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Equality and Postcolonial Claims of Discursive Injury


  • Noémi Michel

    Teaching Assistant, Corresponding author
    1. University of Geneva
    • Address for correspondence: Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva, Bd Pont d'Arve 40, CH-1211 Genève 4. Phone: +41 22 379 8381; Email:

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  • I would like to thank for their helpful comments two anonymous reviewers, Ivy Mills, Estelle Ferrarese, Matteo Gianni, Annabelle Lever, the participants of the Mancept Workshop on Postcolonialism and Political Theory, University of Manchester, the participants of the Young Scholars Conference in Political Theory « Quelles égalités dans les démocraties contemporaines », University of Geneva, the participants of the staff workshop at the Department of Political Science, University of Geneva, Naïma Rouabhi and Jacob Lachat.


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.

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