Day: January 17, 2010

Race and State in contemporary Ireland

Paper presented at the ‘Better Questions’ seminar series in Seomra Spraoi, Dublin, Tuesday 19 January 2010


‘Only one world… Let foreigners teach us at least to become foreign to ourselves, to project ourselves sufficiently out of ourselves to no longer be captive to this long Western and white history that has come to an end, and from which nothing more can be expected than sterility and war. Against this catastrophic and nihilistic expectation of a security state, let us greet the foreignness of tomorrow’ (Alain Badiou, 2008: 70)

‘If the world cannot be changed, the (neo liberal) argument went, the left should concentrate on small-scale projects, moral concerns and the protection of vulnerable identities. Multiculturalism could replace radical change, membership of Amnesty that of political organisation’ (Costas Douzinas, The Guardian, 1 January 2010)

On 11 June 2004 the government of the Republic of Ireland put forward a referendum to amend article 9 of the Constitution to remove birth-right citizenship from children born in Ireland to an Irish citizen (or entitled to Irish citizenship). Birth right citizenship prevailed since the establishment of the Republic in 1922. The amendment did not include the children of the 1.8 million holders of Irish passports not born in Ireland who have one Irish grandparent and therefore entitled to Irish citizenship without having to set foot in Ireland. 79.8 per cent of the electorate voted in favour.
My argument is that the nation-state, theorised by David Theo Goldberg (2002) as a ‘racial state’, remains the focus of any analysis of racism, viewed by Foucault as ‘inscribed as the basic mechanism of power, as it is exercised in modern States’. Foucault argues that ‘the modern State can scarcely function without becoming involved with racism at some point’ (Foucault 2003: 254). Read more