- Theorizing Race in the Americas: Douglass, Sarmiento, Du Bois, and Vasconcelos by Juliet Hooker
By Juliet Hooker. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN: 9780190633691. $54.00. Hardcover, 296 pages.
Juliet Hooker's Theorizing Race in the Americas: Douglass, Sarmiento, Du Bois, and Vasconcelos (2017) is an outstanding scholarly work within contemporary political philosophy. While the book itself offers a compelling set of analyses regarding race, national and pan-national identities, and democratic theory, it is Hooker's scope, methodological innovativeness, and theoretical complexity that make the work exceptional. Hooker's analytic focus addresses political theory across several U.S. African American and Latin American contexts, and provides a novel approach to the study of four major figures within these respective fields. Namely, the book surveys the writings of Frederick Douglass, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, W. E. B. Du Bois, and José Vasconcelos. More specifically, she examines how each thinker interprets race through a hemispheric lens across the Americas. For example, she analyzes how Douglass and Du Bois, in their efforts to understand and interpret their own domestic and, at times, international political concerns, each discussed Latin American models of miscegenation, immigration policy, and political mobilization strategies among Afro-descendent communities in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Similarly, the book analyzes Sarmiento's and Vasconcelos's respective conceptions of U.S. policies on abolitionism, segregation, and education, and the [End Page 109] two theorists' considerations of these issues for Latin American forms of national cohesion and stability. As such, Theorizing Race in the Americas, both through its method and content, successfully bridges discourses of race that are rarely explored together within political theory. In what follows, I briefly frame some of the major methodological and theoretical contributions that Theorizing Race in the Americas offers to contemporary scholars interested in U.S. African American and Latin American political thought. I then examine several points for further research that Hooker's work invites from readers.
The book is organized into two main sections. The first, "Ambas Américas" (Both Americas), takes up the work of Douglass and Sarmiento, two thinkers whose writings and active political lives spanned the nineteenth century. Notably, both thinkers published their first major works in 1845. Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was published in Boston less than seven years after he escaped from slavery, and Sarmiento's Facundo: Civilization and Barbarism was published that same year in Santiago, Chile, while the author was living in exile from his birthplace of Argentina. Hooker notes that these thinkers are never read alongside one another, despite their immense political influence. The reasons for this, she proposes, are likely that the respective thinkers never engaged one another's work, and, given their geopolitical locations, are often considered to have very different preoccupations with respect to race (1). Douglass's political interventions focused largely on abolitionism and anti-black racism in the United States, while Sarmiento's principle interests were in securing post-independence forms of republicanism across Latin America, which included, for Sarmiento, an unambiguous form of anti-indigenous racism that he considered necessary to ensure political unity. Against this trend, Hooker situates these two thinkers in relation to one another to examine their overlapping positions vis-à-vis race, democratic theory, and the continued relevance of their respective political views.
The second part of the book, titled "Mestizo Futurisms," examines questions regarding political progress, racial mixing/mestizaje, and transnational networks of solidarity via the writings of Du Bois and Vasconcelos. Both Du Bois and Vasconcelos were immensely influential early-to mid-twentieth-century political figures and writers, and their respective works sought, to varying degrees, to build on the earlier efforts of their predecessors (Douglass in the case of Du Bois, and Sarmiento in the case of Vasconcelos). However, as with Sarmiento and Douglass, these two authors [End Page 110] are rarely read in relation to one another. Again, the reasons for this are that the two are often considered to hold starkly different positions regarding race. For example, Du Bois's early writing on the continued...