The difference sameness makes: Racial recognition and the 'narcissism of minor differences'

St Louis, Brett. 2005. The difference sameness makes: Racial recognition and the 'narcissism of minor differences'. Ethnicities, 5(3), pp. 343-364. ISSN 14687968 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines the form and effects of differentiation that surface within the artifice of racial sameness. Using contemporary debates between ‘native-born’ and ‘foreign-born’ blacks in the USA over the right to ‘African American’ identity and the socioeconomic threat posed to the former by the latter, I show how the operation of the logic of race internally within a racial group reiterates familiar effects of racialization. Drawing on Freud’s notion of the ‘narcissism of minor differences’ as a framing device, I point out that this difference/sameness relation is not simply antagonistic through an analysis of the ambiguity of Africa as posing a socioeconomic threat in the migrants it sends while also presenting the historical and symbolic basis for African American claims to cultural distinctiveness. The article builds a critique of the invention of sameness that makes difference in two key ways: first, through the representation of difference as an antithesis that affirms the racialized self characterized by sameness; and second, that this makes a political difference in the sense that this dialectic of black as self and other reifies the social problematic of its sameness/difference relation as intrinsically (intra)racial to the extent that the substantive socioeconomic causality of racial stratification and racism are obscured.

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African American, black, ethnicity, race, racism

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1 September 2005Published

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Date Deposited:

12 Mar 2009 15:42

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2017 12:48

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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