The Centrality of Race to Inequality in the World-System

Friday, 20 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Manuela BOATCA, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany
Recent scholarship on racial and ethnic inequalities (Dunaway/Clelland 2016, 2017) takes the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of the transnational capitalist class in the past decades as an indication of the ways in which nonwestern semiperipheries will increasingly cause and/or exacerbate most of the world’s ethnic/racial inequality in the 21st century. This paper instead argues that the boom in the number of non-Western capitalists seeking the advantages of residence and citizenship in the U.S. and Europe is no challenge to core dominance or white supremacy. Rather, it points to the paramount role that race continues to play for a global stratification in which the “premium citizenships” of core Western states highly correlate with whiteness; and to which only very wealthy non-whites have recently gained access through the commodification of rights in semiperipheral states that share a visa-free travel zone with core Western states. For wealthy non-Westerners, investment residence and citizenship of Western states constitute global social mobility as well as a means of “buying into” whiteness. Such capital-facilitated moves up the citizenship ladder are themselves ways of buying into whiteness, or what has been referred to as “whitening with money” (Hasenbalg 2005). At the global level, they are strategies of eluding the ascription of citizenship of one’s place of birth. As such, they belie the experience of the great majority of transnational labor migrants, for whom international migration in search of upward economic mobility entails the risk of downward racial mobility through reclassification as non-white.