The production of fascist and racist subjectivities pertains not only to those who openly define themselves as authoritarian, superior and opposed to multiculturalism, nor only those who invoke racial, sexual or cultural heirarchies, nor only those who actively perserve the values of dictatorial regimes, nor those who beat transexuals, immigrants and homeless people in the street. To be antifascist today, and more concretely to be antiracist, is to look in two different directions simultaneously; to look at those public messages and political acts which work towards exclusion and also to study one’s own daily contacts and experiences with difference.
To act in the first of these directions one must look at and read carefully those images and texts which legitimize the closing of borders, the freedom to move and to locate oneself in any part of the globe, the discussion of migration in terms of ‘social emergency,” the distinction between legitimate refugees and illegitimate economic migrants, the criminalization of foreigners or, inversely, the denunciation of shady exploitation of immigrants as an humanitarian argument to avoid their permanent settlement in Europe, etc.
To act in the second of these directions is to rethink all that so intimately constitutes us: the creation and assumption of suspicion, the hiding of the place from which we are seen and the negation of the view from outside, the invisibilization, simplification and de-subjectification of ‘other’ people, the lack of knowledge and interest in what are called ‘other cultures,’ the negation of historical dynamics of non-western peoples, the feeding of difference as ‘enigma,’ the fear of pushing and debating the limits of contact, etc. It is evident that these two levels are intertwined, and that the stereotypes of daily experience are adapted from the macrofascism of States and other institutions, and vice versa, that tho institutional discourses are consolidated when the meet their own echos in neighborhood, school and households.
The workshop of ‘Tools against Racism’ attempts to work with both of the facets which comprise racism today. For this we propose to reflect on a collection of imgaes and texts about immigrants and ethnic minorities produced by institutions, collectives and individuals both native and foreign: news articles, posters, pamphlets, photographs, televised news and words. In this way we seek to question our own positions, the structure of the gaze (who is looking at whom?) the use of words, and what is assumed by the way we speak about things. The workshop does not seek to be ‘politically correct,’ does not offer immunity, and openly suspects everything which polarizes racism and anti-racism.
About two hours: ten minutes of presentation, ten to put together the working groups, 50 minutes of work in groups and 50 minutes of discussion together.
In all groups it is absolutely imperative-- it is the whole point of the workshop-- that students work together, and that their tasks are completed by full consensus.
Group 1: Words and Images
The materials of this group are images (advertizements, travel pictures, press photos, posters, etc.) at the bottom of which the group must place a caption (in one or two phrases)
The caption should not merely reiterate the advertisement (“buy zanidi jeans because they make you look sexy!”) but should reflect some critical interpretation-- i.e. what desires or assumptions does the picture play upon? how does it deploy these desires or assumptions?
encourage students to consider things like camera angle, colors, and the relationship between image and text, as well as the more obvious elements of the picture.
Group 2: The daily news
The materials of this group are press articles. The group will retell-- whether in writing or presentation-- what the article says. Their retelling should not be merely a summary of the article, but should be sensitive to the perspective and bias of the article, and should reflect some critical thinking about both the article’s subject and its style.
Group 3: Think with Words
The material of this group will be a list of words. For each of these words the group must write a definition in the style of a dictionary. Explain that these are very complex words, the meaning of which should be fully explored, and might be very difficult to summarize.
Discussion: After the students present their definitions, ask if anyone in the audience would like to change or challenge them. If met with silence, you might lead the discussion by asking, for example, the difference between ‘race’ ‘culture’ and ‘ethnic group’ or between ‘sex’ ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality.’
Group 4: Texts for reflection
The material of this group will be a collection of texts written by various alternative movements or intellectual currents. The group must correct these texts (by changing words, titles or phrases) as they see fit. If they have no changes to make to the text, they should explain why they like it or why they dislike it so much that it is incorrectable.
Group 5: Rights and Laws
The material of this group is a collection of legislative and judicial texts as well as international declarations pertaining to ethnic and religious groups. The group should try to explain what definitions of migration and ‘foreignness’ these texts put into play. The group should prepare a couple of phrases characteristic of each one.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Group 6: Television
The materials of this group are televised news broadcasts. The work consists of lowering the volume on the TV and writing new ‘audio’ for the broadcast based on the images alone.
Suggestions for presenting the workshop
Choose photos, articles, etc. carefully. Organize them in a loosely thematic manner (i.e. images of women, images of cultural difference, etc)
For younger or less sophisticated students, it might help a lot to build up the activity a bit. Here are some suggestions
1) Show slides or pictures that could be interpreted in many ways (landscapes, people,animals. . .)
2)Ask participants to write five facts about the picture. On the board, make a list of the things they mention.
3)Define ‘observation’ and ‘judgement.’ Discuss the differences between the two. Have the participants identify which of the things on the board are observations and which are judgements. Label them ‘o’ and ‘j.’
Then select some pretty overtly problematic media image. Show it to the students and on the board, make a list of observations about the picture.
Having made the distiction between concrete observations and critical reflections, you may find it easier to proceed to critical reflections:
a)Consider whatever text is included in the image, and whatever you know about the image (is it taken from a perfume advertisement or from a political brochure?)
b)Why would the advertisers/editors select this image? What do you associate with it? What meaning does it create together with the text, if there is any? What is the veiwer supposed to feel? What do you feel?