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Racial Conditions

Politics, Theory, Comparisons

Howard Winant

Publication Year: 1994

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. Race divides societies and individuals, shapes social policies of the most diverse sort, and organizes basic ideas about human identity and difference. Why? This ambitious book addresses the gaps in our understanding of contemporary racial dynamics, and develops a powerful theoretical approach to the vast subject of race. Howard Winant, one of the leading writers in the United States on the subject, 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. The key to Winant's analysis is racial formation theory, an approach he refines and advances as he considers a wide range of contemporary controversies in racial theory and politics. Among these 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. Intellectually challenging and clearly written, well informed and deeply committed to social and racial justice, Racial Conditions marks an important advance in critical thinking about race today. Howard Winant teaches sociology at Temple University.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

...This small book of essays has a large goal: to reconceptualize race at the end of the twentieth century. It is now ninety years since W E. B. Du Bois, the nation's preeminent thinker on racial matters, formulated his famous maxim that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line" (1989 [1903]: 13). His words...

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1. Introduction

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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...

Part I. Racial Theory

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2. The Theoretical Status of the Concept of Race

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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...

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3. Where Culture Meets Structure: Race in the 1990s

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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...

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4. Dictatorship, Democracy, and Difference: The Historical Construction of Racial Identity

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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...

Part II. Racial Politics

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5. Contesting the Meaning of Race in the Post-Civil Rights Period

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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...

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6. The Los Angeles "Race Riot" and Contemporary U.S. Politics

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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...

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7. Hard Lessons: Recent Writing on Racial Politics

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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...

Part III. The Comparative Sociology of Race

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8. Racial Formation and Hegemony: Global and Local Developments

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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...

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9. Rethinking Race in Brazil

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pp. 130-147

...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...

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10. "The Fact of Blackness" in Brazil

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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...

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11. Democracy Reenvisioned, Difference Transformed: Comparing Contemporary Racial Politics in the United States and Brazil

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pp. 157-170

...For a long time, the touchstone of all comparative studies of race in the United States and Brazil was the contrast between 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...


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pp. 171-180


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pp. 181-194


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pp. 195-199

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About the Author

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p. 200-200

...Howard Winant teaches in the sociology department and the Latin American studies program at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is the coauthor of...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816685660
E-ISBN-10: 0816685665
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816623877

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 1994

Edition: First edition