Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism: Volume 38

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Table of contents

(11 chapters)

Prelims

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Abstract

This volume of Political Power and Social Theory highlights ongoing conversations concerning sociological approaches to the global and historical study of race and racism. In this introduction, we discuss the challenges and promises of studying race across space and time. We emphasize that attending to race on the global scale not only improves our understanding of how race operates in current times, but also helps us better recognize how social relations of power are organized. We underscore how scholars ought to conceive of racism as central to the making of the so-called modern world. The eight papers in this volume advance this intellectual project. We consider them in conversation with one another to highlight four foundations for the global historical study of race and racism. First, the authors emphasize on-the-ground race-making. Second, they explore continuity, change, and overlapping racial orders. Third, the authors document the tensions between local dynamics and global relations, drawing attention to sites where the two meet. Fourth, the authors interrogate the relationship of modernity to the construction of race around the world. The articles in this volume are important examples of work that pushes the study of race and racism forward.

Abstract

Du Bois's interest in the Japanese empire points us in the direction of examining non-Western imperial policies and discourses and how they relate to racialization. For Du Bois, Japan was an exemplar of a nonwhite empire. This chapter reconstructs a Du Boisian conception of race that identifies it closely with ethnicity, against the belief that the African-American intellectual held on to a merely biological conception of race. I argue that his thought evolved towards a social-construction approach in which race must be understood historically and in particular global contexts. By analyzing Japan's policies and discourses around the boundaries of the Japanese, I explicate how Japan carried out a process of self-racialization owing to its dialectical relationship with the West. It also racialized its colonial subjects in a process of in-group delineation according to Japan's imperial imperatives. The case of the Japanese empire demonstrates how a global/transnational approach to racialization is valuable. It also evinces how white supremacy and universalism are not the only logics of imperialism. Moreover, it shows that Du Bois believed white supremacy could be transcended. However, Du Bois was too idealistic about Japan's empire, ignoring how oppressive nonwhite imperial rulers can be toward their subjects even when there are phenotypical similarities between them.

Abstract

Race has played a central role in state-building in Latin America. This chapter foregrounds the role of transnational racialization politics in bureaucratic development in the region in the late nineteenth century. Analyzing the transformation of the Bolivian diplomatic bureaucracy following the War of the Pacific (1879–1884), I argue that the circulation in Europe and the Americas of racial discourses on Bolivia that cast doubt on its place among the concert of civilized nations motivated its reform and expansion. This study suggests that, given the potential costs of transnational racialization threats, states across the region developed agencies and practices that expanded their capacity to manage their racialized national images among international audiences. Against the threat of racialized imperialism and colonialism, Bolivian liberal reformers envisioned a diplomatic bureaucracy capable of negotiating Bolivia's place in the global racial imaginary abroad. This study emphasizes the central role of the diplomatic bureaucracy as a condition of possibility in these projects and directs attention to the role of race in the development of state agencies less commonly associated with race, such as diplomacy.

Abstract

The abolition of slavery in the British Empire demanded a complete transformation of the global legal and political order. Focusing on British India, this chapter argues that this restructuring was, in and of itself, a vital racial project that played out on a global stage. Examining these dynamics over the nineteenth century, I trace how this project unfolded from the vantage point of the Bombay Presidency and the western coast of India, tightly integrated into Indian Ocean networks trading goods, ideas, and, of course, peoples. I show how Shidis – African origin groups in South Asia and across the Middle East – were almost the sole subjects of British antislavery interventions in India after abolition. This association was intensified over the nineteenth century as Indian slavery was simultaneously reconfigured to recede from view. This chapter establishes these dynamics empirically by examining a dataset of encounters at borders, ports, and transit hubs, showing how the legal and political regime that emerged after abolition forged novel configurations around “race” and “slavery.” Documenting these “benign” encounters shifts attention to the racializing dimensions of imperial abolition, rather than enslavement. Once “freed,” the administrative and bureaucratic apparatus that monitored and managed Shidis inscribed this identity into the knowledge regime of the colonial state resulting in the long-term racialization of Shidis in South Asia, the effects of which are still present today.

Abstract

The social categories “Hutu” and “Tutsi” have long been central to Rwandan politics, though never more so than during the 1994 genocide, when they formed the ultimate divide: kill (Hutu) or be killed (Tutsi). Since then, the Rwandan government has sought to eliminate these categories and replace them with a new, national identity category of “Rwandan.” This chapter draws on theories of state symbolic power and legibility to analyze how top-down projects of remaking Rwandans are being received from below. Specifically, we examine ordinary Rwandans' responses to gacaca, a community justice practice central to the state's National Unity and Reconciliation Program, and find Rwandans resent efforts to “unmake race” in favor of “nation” because the state's account of genocide in gacaca does not allow them to sincerely express their experiences; it activates traumatic pasts for what they feel is superficial national reconciliation; and it detracts from their material needs. These findings highlight the importance of distinguishing between compliance and conviction in research on state efforts to transform civilian subjectivities. They also suggest directions for further research. Namely, future research on state symbolic power should attend to how individual experiences with violence mediate top-down efforts at remaking civilian subjectivities, to how different forms of governance shape civilian resistance to state categorization and classification projects, and to what kinds of interests are likely to motivate people to alter their self-perceptions. We conclude by arguing for more work on state race and nation-making from the perspectives of its targets.

Abstract

Race scholars often refer to the colonization of Indigenous peoples in the Americas and the enslavement of Africans as a founding moment in the making of today's racial hierarchies. Yet their narrative of this initial moment often mischaracterizes early European states, erases Indigenous and African states, and naturalizes racial group belonging. Such practices are counterproductive to the antiracist project. Following the lead of decolonial scholarship, much recent work by historians has sought to recover and reconstruct the institutions, social structures, and agency of African and Indigenous peoples, as well as revisit assumptions about European power, institutions, and agency in their historical encounters with their continental “others.” I highlight the potential of this approach for sociologists of “race” by narrating two significant historical events in the making of the modern Atlantic world: the conquest of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire, and the transatlantic enslavement of subjects of the kingdoms of Kongo and Ndongo (in today's Angola) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I analyze how particular European, Indigenous, and African actors made decisions in the context of their own and others' historically situated and dynamic political and social structures. I read these historical events through the lens of decolonial scholarship, and sociological literatures on group-making, state formation, and the emergence of capitalism, to make sense of the violent social process that led to the breakup of African, Indigenous, and European political and social structures and the making of colonial and racially hierarchical social structures in the Atlantic world.

Abstract

What insights might attending to the cyclical history of colonially imposed environmental change experienced by Indigenous peoples offer to critical intellectual projects concerned with race? How might our understanding of race shift if we took Indigenous peoples' concerns with the usurpation and transformation of land seriously? Motivated by these broader questions, in this chapter, I deploy an approach to the critical inquiry of race that I have tentatively been calling anticolonial environmental sociology. As a single iteration of the anticolonial environmental sociology of race, this chapter focuses on Native (American) perspectives on land and experiences with colonialism. I argue that thinking with Native conceptualizations of land forces us to confront the ecomateriality of race that so often escapes sight in conventional analyses. The chapter proceeds by first theorizing the ecomateriality of race by thinking with recent critical theorizing on colonial racialization, alongside Native conceptualizations of land. To further explicate this theoretical argument, I then turn to an historical excavation of the relations between settlers, Natives, and the land in Rhode Island that is organized according to spatiotemporal distinctions that punctuate Native land relations in this particular global region: the Reservation, the Plantation, and the Narragansett.

Abstract

This chapter analyzes the semiotic construction of US claims to sovereignty in Hawai‘i. Building on semiotic theories in sociology and theories within critical Indigenous and settler colonial studies, it presents an interpretive analysis of state, military, and academic discursive strategies. The US empire-state attempts to construct colonial narratives of race and sovereignty that rehistoricize the history of Hawaiians and other Indigenous peoples. In order to make claims to sovereignty, settler-colonists construct narratives that build upon false claims to superiority, advancement, and discovery. Colonial resignification is a process by which signs and symbols of Indigenous communities are conscripted into the myths of empire that maintain such sovereign claims. Yet, for this reason, colonial resignification can be undone through reclaiming such signs and symbols from their use within colonial metanarratives. In this case, efforts toward decolonial resignification enacted alternative metanarratives of peoples' relationships to place. This “flip side” of the synecdoche is a process that unravels the ties that bind layered myths by providing new answers to questions that underpin settler colonial sovereignty.

Abstract

While technologies are often packaged as solutions to long-standing social ills, scholars of digital economies have raised the alarm that, far from liberatory, technologies often further entrench social inequities and in fact automate structures of oppression. This literature has been revelatory but tends to replicate a methodological nationalism that erases global racial hierarchies. We argue that digital economies rely on colonial pathways and in turn serve to replicate a racialized and neocolonial world order. To make this case, we draw on W.E.B. Du Bois' writings on capitalism's historical development through colonization and the global color line. Drawing specifically on The World and Africa as a global historical framework of racism, we develop heuristics that make visible how colonial logics operated historically and continue to this day, thus embedding digital economies in this longer history of capitalism, colonialism, and racism. Applying a Du Boisian framework to the production and propagation of digital technologies shows how the development of such technology not only relies on preexisting racial colonial production pathways and the denial of racially and colonially rooted exploitation but also replicates these global structures further.

Index

Pages 251-256
Content available
Cover of Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism
DOI
10.1108/S0198-8719202138
Publication date
2021-09-30
Book series
Political Power and Social Theory
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-80117-219-6
eISBN
978-1-80117-218-9
Book series ISSN
0198-8719