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The interconnections of discrimination: gender, class, nation, and race and the 'Black Shame on the Rhine'
journal contributionposted on 06.06.2014, 14:17 by Iris Wigger
Relations between race, nation, class, and gender as categories of social inclusion and exclusion have been subject to contemporary international debates in the social sciences. Critically reflecting upon these debates, this article examines the complex interplay of patterns of discrimination based on race, nation, gender, and class in an international racist campaign in the early 1920s. It was conducted by a wide range of organisations and individuals from different backgrounds in objection to the use of black French colonial troops in the Allied Rhineland occupation. These were denounced as a ‘Black Shame’, a primitive alien element in ‘civilized’ Europe. Patterns of inclusion and exclusion referring to the four categories were not strung together in a purely summative way. Gender, race, nation and class presented flexible, interlocking categories, and could even substitute for one another, when the ‘Black Shame’ was condemned as French aggression against white womanhood, the German nation, European civilisation, and the white race, and used as an ideological call for the cohesion of all Germans and ‘Whites’. I focus on the central role of the category gender in the campaign, and argue that campaigners used the German woman figuratively as an embodiment of the German nation and white race, seemingly threatened by desecration. German women, who refused to play this role and had relationships with black soldiers, were socially excluded from both imagined communities – nation and race. The discourse on the ‘Black Shame’ is an example of the intensive connections of the categories race, nation, gender, and class in modern racism and racist discrimination. My research advocates their conceptually combined and historically reflexive analysis.
- Social Sciences
- Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies