Race and Racialization: an Introduction
While conversations about race are seemingly everywhere, the definition of race—what it means, and how we should understand it—remains remarkably under-explored. What, exactly, is race? What does it mean to be “racialized”? Rejecting at once pat dismissals of race as immaterial, Obama-era fantasies of a so-called post-racial society, and the many varieties of pseudo-scientific “race realism,” this course offer tools to comprehensively examine the phenomenon of race and the process of racial formation—a concept first articulted by sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant in the book Racial Formation in the United States. Against static views on race, theorists of racial formation explain the ways in which race is socially constructed—that is, via social, economic, and political processes—and why, necessarily, the content of race changes across time and space. Having serious implications for sociology, race theory, and social theory more broadly, the concept of Racial Formation compels us to ask: how is race a way of “making people up”? How does the process of racialization work itself out? How can we understand racial formation and the flux of racialization as agents and features of contemporary American life?
Over four weeks, we will examine the theory of racial formation through a reading of Omi and Winant’s classic text, comparing, as we go, excerpts from its various editions. We’ll explore Omi and Winant’s critical assessment of other paradigms of race, their definition of “racial projects,” and their claim that race is a “master category” in the United States. Through the framework of racial formation, the course will also stimulate students to reflect upon new racial formations and categorizations in the 21st century—for example, Latinx and immigrants in the U.S. Throughout, we will ask: What is the balance between state and non-state institutions in the creation and maintenance of racial formations? Given that race is both constructed and contested, what are the avenues for both its contestation and deconstruction? How can we reconcile Omi and Winant’s belief in the instability of the race concept with the persistence of racial inequality? What do the intimate ties between race and racism say about race as an analytical category? Supplementary readings may draw on the works of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Oliver C. Cox, W.E.B. DuBois, Anamik Saha, Barbara J. Fields, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Stuart Hall, among others.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
March 04 — March 25, 2021