Presentation order and abstracts:
SESSION 8.1 Thursday 13.00-15.00
Digital Racist Discourses in the Context of Racial Tension: Counter Black Lives Matter Narratives on Twitter
Felipwe Agudelo and Natalie Olbrych: Simmons University
Social media platforms like Twitter have become a place where racist discourses may be constructed and disseminated very fast and at a large scale to different audiences. Racist opinions through the use of socially acceptable language can be part of a racist rhetoric that promotes stereotypes, and hatred towards communities of color. Events like the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Police in May 2020 in the United States (U.S.) sparkled racial tension and reflected a racial crisis in the expression of the criminalization of people of color not only by police but society in general. This tense and critical racial moment was taken into different social settings including social media. This research examined tweets posted during the time of the protests related to George Floyd’s death across the U.S. in three counter narrative Black Lives Matter hashtags including: #WhiteLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and #AllLivesMatter. Through the use of qualitative thematic analysis, this project sought to explore how digital racism is discursively constructed within the context of racial crises and tension allowing the creation of different types of racist discourses. Although this type of discourses may appear to be harmless, innocent, racially neutral and can make it through the algorithms developed to prevent the dissemination of hate speech on social media, they are part of a racist rhetoric that promotes stereotypes, and hatred towards communities of color. The two types of racist discourses found within the framework of digital racism included: the discourse of oppressor's inverse racism, and the moral ambient digital racist superiority discourse. These two themes were found to be used as a tool of oppression, white supremacy and pride against people of color.
Differential Vulnerability to Infection: How Structural Racism Created the Somali Overrepresentation of Coronavirus Cases in Helsinki, FI
Anuhya Bobba: Åbo Akademi, University of Turku:
This paper will expand upon my master's thesis research.
Before crisis is as important as after crisis. As the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 started to unravel as a pandemic in Helsinki, Finland, 200 infections were reported in the local Somali community, as of April 14, 2020 (“Somalinkielisten Koronavirustartunnat,” 2020). Somali speakers comprise 1.8 percent of a city population of 653,835 persons, but represented nearly a fifth of positive cases or “10 times their share of the city’s population” (Helsinki Facts and Figures, 2020; Masri, 2020). The paper utilizes a meta-ethnographic methodology to explore the link between systemic racism and structural vulnerability to infection for Somalis in Helsinki, Finland, as it continues to materialize in the coronavirus pandemic. For the meta-ethnography, 20 qualitative studies, which contextualize Somali “meaning-making and world-views” in sectors of Finnish society, were chosen for examination (Neal-Jackson, 2018, p. 5). Sectors include education, healthcare, housing, immigration and integration, labor market, and law enforcement. The analysis and synthesis of these studies, guided by theoretical frameworks such as Afro-pessimism, demonstrate that systemic racism is operative in Finland and has produced several material consequences for the Somali community. This is observable across each represented sector. From increased allostatic load, poor access to quality healthcare, poor accommodation, and reduced access to education and employment, Somalis are deprioritized and devalued by “a racial calculus and a political arithmetic” of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia (Hartman, 2006, p. 5). This racial calculus produces differential treatment in the individual, interpersonal, sectoral, and systemic level.
The central emphasis of the meta-ethnography in this paper is not the crisis, namely the pandemic. Rather, it is the systemic racism faced by Somalis in Finland, more specifically Helsinki, and any structural vulnerability that it may have predisposed the community to, especially as it manifests in overrepresentation of coronavirus cases. This is to ensure that the pandemic is not seen as an exceptional event but as a consequence of discriminatory day-to-day life. This is also to problematize crisis as a term used to demarcate an exceptional event unconnected to wider histories of dispossession, extraction, and racism and their present day mutations.
A lesson in whiteness: Teaching English against coloniality?
Johanna Enser-Kananen: University of Jyväskylä
The enterprise of teaching English is directly related to contemporary forms of colonialism (intertwined with neoliberalism) which Motha (2014), in reference to Hardt and Negri (2000), has termed Empire. In line with scholarly work at the intersection of language, racialization, and Empire (Lin & Motha, 2020; Pennycook, 2017; Shin, 2006), and following a call for autoethnographic work with the goal of undermining processes of Empire (McCausland & McDonald, 2020), this presentation reports on a self study I conducted in an English classroom of an adult basic education (ABE) program for refugee-background learners in a Finnish community college. I offer a close analysis of a 90-minute teaching sequence, during which I, a European-heritage teacher-researcher, taught a lesson with a focus on ownership of English to a group of about 15 adult learners from mostly West Asian Eastern and African backgrounds. My analysis of the transcript revealed that my discourses and practices erased racial differences between the learners and me, perpetuated Eurocentric ideologies of argumentation, and positioned me as “white listening subject” (Flores and Rosa, 2015) vis-à-vis the students.
A theoretical lens of Critical Whiteness Pedagogy (e.g., Matias & Mackey, 2016) helps understand these findings within larger racist and Eurocentric structures of educational systems and offers insights for teachers and teacher educators, particularly those who received their education in predominantly white institutions (PWIs) but work in racially and culturally diverse contexts.
In the second part of my presentation, I present ideas for how to move this work forward and offer reflections on opportunities and challenges of building CWP (research) that has the potential to challenge the workings of Empire in Finland.