This was ›much ado about nothing‹ and a parable on the confusion of racism analysis at the same time.

   Regarding »race and racism [...] as universal phenomena, both translocal and transhistorical in some sense«, the author wants to ascertain how »we can find a way to be against racism while regenerating the concept of race«.1 His possessive ›we‹ caught my eye right on the first page. It is applied as a means of didactic, in order to encourage ›us‹ (the readers) to follow the ›one‹ (the author), who speaks up right at the beginning of the book as the ›one and only‹ and promises clarification of a confusing situation. The latter, however, was brought about by the author himself – in particular by constantly mixing the categories ›race‹ and ›racism‹. By doing this, he coincidently avoids conceptually grasping ›race‹, instead he uses the word in a number of meanings (see fig. 1).

»... reading through race ...«

   That the page referred to deals with ›racism‹ is evidenced by the word appearing at the beginning and the end of the text, virtually framing it. During the rest of the text, as if ›racism‹ were inevitably and inextricably linked to ›race‹, Mitchell only discusses the latter. That this is a reduction becomes clear when looking at the first three sentences: the first talks about ›racism‹, the second lists its ›most prominent forms‹, and the third already underhandedly focusses them on ›race‹. This shrinkage is additionally supported by an anti-intellectual attitude which, in light of the text (these are talks given at Harvard University in 2010) and the author (a renowned historian of art and culture), can only have strategic relevance. The attitude consists of a well-nigh Orwellian connection between ›intellecutals‹ and ›theorists‹ with ›police officers‹ who explains to ›us‹ (here ›we‹ are ›we‹ again), that there is »nothing to see here« because »we [sic] are living in a ›post-racial era‹«. It is elf-evident that ›we‹ (as members of an elite university and readers of a book published by their university press) cannot comply with such thought policing impertinences – and by that fall for a bold appeal to common sense which, following the author's intention, refers ›us‹ to and makes ›us‹ insist on »all the visible signs of racial difference«.

   My annotations mark the attempt to withdraw from such an usurpation. For the connection between »Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and Negrophobia«, I have (1) noted that at least one of them works without ›race‹ and the rhetoric question ›why‹ »racism persists« is followed (2) by the rather laconic answer because race works without colour & racism works without race. Initially, let it be explained what these annotations (intended as personal memory aids) are aiming at and to which racism-analytical context they refer.

   My first annotation (1) points to the fact that ›race‹ has indeed played a role in the history of antisemitism,2 but at the same time it shows that it was not about ›visible signs‹. Even the antisemitism of the Nazis could thus neither deploy its enormous racial scientific apparatus nor trust its racist common sense. The Reich justice minister Franz Gürtner instead assumes that in the persecution of the Jews race biology would not provide a »guideline« and wished for »the man belonging to a foreign race [...] to bear a visible stamp on his forehead« – a scenario that was later implemented by the regulation for the ›marking of the Jews‹, which continued a long tradition of discrminination (see fig. 2). In the case of the so obvious skin colours, as well, the distinction was not as easy as the race ideology passed it off. Therefore, even in a race society like South Africa the Population Registration Act of 1950 determined: »A white person is one who in appearance is, or who is generally accepted as, a white person, but does not include a person who, although in appearance obviously a white person, is generally accepted as a Coloured person«.3

»... patch, hat, star: visualizing the invisible ...«

   My second annotation (2) questions what Mitchell claims to have provided as alleged evidence and emphasizes that, on the one hand‹, ›race‹ is a complex social construction and, on the other, that ›racism‹ is neither automatically nor systematically bound to ›race‹. Of course, both clauses must be read adding an ›also‹. ›Race‹ was and is an (at times massively) colour-coded category and ›racism‹ has intensively drawn of the category ›race‹ in modernity (and partially does so today). But these insights can be found in Mitchell's text anyway. My annotations are not directed against them but against the supposition that ›racism‹ is completely taken up in these provisions.

   This is not the case. For one, the term race has also been applied where it could not be tied to ›visible signs‹. This holds true for antisemitism as well as for an antislavism, like that of the Nazis, which rated the Slavs among the ›white race‹ but at the same time declared them ›subhumans‹ and subjected them to genocidal politics. This holds also true for an orientalism, like that of Immanuel Kant, which rated the Turks among the ›white race‹ but at the same time declared them ›Orientals‹ who were incapable of cultural improvement. On the other hand, there were and are numerous racisms which did not draw on ›race‹ but discriminated and discriminate against its victims with other cultural markers. These include racist disparagements and ostracisms of ›barbarians‹, ›impure‹, ›heathens‹ or ›savages‹.4

   Back to Mitchell's ›race‹. Already on the first page, the category is present in at least two (in itself complex) meanings without the author saying a word about it. This is, for one, the ›idea of race‹ which has found historic expression in a ›concept of race‹ that purportedly had a past as »science« but has, in the meantime, been denounced as an »illusion«. Furthermore, there is ›race‹ as ›racial identity‹ which should not be »generally« related to »some real substance in the physical world« without following the parole of ›colour blindness‹ which prompts to »ignore all the visible signs of racial difference«.5

   The expected plea for the retention of the ›concept of race‹ (of course in a critically revised form) can already be sensed. It is made extensively in the following and leads to the conviction that »race is the only concept we [no chance to escape] have that is capable of encompassing the multiple vectors of religion, culture, politics, and a ›naturalized‹ sense of what constitutes a people«.6 This is a blatant lie. The truth is that there is a concept which allows for the ›encompassing‹ of several forms of racist discrimination without blurring the differences. It is the concept of racism. It not only enables the differentiation of distinct racisms but also circumvents a few curiosa of a renewed race concept. They include a historic circle which binds racism to race but at the same time postulates that »race [...] must be understood [...] as a product, not as a cause or source, of racism«. They further include a historic anachronism which retroactively categorically ›racializes‹ racisms before the race concept or at least voluntaristically prompts for this racializing. In Mitchell this (in reference to antiquity) has an unintentionally comic tone: »I want us [all of ›us‹, of course] to be able to see and to say that the [ancient] Greeks were racists too«. Postmodern analyses can be rather quirky sometimes…

1   William J. T. Mitchell: Seeing Through Race. Cambridge (Mass.) [et al]: Harvard University Press 2012, pp. 5 (›universal‹) and 27 (›concept of race‹); the following quotes are (if not denotes otherwise) from ibid., p. xi.

2   Mitchell writes ›anti-Semitism‹ and thereby upholds an orthographic tradition of essentialization. Against this, I refer to scholars like Colin Tatz: With Intent to Destroy. Reflecting on Genocide. London [et al.]: Verso 2003, who (p. 18) has annotated that »[t]here was, and is, no ›Semitism‹ to be anti. Neither hyphen nor capital S is needed for antisemitism«.

3   Cf. Alexandra Przyrembel: ›Rassenschande‹. Reinheitsmythen und Vernichtungslegitimation im Nationalsozialismus. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2003, p. 140 (›Germany‹) and Deborah Posel: What's in a Name? Racial Categorisations Under Apartheid and their Afterlife. In: Transformation, 47, 2002, pp. 50-74 (›South Africa‹).

4   Cf. Andreas Umland: Slavs, The (and Germany). In: World Fascism. A Historical Encyclopedia, ed. by Cyprian P. Blamires. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, vol. 1, pp. 605 f. (›antislavism‹); Wulf D. Hund: ›It must come from Europe‹. The Racisms of Immanuel Kant. In: Racisms Made in Germany, ed. by Wulf D. Hund, Christian Koller, Moshe Zimmermann. Berlin [et al.]: Lit 2011, pp. 69-98, p. 86 (›Turks‹); Wulf D. Hund: Rassismus. Bielfeld: transcript 2007, esp. pp. 34-81 (›cultural markers‹).

5   Due to these contradictory statements, I have made ›colour blindness‹*) the central keyword for this paragraph, marked it with an asterisk and put it on top of the page. This accounts for my approval of Mitchell's critique of a position (in particular expressed in the USA) which used a few attempts on the official addressing and containment of race-based discrimination as an opportunity to proclaim an alleged ›post race‹ era. This is a quite common attitude which does not conceal its conservatism and is in particular criticized by ›theorists of race‹ (in contradiction to the impression Mitchell attempts to convey). Furthermore, adding ›racism‹ to my keyword also expresses my scepticism towards a position which reduces ›racism‹ to ›race‹ and makes ›colour‹ a central (if not necessary) indicator for racist relations. What has historically been true for a certain time in the case of science, has remained even longer in everyday consciousness and therefore plays a role in certain race societies today can nonetheless not be generalized as an exclusive basis for racism.

6   William J. T. Mitchell, ibid., p. 84; for the following see pp. 32 (›product‹) and 69 (›ancient Greeks‹).


I am currently writing a critique of Archille Mbembe’s ›Critique de la raison nègre‹, in German published as ›Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft‹.1 My detailed critique of the study will follow later. At this point, I would like to offer a small remark on an aside which actually is rather substantial because it refers to the hypertrophization of the term race. It concerns the remark on »le cas du discours multiséculaire de la lutte des races dont on sait par ailleurs qu'il précède historiquement le discours sur la lutte des classes« – »den jahrhundertealten Diskurs über den Kampf zwischen den Rassen, von dem wir im Übrigen wissen, dass er historisch dem Diskurs über den Klassenkampf vorausging«2 – »the century-old discourse on race struggle, about which we incidentally know that historically it preceded the discourse on class struggle«.

   What is known by ›on‹/›wir‹/›we‹ does, of course, not have to be proven by bibliographical reference. Those who do not know it can be silently ashamed. Those who actually made it to this remark have worked through a postmodern terrain on which, as it befits, fruits of the perusal of Foucault are casually scattered. The decoding of the ›on‹/›wir‹/›we‹, worded in general terms, is thus not difficult: it should read ›Foucault and Mbembe know‹. The pertinent statement of Foucault is spooking through the postmodern worlds as an alleged quote of Marx. According to this, Marx has purportedly written to Engels in 1882: »You know very well where we found our idea of class struggle; we found it in the work of the French historians who talked about the race struggle«.3

»... situation report from the combat zone ...«

   This ›knowledge‹ is actually faked. Marx has never written (and least of all meant) this sentence. The editors of Foucault’s ›Cours‹ at the Collège de France in 1976 have noted this – and added: »cité manifestement de mémoire«.4 The generation of knowledge and its discursive dissemination can be so easy. This is of course not Marx’s view but Foucault’s opinion, which is based on an entirely superficial approach to the term race and its history. Marx refers to the ›French historians‹ exclusively under the category of ›class struggle‹. He simply ignores its racial semantic (just as he generally does not at all deal particularly intensively and critically with the issue ›racism‹ – but that is another chapter which can be thoroughly read in Kevin Anderson).5

»... creative quoting ...«

    Mbembe’s concept perfectly accommodates the foucaultistically imagined Marx – methodically as well as textually. Methodically because his dealing with historical sources is likewise rather creative; textually because he practices a complete conceptual dissolution and de-contouring of the terms ›race‹ and ›racism‹. But, as said, more on this later.

1   The German translation has linguistically tested reviewers even before any textual examination. The Burundi-born scholar Arlette-Louise Ndakoze (Die drei Übel der Welt. In: ›Deutschlandradio Kultur‹, 8.11.2014) criticized that »in the German translation a difference substantial to Mbembe« disappears: »›Critique de la raison nègre‹ headlines the French original, ›Kritik der negerhaften Vernunft‹, precisely not of the black reason, as the German edition suggests. Because – conceptually – the negro is enslaved but not the black African per se«. By contrast, the literary scholar Matthias Dell (Das vermaledeite N-Wort. In: ›Freitag‹, 12.11.2014) explained that the book is organized around a »central term«, »that of the ›negro‹«, and thus left him »baffled«. He harboured »doubts« that the associated critical »intention« could be after all properly »understood« in Germany.2 As for the rest, the criticism appeared somewhat perplexed. In the face of the perusal of the author who »knows every academic trick in the book«, Detlev Claussen (Reale Fiktionen. In: ›die tageszeitung‹, 21.2.2015) asked himself: »Does this all have to be expressed so complicated?« Andreas Eckert (Neger heißen heute Arbeitsnomaden. In: ›Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‹, 20.11.2014) read an »occasionally opaque book with disconcerting insights, prudent theses, but also passages of verbosely veiled meaningless«.

2   Achille Mbembe: Critique de la raison nègre. Paris: La Découverte 2013, p. 88, Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 2014, S. 112.

3   Marx quoted after the on dit of Foucault in Steve Fenton: Race and the Nation. In: The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism, ed. by Gerard Delanty, Krishan Kumar. London [et al.]: Sage 2006, pp. 192-204, p. 197; see also William J. T. Mitchell: Seeing Through Race. Cambridge (Mass.) [et al.]: Harvard University Press 2012, p. 61; Lindsay Weiss: Fictive Capital and Artefacts. The Diamond Rush of Nineteenth-Century South Africa. In: The Archaeology of Capitalism in Colonial Contexts. Postcolonial Historical Archaeologies, ed. by Sarah K. Croucher, Lindsay Weiss, New York [et al.]: Springer 2011 pp. 219-241, p. 237. Remarks of Marx with a certain approximation (though without any reference to ›race‹) can be found in a letter to Joseph Weydemeyer from March 5, 1852: »I do not claim to have discovered either the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, as had bourgeois economists their economic anatomy« (Karl Marx: [Letter] to Joseph Weydemeyer, 5.3.1852. In: MEW, vol. 28, pp. 503-509, pp. 507 f.)

4   Cf. Michel Foucault: Il faut défendre la société. Cours au Collège de France, 1976. Paris: Gallimard-Seuil 1997; here quoted after ›Le Foucault Électronique‹, p. 55, fn. 6.

5   Cf. Kevin B. Anderson: Marx at the Margins. On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies. Chicago [et al.]: University of Chicago Press 2010.


In Turkish ›adam‹ simultaneously means human, man and lad. In FAZ-German this is not different – albeit with a distinctively antimuslim orientation. From 1979 to 2000, Konrad Adam was the conservative spear head of the feuilleton at the ›Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‹ (›FAZ‹) and after that, from 2000 to 2007, he acted as the senior correspondent of Springer’s ›Welt‹. After his retirement, he politically professes to what he always stood for: a pseudo-occidentally disguised cultural chauvinism.

   He romanticizes about »the astonishing triumphal procession with which the European culture has almost conquered the whole world«. At the same time he sees those values as endangered, »which have made superior the European culture«, because »like all the late cultures it suffers from the stigma of feebleness«. This supposedly holds especially true for Germany because »the Germans [have become] incapable of perceiving the foreign as foreign«.1 For that reason Adam has engaged in politics and currently acts as the spokesperson of the right-wing ›Alternative für Deutschland‹.

   In this capacity, he has expressed his sympathy with the demonstrations of the ›Pegida‹ [› Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident‹].2 Moreover, just in time for the resumption of their racist demonstrations in the new year 2015, he makes a small vicious contribution to a great historic battle, which his former employer published in a prominent location on page 2 of its Sunday edition – under the caption ›Wie die Christen schon einmal die Türken schlugen‹3 [How the Christians have once before defeated the Turks] and illustrated with a painting by Antonio Vassilacchi.

»... Vassilacchi: naval battle with setting crescent ...«

   With this, Adam caused quite a stir in the German press. But analytically his critics did not put in much of an effort.4 The illustrators of his home postil, too, proved not to keep pace with the times.

   Adam does not for nothing tell his story as if he had refreshed his memory of the Ottomans, notoriously called ›Turks‹ by him, in ›Rome‹. Thereby, he pretended to still live in the ›Benedictine‹ Age in which he could bank on a Pope who enjoyed rebuking the Islam.5 Only in this way, his bigot glorification of religious war could receive the major orders.

»... Veronese: Deus lo vult ...«

   His article would thus have been better accompanied by a painting of Paolo Veronese,6 who has not only endowed the Doge’s Palace in Venice with the allegory of the naval battle of Lepanto.7 In one of the altarpieces he did his job properly and made the assistance by the (Christian) heaven a central part of his painting.8 No less than four saints, rallied around Venezia, invoke the Mother of God’s heavenly assistance, while an impatient angel has already started to attack Muslim ships with divine thunderbolts. It thus hardly comes as a surprise when an ultra-catholic blogger, seminarian in the Archdiocese of Kansas City and future priest, makes the painting the centrepiece of his memory of Lepanto. Here, in terms of militancy, even our Adam can learn something new...

1   Konrad Adam: Mein Traum von Europa [›Cicero‹, 25.5.2005].

2   ›Europäisches Erbe verteidigen‹. AfD-Sprecher Adam äußert Verständnis für Pegida‹ [›Die freie Welt‹, 11.12.2014].

3   Konrad Adam: Wie die Christen schon einmal die Türken schlugen [›Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung‹, 4.1.2015] .

4   Cf. Sebastian Hammelehle: AfD-Politiker Konrad Adam: Die Glaubenskrieger sind unter uns [Spiegel online, 4.1.2015]; Andreas Oswald, Torben Waleczek: Wie Konrad Adam an die Türken-Bezwinger von 1571 erinnert [›Tagesspiegel‹ online, 4.1.2015]; Christian Bangel: Konrad Adam. Der Mann der Von der Kügenpresse kam [Zeit online, 5.1.2015]; Ludger Fittkau: AFD-Politiker Adam in der FAS. Ein publizistischer Fehlstart ins neue Jahr [Deutschlandradio Kultur, 5.1.2015]; auf historische Defizite und Geschichtklitterung verweist immerhin Achim Landwehr: Geschichte wird gemacht. Über die Alltäglichkeit des Historischen.

5   Cf. the ›Regensburg Lecture‹ of Pope Benedict XVI>.

6   For the iconography of ›Lepanto‹ see Harriet Rudolph: Lepanto – Die Ordnung der Schlacht und die Ordnung der Erinnerung. In: Militärische Erinnerungskulturen vom 14. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert. Träger – Medien – Deutungskonkurrenzen, ed. by Horst Carl, Ute Planert. Göttingen: V&R Unipress 2012, pp. 101-127.

7   Cf. Staale Sinding-Larsen: The Changes in the Iconography and Composition of Veronese’s Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto in the Doge’s Palace. In: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Instituts, 19, 1956, 3/4, pp. 298-302.

8   Cf. Benjamin Paul: ›And the moon has stand to bled‹. Apocalypticism and religious reform in Venetian Art at the Time of the Battle of Lepanto. In: The Turk and Islam in the Western Eye, 1450-1750. Visual Imagery before Orientalism, ed. by James G. Harper. Farnham [et al.]: Ashgate 2011, p. 67-94, p. 73.

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