Northern Ireland and the crisis of anti-racism

Rethinking racism and sectarianism

Author: Chris Gilligan

Racism and sectarianism makes an important contribution to the discussion on the 'crisis of anti-racism' in the United Kingdom. Anti-racist theory and practice has been in crisis for more than a quarter of a century. The power of official anti-racism comes from its endorsement and institutionalisation by states in domestic and international law and in institutional practice. The book first explores whether sectarianism is racism, examining three different arguments in favour of treating racism and sectarianism as distinct phenomena. Exploring what is racism, the book examines through the prism of Race Relations theory and practice, because they constitute the dominant approach to tackling racism in the UK. The focus is on the conception of racism that underpins Race Relations policy and theory. The book agrees that the radical grassroots anti-racist movements of the 1960s and 1970s were important and that the relationship between racism and anti-racism is not straightforward. It considers the internationalisation of the Race Relations approach through the UN, and the incorporation of Race Relations into domestic UK policy. Further, the book challenges the idea that Race Relations theory is unproblematic. Anti-racisms as they actually existed in the process of historical change and development are examined. Human consciousness plays a crucial role in this process. Finally, the book explores the limitations of a Race Relations approach to harassment through a critical examination of the most recent innovation in official anti-racism, hate crime policy, which formally came into operation in Northern Ireland in September 2004.

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