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Session Overview
RN31_11a_IC: Conceptualizing Racism and Discrimination
Friday, 01/Sep/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Zbyněk Tarant, University of West Bohemia
Location: Intercontinental - Arcade I
Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Syngrou Avenue 89-93 Athens, Greece Floor: Lobby Level

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Activists' conceptions of racism and anti-racism

Minna Seikkula

University of Turku, Finland

In Finland, racism has moved from an ignored theme to centre of societal discussions. Reciting pan-European anti-immigration racist agenda has shaped the public debate since 2008. At the same time, concerns to recognize and condemn racism have been voiced in the same arenas.

Under recent years anti-racism has been deployed among others by people reacting to heightened presence of the extreme right, as well as by those demonstrating solidarity to newly arrived migrants and those articulating of Black, Brown and Muslim identities in the Finnish context. However, as previous academic work suggests, conceptions of racism and anti-racism are far from unanimous. How is racism conceived by people from various backgrounds and distinct anti-racist communities?

The paper explores conceptions of racism and anti-racism through interviews with activists. The focus is in particular on how racism is connected to or disconnected from the continuum of coloniality reproducing the world dived to west and the rest through racialized borders among other things.

Reincorporating the “material” for investigating racism in Western Societies. Some reflections on material dynamics of racialization.

Alfredo Alietti1, Dario Padovan2

1University of Ferrara, Italy; 2University of Turin, Italy

Racism has been often seen as a mental process of discrimination called prejudice, laying in people mind, sometime into singular minds, sometime else in collective minds. This perspective called for an amount of measures aimed to cure minds affected by prejudices. Our idea is rather different. Nourished by a number of different investigation and theoretical works across Europe and North America, we think that racism has very clear material basis. It is generally aimed to exclude someone – of different origin, physical traits, language, habits than majority - from resources and services provided by different systems. Consequently, racialized practices, such as overt or covert (subtle) actions, discourses are oriented to narrow the access to certain positional goods: housing, job, neighbourhood, food, education, jobs, and commodities. It is a way, as recognised by many scholars, to organize the society (Bonilla- Silva 2014; Omi and Winant, 2009). More precisely, it is a way to manage the property of or the access to vital material resources. These configuration is a matter of contention and incessant struggle between classes and races. Our starting point follows the idea of Bonilla-Silva (2014) that racism is fundamentally organized around a material reality. Following Du Bois’ statement on the effects of racism as “material form of oppression”, the discussion will be focalized about the array of practices aimed to distribute and regulate power in the actual racialized order, practices of exclusion from crucial material resources and on practices to resist this exclusion.

How can sociologists intervene in discriminatory practices? The success of the sociological methods of situation and correspondence tests to tackle discrimination

Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe1, Koen Van der Bracht2

1Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; 2Ghent University, Belgium

Sociologists have shown structural discrimination on the labour and housing markets, using the techniques of situation and correspondence tests. This study examines to which extent these tests can be used as a method to study ethnic discrimination and instrument to tackle discrimination. It addresses the question how sociologists can intervene with their methods into discriminatory practices. Our research consists of three studies. First, we performed a unique quasi-experiment on ethnic discrimination in the rental housing market in Belgium (N = 754). We performed two waves of correspondence tests, separated by an announcement to private landlords and real estate agents that their behaviour would be observed. A comparison of these uninformed and informed tests revealed that the mere announcement of further testing resulted in less ethnic discrimination by realtors, but not by landlords. The second study examined how many correspondence tests per single realtor are needed to convincingly determine the occurrence of systematic discrimination. For this study, we conducted a longitudinal study of ethnic discrimination among 114 real estate agents in Belgium. In the third study, we applied the methodological insights of the previous study on the rental housing market in the city of Ghent. Under the supervision of sociologists, a civil rights movement tested the local realtors on their potential discriminatory behaviour through 10 repeated correspondence and situation tests. Preliminary results suggest a sustainable and significant reduction of ethnic discrimination on the housing market. In general, this research shows that sociologists can use their techniques to analyse ánd change society. The keys for success are keeping scientific rigor as sociologists and making coalitions with other actors, such as (local) governments and civil society.

The Concept of Racism

Vesa Puuronen

University of Oulu, Finland

This paper deals with the concept of racism, which is selfevidently essential in the research of racism. We have to have some working definition of the phenomenon we study in order to be able to focus the research on the issues or events or features of social reality, which can are racism. Racism is also politically sensitive concept, the definition of which may have serious political consequences. The paper begins with the notions of Robert Miles (1989) who warned of conceptual inflation referring to the extension of the meaning of racism. Miles proposes that racism should refer only to a certain ideology not for instance to different forms action. During last decades it has became obvious that limitation of menaing of racism only to ideological doctrines does not allow us to address new and diverse forms of racism like cultural racism (vs. biological or scientific racism), everyday racism (Essed 1991) and structural racism. It has been proposed that instead of racism we should talk about racims. The paper ends with a provisional new definition of racism based on the critical discussion of previous research and conceptualisations.

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