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Institute of Advanced Study

Too Late: Racialized Time and the Closure of the Past

Abstract

In this paper,1 I explore some of the temporal structures of racialized experience – what I call racialized time. I draw on the Martiniquan philosopher and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, in particular his book ‘Black Skin, White Masks,’ in order to ask how racism can be understood as a social pathology which, when internalized or ‘epidermalized,’ may result in aberrations of affect, embodiment and agency that are temporally lived. In this regard, I analyze the racialized experience of coming ‘too late’ to a world predetermined in advance and the distorted relation to possibility – the limitation of playfulness and imaginative variability – that defines this sense of lateness. I argue that the racialization of the past plays a structuring role in such experience. Racialization is not limited to the present, but also colonizes and reconfigures the past, splitting it into a duality of times: one open and civilizational, the other closed, anachronistic and racialized. To understand this colonial construction of the past, I draw on the work of Latin American thinker Aníbal Quijano.

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