‘Pre-discursive’ racism


This paper makes the case that discourse analytic approaches in social psychology are not adequate to the task of apprehending racism in its bodily, affective and pre-symbolic dimensions. We are hence faced with a dilemma: if discursive psychology is inadequate when it comes to theorizing pre-discursive forms of racism, then any attempts to develop an anti-racist strategy from such a basis will presumably exhibit the same limitations. Suggesting a rapprochement of discursive and psychoanalytic modes of analysis, I argue that Kristeva’s theory of abjection provides a means of understanding racism as both historically/socially constructed and as existing at powerfully embodied, visceral and subliminal dimensions of subjectivity. Kristeva’s theory of abjection provides us with an account of a pre-discursive (that is, a bodily, affective, pre-symbolic) racism, a form of racism that comes before words, and that is routed through the logics of the body and its anxieties of distinction, separation and survival. This theory enables us, moreover, to join together the expulsive reactions of a racism of the body to both the personal racism of the ego and the broader discursive racisms of the prevailing social order. Moreover, it directs our attention to the fact that discourses of racism are always locked into a relationship with pre-discursive processes which condition and augment every discursive action, which escape the codifications of discourse and which drive the urgency of its attempts at containment.

Hook, Derek (2006) ‘Pre-discursive’ racism. Journal of community & applied social psychology, 16 (3). pp. 207-232


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  1. And is it not racist to deny the right to an entire people to survive in its own ancestral land?  And would that racism be neither pre-discursive nor even discursive but hypocritical and concealed?