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Keywords:

  • Equality;
  • Performativity;
  • Racist Speech;
  • Postcolonial Studies

Abstract

In Western Europe, individuals and groups increasingly claim that publicly enunciated denigrating racial discourse inflicts an injury upon them, and inscribe this claim under the rubric of equality. By adopting a method of claim-centered critical theorizing, I discuss the possibilities and implications of reading “claims of racialized discursive injury” as claims to equality. A review of contemporary political theorists concerned with equality and injurious discourse establishes the democratic relevance of claims of discursive injury. A discussion of Judith Butler's theory of performativity then identifies the properties of the injurable subject and of discourse's power. Finally, I specify how a postcolonial stance enables us to grasp the actualization of discursive injury as it resonates between past colonial inequalities and threats of future exclusion or death. This equality-focused reading sheds light on the transformative potential of claims of racialized discursive injury for resignifying equality in contexts marked by “race” and postcolonialism.