On Violence, Power, and Citizenship

“It seems to be a peculiar privilege of white political subjectivity that it periodically claims to intellectually understand and affectively identify with the social and historical positionalities of racial genocide’s survivors, social inheritors, historical objects, and political antagonists while inhabiting none of the material and affective conditions that such deep violences create.”

—     Dylan Rodríguez, Goldwater’s left hand: Post-raciality and the roots of the post-racial racist state

“Shared history” is one of those stock expressions Dutch Caribbeans use to refer to, if not explain, our presence in the Netherlands, quite often without giving it a second thought. I myself have used the term “shared history” on several occasions without really grappling with its implications, the familiarity it intimates. The truth of the matter is that “shared history” is a fiction: the descendants of enslaved Africans do not have an equal share in the narration of “Dutch history.” Our consent has never been solicited. What is often elided by the use of “shared history” is the reality that intimacy and familiarity, which the cosy term “shared history” presupposes, were established under duress and a regime of terror. What does intimacy, familiarity, a “shared history” mean in the context of coercion, violence, and precarity?

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