Common Skies and Divided Horizons? Sociology, Race, and Postcolonial Studies

Postcolonial Sociology

ISBN: 978-1-78190-603-3, eISBN: 978-1-78190-604-0

ISSN: 0198-8719

Publication date: 12 February 2013


This essay uses the sociology of race in the United States (as it pertains to the study of African Americans) as point of entry into the larger problem of what implications and impact the body of theory known as “postcolonialism” has for American sociology. It assesses how American sociology has historically dealt with what the discipline (in its less enlightened moments) called the “Negro Problem” and in its more “enlightened moments” called “the sociology of race relations.” The first half of the essay provides a sociological analysis of a hegemonic colonial institution – education – as a means of providing a partial history of how, why, and when American sociology shifted from a more “global” stance which placed the “Negro Problem” within the lager rubric of global difference and empire to a parochial sociology of “race relations” which expunged the history of colonialism from the discipline. The second half of the essay applies postcolonial literary theory to a series of texts written by the founder of the Chicago school of race relations, Robert Ezra Park, in order to document Park's shift from analyzing Black Americans within a colonial framework which saw the “Negro Problem” in America as an “aspect or phase” of the “Native Problem” in Africa to an immigration/assimilation paradigm that tenaciously avoided engaging with the fact that Black resistance to conflict in America might be articulated in global terms.


Magubane, Z. (2013), "Common Skies and Divided Horizons? Sociology, Race, and Postcolonial Studies", Go, J. (Ed.) Postcolonial Sociology (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 24), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 81-116.

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