Race is a relationship, and not a thing

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20 Scopus citations


The methods of class analysis remain vital for understanding and explaining racial processes. Social historians' exposure and exploration of the contingency, relationality, and contextuality of all historical processes remains unsurpassed and indispensable in understanding race, gender, sexuality, and imperialism, among the multiple historical formations "the cultural turn" rendered newly visible. Struggles to integrate analyses of race, gender, and other social dynamics into historical and theoretical accounts of class formation have deepened our understanding that all social formations have been fissured on multiple axes of power and the resources power commands. Racialized people were neither the sole nor necessarily the most visible "others" in these multiply stratified societies. Denouncing metropolitan populations as uniformly racist and imperialistic, thus implicitly white, may concede, participate in and reproduce racialized and colonized people's exclusion from these societies. Applying class analyses to racial processes instead exposes their contingent, protean and relational nature. Understanding racial formation as an historical process rather than a static, naturalized "category," as "a relationship, and not a thing" can rescue racial difference, racism, and the history of racialized people from the margins and ghettos of historical scholarship, placing them instead at the intersection of the multiple social processes shaping our history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-130+284-285
JournalJournal of Social History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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