The Politics of Racial Analysis in International Anti-Discrimination Reporting

Prince Grace, Northwestern University

Debates over states’ ethnoracial data collection policies persist in both academic and political circles, often focusing on the politics of the census and arguments as to whether data collection facilitates or mitigates discrimination. However, international human rights reporting regimes, typically neglected as sites of race-making, are a similarly important theater for negotiations over the politics and practice of racial knowledge production. Given the volatile and context-specific meanings of race around the world, how has the idea of racial discrimination been “scaled” in such reporting regimes? Testing what social theorists Denise Ferreira da Silva and David Theo Goldberg have respectively called the "global idea of race” and “the globalization of the racial,” this project investigates the analytical practices state actors have engaged in when self-reporting compliance with anti-discrimination obligations, focusing on state reports submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in compliance with the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). While often used as data in case studies of individual countries, the reports have yet to be analyzed collectively as knowledge artifacts and a source of relatively standardized qualitative data, introducing the possibility of global-historical analysis. Through content analysis of more than 500 reports submitted by 160 countries to the CERD, this project examines the development and evolution of race-analytical frameworks in state reporting from the early implementation of the ICERD in the 1970s through the present. The reports enact a variety of state knowledge practices, from the inclusion of group-based demographic data and historical accounts to the development of analytical proxies for race and claims of social homogeneity. Variation in these practices reveals the geopolitical dimensions of racial knowledge production, as well as shifting, dissonant conceptions of racial discrimination and its redress.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 63. Race-Making and the Socio-Legal Imaginary