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Racial Conditions

Racial Conditions: Politics, Theory, Comparisons

Howard Winant
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
  • Book Info
    Racial Conditions
    Book Description:

    More than a quarter-century after the passage of civil rights legislation in the United States and decades since the last European colonies attained their independence, race continues to play a central role in cultural, political, and economic life, both in the United States and around the globe. Howard Winant argues that race cannot be understood as a “social problem” or as a “survival” of earlier, more benighted ages. Indeed, from the rise of Europe to the present, race has been a social condition, a permanent though flexible feature of human society and identity. Among the topics discussed are the relationship between race and class, as well as the racial dimensions of gender, diaspora, colonialism, and fascism. Other key topics include the changing nature of racial identity in the post-civil rights era, the 1992 Los Angeles riot, and politics of race in Brazil.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8566-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Race shows no sign of declining significance. Quite the contrary: in a range of manifestations wider and wilder than the most fertile imaginations could have dreamed up, race continues to operate as a fundamental factor in political and cultural life all around the world. Its prevalence has proved puzzling for politicians, pundits, and professors alike.

    Since the expectation of its transcendence, of its subsumption into some supposedly more fundamental form of social conflict, was all but universal, the continuity of race as a social fact confounds the entire political spectrum. At midcentury liberals anticipated that it would dissolve into matters...

  4. Part I. Racial Theory

    • Chapter 2 The Theoretical Status of the Concept of Race
      (pp. 13-21)

      Race used to be a relatively intelligible concept; only recently have we seriously challenged its theoretical coherence. Today there are deep questions about what we actually mean by the term. But before (roughly) World War II, before the rise of nazism, before the end of the great European empires, and particularly before the decolonization of Africa, before the urbanization of the U.S. black population and the rise of the modern civil rights movement, race was still largely seen in Europe and North America (and elsewhere as well) as an essence, a natural phenomenon, whose meaning was fixed, as constant as...

    • Chapter 3 Where Culture Meets Structure: Race in the 1990s
      (pp. 22-36)

      The contemporary United States faces a pervasive crisis of race, a crisis no less severe than those the country has confronted in the past. The origins of the crisis are not particularly obscure: the cultural and political meaning of race, its significance in shaping the social structure, and its experiential or existential dimensions all remain profoundly unresolved as the United States approaches the end of the twentieth century. As a result, the society as a whole, and the population as individuals, suffer from confusion and anxiety about the issue (or complex of issues) we call race.

      This should not be...

    • Chapter 4 Dictatorship, Democracy, and Difference: The Historical Construction of Racial Identity
      (pp. 37-54)

      The paradox of racial identity is that it is simultaneously an utter illusion and an obvious truth. Whatever those of us in the United States—and in many other countries as well—might wish to be the case, we live in a racialized society, a society in which race is engraved upon our beings and perceptions, upon our identities. Indeed, our ability to recognize race is so finely tuned, so ingrained, that it has become a “second nature.” And with the development of this ability comes anaturalizingof race itself: if racial identity is so recognizable, so palpable, so...

  5. Part II. Racial Politics

    • Chapter 5 Contesting the Meaning of Race in the Post-Civil Rights Period
      (pp. 57-68)

      There were two senior proms in May 1991 at the Brother Rice High School, a Catholic college preparatory academy in Chicago—an official one that was virtually all white and, for the first time, an alternative, all-black prom.

      Popular music, in this instance, provided the rallying point for racial consciousness and self-segregation. The trouble began when a white prom committee announced that the playlist for the music to be featured at the prom would be based on the input of all the members of the senior class. Each student would list his or her three favorite songs, and the top...

    • Chapter 6 The Los Angeles “Race Riot” and Contemporary U.S. Politics
      (pp. 69-84)

      The charred buildings were still smoking when George Bush arrived in Los Angeles for a whirlwind tour of the South-Central area. Speaking on May 8,1992, at the Challenger Boys’ and Girls’ Club in the heart of the riot zone, the president sought to explain the previous week’s events:

      Things aren’t right in too many cities across our country, and we must not return to the status quo. Not here, not in any city where the system perpetuates failure and hatred and poverty and despair. (Bush 1992)

      At first, such remarks may seem startling. Had the devastation Bush witnessed suddenly transformed...

    • Chapter 7 Hard Lessons: Recent Writing on Racial Politics
      (pp. 85-108)

      The subject, once again, is race. The meaning of that term remains as elusive and paradoxical as ever. A staple of common sense, a word that we live by, “race” retains its profound ambiguities and contradictions, its uncertainty, and, most deeply, its power. Racial inequality still structures the social world, assigning varied “life chances” to winners and losers distinguished only by their color. Racial difference still acts as an all-purpose social signifier, designating attributes of taste and style, attaching symbols of pleasure and danger, hope and fear, to our physical bodies.

      Yet race is also changing constantly. In the past,...

  6. Part III. The Comparative Sociology of Race

    • Chapter 8 Racial Formation and Hegemony: Global and Local Developments
      (pp. 111-129)

      Race in all its forms continues to preoccupy us, to surprise us, to shape our world. In North America, the political clamor and deep cultural divisions over race stubbornly refuse to subside. Throughout the Americas the quincentennial anniversary of European conquest was more deeply resisted than celebrated, for the arrival of Europe in the “new world” was a foundational racial event that echoes down the centuries to us today. In Africa we observe the crumbling of apartheid and its likely replacement by something more “American”; will the African National Congress’s goal of a “non-racialist” South Africa prove chimerical? In Europe...

    • Chapter 9 Rethinking Race in Brazil
      (pp. 130-147)

      May 13, 1988, was the 100th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Brazil. In honor of that date, various official celebrations and commemorations of thecentenário, organized by the Brazilian government, church groups, and cultural organizations, took place throughout the country, even including a speech by President José Sarney.

      But this celebration of the emancipation was not universal. Many Afro-Brazilian groups staged actions and marches, issued denunciations, and organized cultural events repudiating the “farce of abolition.” These were unprecedented efforts to draw national and international attention to the extensive racial inequality and discrimination that Brazilian blacks—by far the...

    • Chapter 10 “The Fact of Blackness” in Brazil
      (pp. 148-156)

      My title, evoking Fanon’s famous discussion of race and colonialism (1967 [1952]), signals the principal objective of this chapter: to use Fanon’s work to discuss some dilemmas in the analysis of race in Brazil. There has been relatively little application of Fanon’s analyses of race to the Brazilian context. I offer some remarks about the particular relevance of his insights to Brazil, but because my chief interest here is to address Brazilian racial dynamics, I do not attempt an overall interpretation of Fanon. I am well aware that his work is almost as hotly debated as that of Marx, Gramsci,...

    • Chapter 11 Democracy Reenvisioned, Difference Transformed: Comparing Contemporary Racial Politics in the United States and Brazil
      (pp. 157-170)

      For a long time, the touchstone of all comparative studies of race in the United States and Brazil was thecontrastbetween the two countries. In the United States, so the argument went, a rigid color line divided white and black, and “hypodescent” or the “one-drop rule” made all gradations of racial difference insignificant. In Brazil, by contrast, the gradations were of immense importance, since they were organized along a “racial continuum” (Harris 1964; see also F. J. Davis 1991). In the United States, race was a matter of state policy, of politics. The state established and policed the color...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-194)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 200-200)