Saturday, September 29, 2012

The consumption of black labour as pomo luxury item.

The criticisms of Dolce & Gabbana rightly point out that the images of black servants they have used are part of a set of representations which romanticise slave life. But it would be a mistake, I think, to suppose that's what they're trying to do. Racism is always constructed in reference to present circumstances, organises present day antagonisms. I would speculate that the revival of this imagery is related to the revival of domestic servitude in the last twenty years or so, especially the increasing use of migrant workers as servants. The ear rings represent an image of black servitude transported out of the era of colonial rule and segregation, and into the hyper-commodified universe of fashion, of things that are consumed precisely for their commodified status. That is, they take the commodification of black bodies out of the politically unacceptable and passé realm of slavery and indentured labour and repeat it in a more up to date idiom - owning black labour, the ultimate provocative, daring, brazen fashion accessory for upper bourgeois and nouveaux riches. These ear ornaments say, unashamedly, "yes, I'm so rich I have black servants just because, just as an indulgence and item of luxury, and I'm not abashed by political correctness." This is one of the ways that race works in the age of neoliberal 'meritocracy'.