‘Get Over It’?: Racialised Temporalities and Bodily Orientations in Time
Helen Ngo (Deakin University)

October 9, 2018, 4:00pm - 5:30pm
PHI research group, Deakin University

221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood 3125
Australia

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Deakin University

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ABSTRACT:

Charges of racism levelled in the public domain, particularly when contested, are frequently met with the response ‘get over it’. Those who level the charge – usually but not only people of colour – are dismissed as making mountains out of molehills, being trapped in some kind of racial paranoia, and dwelling (in both senses of living in and brooding on) the ‘racist past’. While there are many important layers to this familiar discursive impasse, in this paper I examine the specifically temporal dimensions of such claims, situating it in a broader analysis of racialised time. In doing so I draw on the work of Alia Al-Saji, who in her phenomenological reading of Frantz Fanon, examines the multiple ways in which racism and colonialism affix the racialised and colonised body to that of the past – and specifically, a closed past. This temporalisation of the racialised body serves not only to anachronise it, but also to close off its projective possibilities for being or becoming otherwise. Such a move reflects the nature of racialisation itself, which following Al-Saji and Charles Mills, does not just exteriorise or ‘other’ racialised bodies, but relies equally on a forgetting, or a disavowal and leaving behind of this very process. The result, I argue, is to render whiteness and white bodies as temporally present and even futural in their orientation, free from the vestiges of racism’s history and free to adopt any number of stances on its continuing legacy. It is against this setting that I further argue the exhortations to ‘get over’ racism – looking at examples such as the ongoing contestation around Australia Day / Invasion Day commemorations, and the recent controversy around (and subsequent defence of) Mark Knight’s cartoon depiction of Serena Williams – are not only dangerous in their denial of racism, but also disingenuous in the way they purport to move beyond a racially divided world, when in fact this very gesture serves to reinscribe differential racialised temporalities.

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