chapter  2
Discourse, Ideology, and Power: Discursive Practices in Academe and Law
Pages 16

The propositions that language creates meaning-multiple meanings, as Bakhtin suggested-and that law is a language should not present that much of a problem to those who think of law as constituting a set of institutional practices. Law is made up of statutes, regulations, and judicial opinions, all relayed verbally, and the practice of law involves interpretation and argumentation. I would like to propose that race, too, is a language; or, rather, a complex set of discourses that materialize themselves in individual and institutional practices. The key to understanding race is to understand this linguistic component. Jacques Derrida noted that racism cannot exist without a language) Racism betrays the "talking animal"; it institutes, declares, writes, inscribes, and prescribes. It is a "system of marks, it outlines space in order to assign forced residence or to close off borders. It does not discern, it discriminates."2 Indeed, it is not possible, according to Derrida, to think about race outside a particular system of marks: the European discourse on the concept of race, a discourse belonging to a whole system of phantasms, representations of nature, life, history, religion, law, and culture itself.3 Race, from which racism comes, cannot be conceptualized outside of discourses, and in particular the European discourses of race passed down through the centuries.