Transposition

‘Transposition’ is another useful CRT developed by Gillborn (2008, p. 82) and adapted from Gregg Beratan (forthcoming, 2008) (it was originally applied to disability issues). Transposition describes ‘situations where one form of injustice is legitimized by reference to a different, more readily acceptable form of argument’ (Gillborn 2008, p. 82). As Beratan (forthcoming, 2008, cited in Gillborn 2008, p. 82) notes, when a musical piece is transposed into a different key, the sound changes, but the song remains fundamentally the same. Gillborn (ibid.) gives the example of racist transposition in ‘the strategic deployment of gender equity issues as an acceptable trope for otherwise aggressively racist attacks on Muslim communities’. Thus we have, in the aftermath of 7/7, Tony Blair (then Prime Minister) arguing against ‘forced marriage’, ‘marriage at an early age’ and women being debarred from certain mosques. While there is no doubt about the justice of these statements with respect to women’s rights, the intention in making them is the issue here. The reason for Blair’s intervention on behalf of Muslim women at this time needs to be interrogated. For Gillborn (2008, p. 84) ‘Blair was keen to emphasize his (rhetorical) commitment to equity and ... the act of transposition was in evidence as the attacks on Islam were presented as a concern for women’s rights’. As Steve, a character in one of Gillborn’s chronicles (see the section of this chapter on ‘Chronicle’; see also the Appendix to this chapter) puts it, we have

Tony Blair pouring out his heart about the importance of fighting sex discrimination while he supports new immigration rules that will make it harder for women to enter the country to be with their husbands.12 And if they do ever get in, Gordon Brown wants them to do community service! (Gillborn 2008, p. 15).13

The Professor, the other character in Gillborn’s chronicle, responds that it is a very effective technique in that it splits the opposition, and allows policymakers to appear liberal and concerned when they are actually proposing measures that are more and more regressive (Gillborn 2008, p. 15).

Like other CRT concepts discussed in this chapter, interest convergence, contradiction-closing cases and transposition do make a contribution to our understanding of racism and racist processes, but like the other concepts, they can only stand alone if one accepts the tenet of ‘white supremacy’.

From a Marxist standpoint, there is a need to situate interest convergence, contradiction-closing cases and transposition firmly in the context of the machinations of capitalism.

To take the Stephen Lawrence case, it is hardly likely that the racialized capitalist state is going to tolerate for long the notion that its major domestic Repressive State Apparatuses (the police) and its main Ideological State Apparatus (the education system) are institutionally racist.14

With respect to Obama, given the unpopularity of Bush, it converges with the interest of US capitalism to have the possibility of a black president who will carry on business more or less as usual. However, Obama is an improvement on Bush and we should bear in mind Gillborn’s point that the lesson from contradiction-closing cases is that change is always contested and every step forward be must be valued and protected, and that victories can be built upon.

As far as Blair’s and Brown’s rhetoric are concerned, this needs to be seen in the context of the legacy of old UK imperialism and UK-supported new US imperialism (see chapter 7 of this volume; see also Cole 2008a, pp. 98-111).

 
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