- New Directions in Race Research
A glance at any recent sociological annual meeting program reveals a wide range of scholarship where truly novel questions about race are being raised. Emerging areas of inquiry include research on the intersections of race, class and gender, racial hybridity, identity formation, colorblind narratives of racism, growing racial inequality, pan-ethnic movements, race and religious intolerance and colorism. A particularly lively and healthy debate at such meetings focuses on which models of assimilation formulated more than 50 years ago need to be theoretically reworked at a time of large-scale immigration, the rise of nativist movements, the shift towards neo-liberalism practices by the state, and rising economic and racial inequality.
National and international gatherings provide an exceptionally democratic venue to challenge the orthodoxy of some of the sacred cows that have dominated race research since WWII. Iconoclastic ideas, works in progress and research that challenges the status quo can get a very public, 75-minute airing. It is rare, however, to emerge from a session that shatters or seriously challenges one's bedrock assumptions about race and then find that presentation published in any of our mainstream journals. It is perhaps that the transition from session presentation to polished journal article never takes place. It is also the case that the extremely high rejection rates of our premier journals (92 percent or more), by definition, mean that those iconoclastic pieces (i.e., the majority of all manuscripts submitted), will be turned away. In this hyper-competitive race to land a spot in one of our field's top journals, it takes very little in the way of reviewer criticism to move a manuscript to the reject pile. There is also the possibility, long whispered among academics who define their work as non-traditional, that scholarship "of" or "on" the margins falls through the cracks of publication because it fails to touch upon the theoretical assumptions or methodological rules most reviewers use as gate-keeping frames of reference. It is not difficult to imagine that the journal reviewer and the manuscript writer in this process believe they are, in effect, speaking to each other in different languages. The result is that many race scholars who believe their work is outside the textbook or normative race paradigms look to publish their work in other outlets. The end result is a selection effect that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; exceptional work that may have found a place in a prestigious journal are never submitted because of the perception among race researchers that their scholarship is marginalized. One might reasonably argue that the publishing bias [End Page 553] against research that is methodologically or theoretically unorthodox is one of perception. The problem is that these perceptions take on a life of their own as they are validated within the social networks of scholars who do similar work. Perceptions become "real," as we sociologists like to say, and have consequences for how scholarship is disseminated.
The goal of this special issue is to showcase scholarship that takes an interdisciplinary, innovative or novel approach to emerging problems, paradoxes or theoretical questions within the race canon. Social Forces received almost 100 manuscripts for our "New Directions in Race Research" special section, the largest number of responses on a call for papers in the journal's 90-year history. The purpose was not necessarily to provide definitive answers to new research questions, but to point toward new, fertile and unexplored directions in race research. The result is a selection of articles that will redefine and guide future race research.
Jennifer Lee and Frank Bean enter into a hotly debated question concerning which theoretical models best predict the racial and ethnic incorporation or exclusion of mixed race groups in the United States. Their discussion is framed around three overlapping and mutually interactive theoretical divides: a white/non-white, a black/non-black or a tri-racial hierarchy. Lee and Bean use 2000 U.S. Census data and 46 in-depth interviews of multiracial adults in California as a means of examining racial definitions as they are constructed by those who inhabit these identities. Drawing on the racial identification of these...