Some Philosophical Reflections on Why the Global Fight Against Racism has Failed? by R. Bernasconi – 16 February 2016



The Steve Biko Lectures in Philosophy

16 February 2016
13:00 – 16:00 – Madibeng Building, University of Johannesburg

Robert Bernasconi
Pennsylvania State University


Abraham Olivier – University of Fort Hare
Zinhle Mncube – University of Johannesburg



Is racism parasitic on the concept of race? Or is the reverse true? Is the concept of race produced by racism? As soon as this pair of alternatives is viewed historically, it is easily shown to be too simplistic, and yet the dominant tendency has been the one-sided approach of challenging racism by attacking the legitimacy of the concept of race. This strategy was promoted by the Boasian school of anthropology and further championed by UNESCO in 1950, but it has severe limitations. In this lecture I deploy a genealogical approach to expose the limitations of the UNESCO strategy and then drawing on the dialectical resources already developed in Frantz Fanon and the later Sartre I attempt to outline a richer approach. In brief, the fight against racism failed because within the dominant discourses there was neither an adequate diagnosis of the problem nor adequate intellectual resources to amend this account.