In this paper, I consider the potential of deploying the motif of capital to explicate the non-material, symbolic dimensions of white supremacy. In figuring whiteness as “capital-like”, I am interested in examining its aggregative function—the mechanics through which various capacities to act within the socius are accumulated. Like capital, white supremacy activates relations of “immanent social agency” (Massumi: 1993, p. 129) that produce distinctions between bodies that labour and bodies that don’t; bodies that suffer in alienation and bodies that are inalienable; bodies that inscribe and bodies on which inscriptions are made.
Unlike metaphors grounded in the forms and thematics of the economy, the trope of capital is invoked much less frequently in white critique As such, my interest in utilising capital as a figuration with which to probe the crisis of national and governmental belonging set in motion by both the Cronulla Riots in Australia (2005), and the “BlackBerry” Riots in England (2011) is directed, in part, to testing its rhetorical and explanatory possibilities. In exploring the critical insight that metaphors of capital (cultural, social, symbolic and national) bring to bear on struggles over recognition, political agency, national belonging and access to social hope, I will contemplate the tensions that the riots exposed within multicultural communities and consider how the dynamic interplay of the familiar and the strange affected the way in which whiteness was represented in public, governmental rhetoric.
Using Bourdieu’s theorisation of the relationship between economic capital and its discursive emanations, I will examine the ways in which racial formations are organised through the distribution of discursive and representational resources. I will then draw on Ghassan Hage’s formulation of the relationship between whiteness and national capital to analyse, firstly, how the possession of white, national capital secures an authorial relationship to categories of stranger-ness and belonging, and, secondly, how discourses of welcoming the immigrant and pursuing an ethics of hospitality to the “stranger” were constrained and explicitly challenged by a symbolic capital of homely belonging.
Keywords:Bourdieu, capital metaphor, symbolic capital, multiculturalism, white supremacy, violence and protests