Determining Race pt.1

Have you ever looked back on something that you wrote, said or created a few years down the track? I don’t mean looking back to when you were 3 and painted a cute/strange picture of some blob shapes that you insisted was actually a family portrait… Have you produced work (for career or study) and then reviewed it again a couple of years later?

As it happens, I reread a series of assessment tasks that I submitted after completing an internship at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne (side note: the JHC is just around the corner from the Elsternwick train station and if you get the chance I definitely recommend going!). I spent almost two months working at the JHC in a researcher role, spending most of my time drafting ideas and finding possible sources to include in a new exhibit that would include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of genocide in the collection as well. I had no experience whatsoever in museum or art curation so I learned a lot about what makes a museum interesting and memorable for visitors. It made me think about the museums that I’ve been to, and what I remembered from those visits and why I remembered what I did. One of the recurring questions I had while interning was, ‘how can I make people who have little or no interest in history want to visit, and leave with new knowledge and having had a positive (albeit confronting) experience?’

Well, you can’t make people come. You have to let the museum/exhibit/history speak for itself. In my opinion, people need to be made to feel something when they visit a museum. Feelings of awe, excitement, loss, connection, sadness – all are so valuable in making the experience memorable. If people remember something about their visit to the museum, they’ll tell their friends and family about it.

Upon completion of my internship, I had to submit a series of assessment tasks relating to the research that I was working on at JHC. The final product was a 4000 word research paper that explored racial ideology and genocide using the Jewish Holocaust and the Australian genocide of Indigenous people as case studies. I had to choose the research topic (the assessment tasks prior to this one include a research proposal, research plan, podcast and literature review) but it needed to relate to my work at the JHC and be approved by my chief examiner. One of the main reasons this topic resonated with me most is because race is still something that we engage with almost every day. Race still has a significant impact on a lot of people’s lives all around the world and it’s often not a positive one.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share that research paper. I asked at the beginning of this post if you’ve ever revisited work a few years after you’d finished it… I wrote this paper almost two years ago, and to be quite honest had forgotten a lot of what I’d written. I had some cringe moments at times when reading my choice of expression or wording… but it’s a piece of work that I’m still quite proud of. If you have a second to spare, pull out an old essay, or go through an art diary etc because reflecting on our own past work is a phenomenal way to grow and improve. I’m recognising mistakes I made that I didn’t know I made at the time despite countless read-throughs. This has shown me that 1) my writing has improved in almost every way (certainly not perfect), and 2) that looking back on our own work can actually be really valuable! I never had the chance to enjoy reading – or writing – this paper because as soon as it was submitted I was on to the next task at hand and didn’t look at it again.

The piece below is the abstract of my paper. In the coming weeks I’ll be posting subsequent sections. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Determining Race: Does Racial Ideology Lead to Genocide?

The emergence of the concept of race in the late 17th century has brought with it a plethora of significant complexities and issues. Oftentimes these issues have played out on the world stage and are reflected as some of the most detrimental and damaging aspects of modern history. This paper aims to explore the concept of racial ideology and explore the contentious nature of race science and identifying difference. By first identifying what race and racial ideology is, this paper will then begin an analysis of the Jewish Holocaust and the Australian genocide – both of which can be primarily ‘justified’* by racial thinking (Weikart, 2004). This investigation reveals the ways in which racial ideology manifest in today’s society, highlighting that even fifty or one hundred years after racial ideology was used to commit genocide, only some changes have occurred.

The Holocaust was arguably one of the most destructive events of modern history, unprecedented in scale (Crowe, 2008). The Australian genocide however, reflects a longstanding perception by European colonialism that the nations they invade are home to only the most “savage and unenlightened races”** (Kaviraj, 2014). By dismantling the contemporary understanding of race, it will become clear that it has little legitimate standing as a justification for carrying out crimes against humanity, though has been used time and time again.

*There is no justification for genocide

**This phrasing may be confronting, but literature reveals that colonial powers had these exact feelings about the places they invaded. In no way do I condone this thinking or this language, it is used only is this paper as a piece of evidence.

intro coming soon,

 

smh

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