I am honored to present Volume 22 of Political Power and Social Theory (PPST). This volume is a landmark, in that it is among the first volumes of PPST to be dedicated to a single topic. With the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election in sight, this special volume on the meaning of Barack Obama's presidency from a critical social science perspective is especially timely. For the first part of the volume, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Louise Seamster have put together a diverse collection of essays on the politics of race in the age of Obama. For the second part (the Scholarly Controversy section familiar to PPST readers), Philip S. Gorski offers provocative reflections on Obama and civil religion in the United States, with critical commentary from Joseph Gerteis, Andrew R. Murphy, and Michael Young and Christopher Pieper.
In this special section of Political Power and Social Theory, we present the work of scholars from various disciplines documenting and analyzing the Obama phenomenon. The…
In this special section of Political Power and Social Theory, we present the work of scholars from various disciplines documenting and analyzing the Obama phenomenon. The work in this section, including both theoretical and empirical analysis, is an early step in the much-needed academic discussion on Obama and racial politics in the contemporary United States. We offer this compendium as a call-to-arms to progressives and leftists, encouraging the revival of radical critique of Obama's discourse and policies instead of the fulsome praise or confused silence that has so far greeted Obama from the left.
As the social scientists of modern society, sociologists find themselves in a peculiar situation. Human civilization appears on the brink of collapse; the ravages of…
As the social scientists of modern society, sociologists find themselves in a peculiar situation. Human civilization appears on the brink of collapse; the ravages of global capitalism are turning natural and social orders upside down. Some theorists are declaring the “end of history,” while others wonder if humans will soon become extinct. People find themselves increasingly shouldering burdens on their own, strangers to themselves and others. Struggles for recognition and identity are forged in harsh landscapes of social dislocation and inequality. The relationship of the individual to the state atrophies as governmental power becomes at once more remote and absolutely terrifying. How are we as sociologists expected to theorize under such circumstances? What implications result for the mission of sociology as a discipline and area of study? What political initiatives, if any, can counter these trends?
This chapter provides an immanent critique of sociology as a profession, vocation, and critical practice. Sociology today (in the US and around the globe) faces fierce social, economic, and political headwinds. The discipline continues to be a perilous choice as a vocation for independent researchers as much as the shrinking professoriate. Yet while the traditional functions of sociology are thrown into doubt, there has been an increase in critical practices on the part of some sociologists. As institutional norms, values, and traditions continue to be challenged, there will be passionate debates about the production of social worlds and the validity claims involved in such creation. Sociologists must play an active role in such discourse. Sociology is needed today as a mode of intervention as much as occupational status system or method of inquiry.
This essay tackles the Obama “phenomenon,” from his candidacy to his election, as a manifestation of the new “color-blind racism” that has characterized U.S. racial…
This essay tackles the Obama “phenomenon,” from his candidacy to his election, as a manifestation of the new “color-blind racism” that has characterized U.S. racial politics in the post-civil rights era. Rather than symbolizing the “end of race,” or indeed a “miracle,” Obama's election is a predictable result of contemporary U.S. electoral politics. In fact, Obama is a middle-of-the-road Democrat whose policies since taking office have been almost perfectly in line with his predecessors, especially in terms of his failure to improve the lot of blacks and other minorities. In this essay, I review the concept of color-blind racism and its application to the Obama phenomenon. I also revisit some of my past predictions for Obama's presidency and evaluate their accuracy halfway through his term. Finally, I offer suggestions for constructing a genuine social movement to push Obama and future politicians to provide real, progressive “change we can believe in.”
This chapter is based on a chapter I added for the third edition of my book, Racism without Racists. Louise Seamster, a wonderful graduate student at Duke, helped me update some material, locate new sources, and rework some sections, as well as abridge some of the many footnotes (interested readers can consult the chapter). I kept the first person to maintain the more direct and engaged tone of the original piece and because the ideas (the good, the bad, and the ugly ones) in the chapter are mine, and thus, I wish to remain entirely responsible for them.
This paper examines the Art Institute of Chicago – a nationally recognized museum – as a white sanctuary, i.e., a white institutional space within a racialized social system that serves to reassure whites of their dominant position in society. The purpose of this paper is to highlight how museums create and maintain white spaces within the greater context of being an institution for the general public.
The empirical analysis of this study is based on collaborative ethnographic data collected over a three-year period of time conducted by the first two authors, and consists of hundreds of photos and hundreds of hours of participant observations and field notes. The data are analyzed using descriptive methods and content analyses.
The findings highlight three specific racial mechanisms that speak to how white spaces are created, recreated and maintained within nationally and internationally elite museums: spatiality, the policing of space, and the management of access.
Sociological research on how white spaces are maintained in racialized organizations is limited. This paper extends to museums’ institutional role in maintaining white supremacy, as white sanctuaries.
This paper adds to the existing literature on race, place and space by highlighting three specific racial mechanisms in museum institutions that help to maintain white supremacy, white normality(ies), and serve to facilitate a reassurance to whites’ anxieties, fears and fragilities about their group position in society – that which helps to preserve their psychological wages of whiteness in safe white spaces.
This chapter uses critical race theories to interpret Obama-related content and changing discourse patterns on discussion boards maintained by a pro-gun, overwhelmingly…
This chapter uses critical race theories to interpret Obama-related content and changing discourse patterns on discussion boards maintained by a pro-gun, overwhelmingly white, male, and conservative virtual community. Beginning during the 2008 presidential primary season and continuing through Barack Obama's election as president, our analysis focused on the proliferation of negative “nicknames” (“Obamathets”) that were posted in race-oriented discussion threads over 16 months. We identified three types of frequently voiced Obamathets: those indicating general dislike, political disdain, or racial derision, and we analyzed usage patterns – which types of Obamathets appeared and at which times. Our results revealed a changing state of mind – annoyance to extreme anger – among posters whose sense of racial threat seemed increasingly palpable as Obama approached, and eventually won, the presidency. Over time, posts increasingly included racially derisive terms whose incidence intensified after the election and remained high; racially derisive terms overtook terms of general dislike (that had been more popular) as well as terms of political disdain several months into our analysis. Because posters tended to be more openly libertarian in orientation, we doubt our findings would generalize to the majority of conservative whites; however, our findings probably shed considerable light on activist elements among conservatives, including the “Tea Party” movement. Moreover, capturing sentiments expressed in a semiprivate venue – virtual community discussion boards – probably allowed us to uncover less censored racial sentiment (or racetalk) than is typical when social scientists solicit racial opinions from whites in face-to-face interviews, when many may omit racially hostile thoughts to appear more racially sensitive to researchers.
This paper explores how racial neoliberalism is the latest evolution of race and global capitalism and is analyzed in the example of global tourism in Costa Rica. Racial…
This paper explores how racial neoliberalism is the latest evolution of race and global capitalism and is analyzed in the example of global tourism in Costa Rica. Racial neoliberalism represents two important features: colorblind ideology and new racial practices.
Two beach tourism localities in Costa Rica are investigated to identify the racial neoliberal practices that racialize tourism spaces and bodies and the ideological discourses deployed to justify racial hierarchical placement that perpetuates new forms of global and national inequality.
Three neoliberal racial practices in tourism globalization were found. First, “neoliberal networks” supported white transnational actors’ linkage to national and global tourism providers. Second, “neoliberal conservation” in beach land protection policies secured private tourism business development and impacted current and future racial community displacement. Third, “neoliberal activism” exposed how community fights to change local tourism development was demarcated along racial lines.
An inquiry into the mechanisms and logics of how racism contemporarily operates in the global economy exposes the importance of acknowledging that race has an impact on different actor’s global economic participation by organizing the distribution of material economic rewards unevenly.
As scholarship exposes how gender, ethnicity, and class are constituted through global economic arrangements it is imperative that research uncovers how race is a salient category also shaping current global inequality but experienced differently in diverse geographies and histories.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations have become more popular in the United States than in Mexico. In the past few decades, this historic day has changed from a regional celebration…
Cinco de Mayo celebrations have become more popular in the United States than in Mexico. In the past few decades, this historic day has changed from a regional celebration of Mexican American culture into nationwide Latino/a holiday hijacked by the alcohol industry and other commercial interests. This chapter closely examines the varied ways in which Cinco de Mayo has been represented by U.S. advertisers, marketers, and restaurant owners. Using content analysis of Cinco de Mayo advertisements in magazines, billboards, liquor ads, and store displays from 2000 to 2006, five mediated representations emerged: Mexico's Fourth of July, Mexican St. Patrick's Day, Drinko de Mayo, Sexism in a Bottle, and Mexican Otherness. These representations are anchored in a new racism ideology that emphasizes cultural difference, individualism, liberalism, and colorblindness, which reinforce existing racial inequalities. The implications of the alcohol industry's Cinco de Mayo advertisements is the increased targeting of Latino/a youth from working-class communities with high rates of alcohol-related violent deaths and illnesses.
This chapter examines whether the racial identification of mixed-race adolescents can be understood through several theories: Status Maximization Theory, the rule of…
This chapter examines whether the racial identification of mixed-race adolescents can be understood through several theories: Status Maximization Theory, the rule of hypodescent, or social identity theory. Status Maximization theory posits that mixed-race adolescents will attempt to identify as the highest racial status group they possibly can. The rule of hypodescent or hypodescent theory, also known as the one-drop rule, is a legacy of the Plantation-era South and prescribes that mixed-race individuals identify as their lowest status racial identity. Social identity theory posits that the higher frequency or quality of contacts with parents or individuals in mixed-race adolescents’ peer networks affect the racial identification of mixed-race adolescents. Also, social identity contends that a mixed-race adolescent's intergroup dynamic (measured here as a child's level of self-esteem, whether there is prejudice at school, and a child's self-concept) dictates how he or she will racially identify. Through analyses of mixed-race adolescents in the National Longitudinal Adolescent Health (Add Health), I find that Asian-white and American-Indian-white adolescents do not status maximize nor abide by hypodescent, while black-white adolescents do not status maximize but do adhere to hypodescent when forced to choose one race. There is no tendency for the frequency or quality of contact with parents, romantic partners, or school composition to affect racial identity, as predicted by social identity theory. Yet, several of the aforementioned social-psychological variables are found to influence the racial identification of mixed-race adolescents. Specifically, whether they felt positively about school, if they experienced prejudice, whether they had higher levels of self-esteem, and if they felt socially accepted by their peers. Another key finding from this research suggests that racial identification for Asian-white and American-Indian-white adolescents are both fluid and optional; this is not the case for black-white adolescents. I conclude by offering the implications of these findings for black-white multiracial individuals.