This special issue celebrates the scholarship of Canada's leading critical race feminist scholar—Sherene Razack. Her work on gender, race, and the law has influenced a generation of critical race/anti-colonial feminists, educators, socio-legal scholars, legal practitioners, and social justice activists.1 This special issue marks the twenty-year anniversary of her groundbreaking book Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race, and Culture in Courtrooms and Classrooms, which is now in its fourth edition.2 Since Looking White People in the Eye, Razack's work continues to examine various legal and social responses to gendered racialized violence within settler colonial and imperial contexts, nationally and internationally. In addition to more than forty peer- reviewed articles, the most recent of her eight books include Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody; Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics; and Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping, and the New Imperialism.3
Razack has received numerous formal accolades. To name just a few, her 2003 article "Gendered Racial Violence and Spatialized Justice: The Murder of Pamela George" received the award for best article published in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society in 2000–02.4 In 2004, her book Dark Threats was awarded Counterpunch's Edward Said Award for the ten top books on empire. Dark Threats also received the 2005 American Association of Political Science award for best book on comparative racial and ethnic research. Razack's work of the past two decades—whether it is her critique of Canada's security certificate detainees and anti-Muslim racism, torture, and peacekeeping violence; disappeared Indigenous women and girls; or Indigenous deaths in custody—has also been recognized and practically deployed [End Page i] by community-based social justice activists, anti-racism educators, and legal practitioners working the frontlines of social change.
Always concerned to build community with and for scholars of colour, Razack spearheaded the formation of a critical race research network. In 2002, she convened the first Canadian Critical Race Theory Conference and, in 2005, was a founding member of the Researchers and Academics of Colour for Equality (RACE) Network. After twenty-five years with the University of Toronto, Razack accepted the prestigious Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in Women's Studies in the Department of Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she founded the Racial Violence Hub, a virtual research and teaching network.5
As we write the introduction to this special issue, the editors reflect on what first compelled us to seek out Razack's scholarship.
In the late 1990s, I was working in anti-violence women's community organizations predominantly comprised of white feminists. It was in this context that I became aware of the discontinuities between the theory and the practice of social movements that work towards social justice. I grappled with the difficult challenges of bringing anti-racism into the practices of the organization and found that most of my energy was spent trying to avoid or overcome defensiveness and that my colleagues' general understandings remained at the level of "discrimination"—so long as they treated everyone the same, they were not implicated. As feminists, we were pushed to think about how to negotiate power in our work, yet our efforts always seemed to fall short of making any real change. It was then that I came upon a book with the title Looking White People in the Eye. Although I did not fully comprehend some of the content, I was thankful just knowing that such a book existed, and it often comforted me to look into the unwavering gaze of the woman of colour on its cover. It was Razack's explanation of interlocking systems that finally gave me the language to explain and to better understand what many of us know at a visceral level—that race and gender interlock to produce specific experiences of violence. Razack's examination of white racial innocence, first in Looking White People in the Eye and then in Dark Threats, profoundly changed my understanding of power and inspired me to...