Albert Memmi once wrote that “the mark of the plural” signals the depersonalization of the colonized: The colonized is never characterized in an individual manner; he is entitled only to drown in an anonymous collectivity (“They are this.” “They are all the same.”). If a colonized servant does not come in one morning, the colonizer will not say that she is ill, or that she is cheating, or that she is tempted not to abide by an oppressive contract…. He will say, “You can’t count on them.” It is not just a grammatical expression. He refuses to consider personal, private occurrences in his maid’s life; that life in a specific sense does not interest him, and his maid does not exist as an individual. (Memmi 1957/1991: 129) Memmi’s observations about the mark of the plural may strike some as obscure or hyperbolic. But we believe they are prescient. Drawing on recent work in linguistics, psychology, and philosophy, we will argue that the mark of the plural plays an even more important, and more damaging, role in race relations than Memmi suggests.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities(all)