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Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century

Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century

Daniel Martinez HoSang
Oneka LaBennett
Laura Pulido
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century
    Book Description:

    Michael Omi and Howard Winant'sRacial Formation in the United Statesremains one of the most influential books and widely read books about race.Racial Formation in the 21st Century, arriving twenty-five years after the publication of Omi and Winant's influential work, brings together fourteen essays by leading scholars in law, history, sociology, ethnic studies, literature, anthropology and gender studies to consider the past, present and future of racial formation. The contributors explore far-reaching concerns: slavery and land ownership; labor and social movements; torture and war; sexuality and gender formation; indigineity and colonialism; genetics and the body. From the ecclesiastical courts of seventeenth century Lima to the cell blocks of Abu Grahib, the essays draw from Omi and Winant's influential theory of racial formation and adapt it to the various criticisms, challenges, and changes of life in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95376-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Daniel Martinez HoSang and Oneka LaBennett

    In the preface to the first edition ofRacial Formation in the United States, Michael Omi and Howard Winant wrote: “To study race in the United States is to enter a world of paradox, irony, and danger. In this world, arbitrarily chosen human attributes shape politics and policy, love and hate, life and death. All the powers of the intellect—artistic, religious, scientific, political—are pressed into service to explain racial distinctions, and to suggest how they may be maintained, changed, or abolished” (1986, xiii).

    This edited volume, arriving twenty-five years after the first publication ofRacial Formation in the...


    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 19-22)

      The essays in this section underscore racial formation theory’s enduring intellectual force. The contributors revisit Omi and Winant, demonstrating how the roots of racial formation continue to develop as scholars addressing topics from gender and sexuality to indigeneity and settler colonialism, and spanning disciplines from literary studies and American studies to sociology, adapt the racial formation framework to portray a complex, evolving picture of racialized, gendered, classed, and sexualized subjects.

      The charge that racial formation theory, like critical race theory, subsumes gender to privilege race as “the primary axis of disadvantage in the U.S.” (Price 2009, 151), finds new, analytical...

    • ONE Gendering Racial Formation
      (pp. 23-43)
      Priya Kandaswamy

      Michael Omi and Howard Winant’sRacial Formation in the United Stateshas had a profound effect on the development of the field of ethnic studies. The most important insights of the book—that race is not reducible to ethnicity, class, or nation; that racial categorization shifts and changes over time; and that the state is a preeminent site of racial struggle—have become well-established truths amongst critical race theorists. In staking out the significance and meaning of terms likerace, racism, the racial project, andracial formationitself, Omi and Winant developed a vocabulary that enabled discussion of how race...

    • TWO On the Specificities of Racial Formation: GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN HISTORIOGRAPHIES OF RACE
      (pp. 44-56)
      Roderick A. Ferguson

      Most commentators on Omi and Winant’s groundbreaking book address it as a theory of racial processes within the United States, an analysis of how race as a mode of representation intersects with race as an articulation of social structure. As powerful as this thesis is, our attention to it has perhaps overwhelmed another observation about the text—that the text offered a way to frame race in the postwar and post–civil rights United States. Indeed,Racial Formationbecame a way of taking charge of that recent past shaped by civil rights and national liberation movements, and differentiating it from...

    • THREE The Transitivity of Race and the Challenge of the Imagination
      (pp. 57-65)
      James Kyung-Jin Lee

      While sociologists generally do not deign to assume such a rhetorical mantle, Michael Omi and Howard Winant suffuse the first edition ofRacial Formationwith the language of prophecy that they at once fear to articulate and hope to imagine otherwise. “What does the immediate future hold?” they anxiously wonder. “It is unlikely that we shall experience a period of racially based mobilization such as ‘the great transformation.’ The conjuncture in which the 1960s racial upsurge occurred was almost certainly unique. The sophistication of the contemporary racial state and the transformed political landscape as a whole seem to thwart any...

    • FOUR Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy
      (pp. 66-90)
      Andrea Smith

      Many scholars in Native studies have argued that the field has been co-opted by broader discourses, such as ethnic studies or postcolonial studies (Cook-Lynn 1997; Stevenson 1998). Their contention is that ethnic studies elides Native claims to sovereignty by rendering Native peoples as ethnic groups suffering racial discrimination rather than as nations undergoing colonization. These scholars and activists rightly point to the neglect within ethnic studies and within broader racial justice struggles of the unique legal position Native peoples have in the United States. At the same time, because of this intellectual and political divide, there is insufficient dialogue between...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 91-94)

      The concept of “racial projects” represents one of the most generative and influential theoretical contributions ofRacial Formation in the United States. If racial formation itself is fundamentally a sociohistoricalprocess, then racial projects represent the historically specific political, social, and cultural developments—including laws, social movements, political initiatives, and cultural phenomena—that shape or direct this process. Omi and Winant stress that racial projects operate at two levels: they attempt to interpret, represent, or explain the meaning of particular racial dynamics and also to reorganize and redistribute resources on the basis of race (Omi and Winant 1994, 56). Racial...

      (pp. 95-115)
      Matthew Garcia

      The rise in popularity of “food studies” has produced renewed interest in the history of agriculture and U.S. agrarian reform movements, including a virtual renaissance in the study of the United Farm Workers and the farmworker movement of the 1960s and 1970s.¹ These studies have contributed attention to the much overlooked subject of labor, offering a view from below that explores the diversity of workers and activists who struggled for farmworker justice, often with limited success. What is still evolving in the literature is a nuanced look at the growers that these workers and activists faced. Like workers, the growers...

      (pp. 116-142)
      Michelle A. McKinley

      This chapter offers readers an insight into the colonial legacies of Latin American racial formations. In particular, it traces the legal construction and development of mixed racial categories in early colonial Lima in both ecclesiastical courts and enumeration procedures. Interrogating the theme of “racial democracy” and its associated racial projects ofmestizaje,indigenismo, and contemporary multiculturalism in Latin America, the case studies included here examine the constitutive nature of “race” itself in Iberian thought as reflected in the legal recognition ofmestizocategories.

      The termsracial formationandracial projectare specifically drawn from Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s influential...

    • SEVEN Race, Racialization, and Latino Populations in the United States
      (pp. 143-161)
      Tomás Almaguer

      The racial and ethnic landscape of the United States has been rapidly transformed in the twenty-five years since the initial publication in 1986 of Michael Omi and Howard Winant’sRacial Formation in the United States.¹ Since that time scholars have built upon Omi and Winant’s powerful theoretical approach in order to perceptively remap how the long-standing “black-white” binary in this country has been rapidly transformed. Some have argued that this framework has morphed into a “nonwhite-white” binary, while others have argued that our racial and ethnic landscape has taken a decidedly “Latin Americanization” form in recent years.² In both cases,...

      (pp. 162-182)
      Gary Delgado

      The election of Barak Obama in 2008 led the mainstream media to immediately proclaim the arrival of a new, “post-racial” era. As one pundit observed, “The post-racial era, as embodied by Obama, is the era where civil rights veterans of the past century are consigned to history and Americans begin to make race-free judgments on who should lead them.”¹

      However, as Obama’s term progressed, it became increasingly evident that victory over racism had been declared prematurely. For example, in February 2010 a fraternity-sponsored “Compton Cookout” at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), encouraged students to attend a party “celebrating”...

    • NINE The New Racial Preferences: RETHINKING RACIAL PROJECTS
      (pp. 183-212)
      Devon W. Carbado and Cheryl I. Harris

      Among the central contributions offered by Omi and Winant’s now classic work is their theory of racial formation—the process by which racial categories are “created, inhabited, transformed and destroyed” (Omi and Winant 1994, 55)—and the related concept of racial projects—roughly, how race is represented, deployed, and institutionalized. Because race is a technology that links social and political struggle to different human bodies—bodies whose racial meanings are constructed and constantly under pressure and transformation—our task, as Omi and Winant illustrate, is less to search for lasting characteristics that define race in a once-and-for-all sense than to...


    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 213-216)

      The essays in this section center on themes that run across the entire volume: the ways that racial projects always work in concert with other social conditions and identity formations; the critical labor such projects perform in fortifying political hegemony; and the inherent and persistent racialization of the U.S. state. Referring to the race-based struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, Omi and Winant wrote: “The postwar period has indeed been a racial crucible,” characterized by “new conceptions of racial identity and its meaning, new modes of political organization and confrontation, and new definitions of the state’s role in promoting and...

    • TEN “We didn’t kill ’em, we didn’t cut their head off”: ABU GHRAIB REVISITED
      (pp. 217-245)
      Sherene H. Razack

      President Barack Obama has declared that “America does not torture” and that “a new era of engagement has begun.” Abu Ghraib has now been rebuilt, ironically in the image of a model American prison. We are officially in a “post-torture” age, though we should not forget that former President George W. Bush also declared that America does not torture. It is significant, too, that President Obama invokes the power of America at the very moment that he announced the end of an era of officially sanctioned torture. More than four years after the Abu Ghraib pictures were first leaked, military...

      (pp. 246-275)
      Nicholas De Genova

      The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency in 2008 presents racial formation theory as well as radical racial politics with a crucial historical juncture unsettling some of the very meanings conventionally affiliated with the concept of “race.” This is the case for the larger social formation of the U.S. nation-state as well as for a global sociopolitical order in which the United States plays a preponderant role. The stakes for sociopolitical processes of racial formation and transformation have been predictably profound, but not in the facile ways that many observers might have optimistically forecast. In this respect, the...

    • TWELVE Racial Formation in an Age of Permanent War
      (pp. 276-301)
      Nikhil Singh

      In their important book,Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960s to the 1980s, Michael Omi and Howard Winant offered what might be described as a first draft of the racial politics of the post–civil rights era. Omi and Winant define “race” as “an unstable and decentered complex of social meanings” that is at once foundational to, and made and remade in the course of, political struggles (Omi and Winant 1986, 68). This way of describing race marked a salutary theoretical development that expressly worked against an incipient, neoconservative discourse of “colorblindness” that sought to undermine (with...

    (pp. 302-332)
    Michael Omi and Howard Winant

    When we initially advanced our concept of racial formation in the mid-1980s, we did not have the slightest inkling that it would prove both durable and flexible as a framework for understanding the changing meaning of race. The credit for its vitality goes not to us alone but also to scholars and activists from a wide range of fields who have creatively engaged racial formation theory and given it much of its ongoing significance, coherence, and utility. The contributors to this collection are among those leading the way in deepening our understanding of ongoing processes of racialization and interpreting the...

    (pp. 333-360)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 361-364)
    (pp. 365-366)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 367-380)