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annurev.soc.26.1.169

annurev.soc.26.1.169 - P1 FJL/FPO P2 FJS/FPO P3 FLW 12:13...

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Annu. Rev. Sociol. 2000. 26:169–85 Copyright c 2000 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved R ACE AND R ACE T HEORY Howard Winant Department of Sociology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104; e-mail: [email protected] Key Words racism, racial formation, racial politics Abstract Race has always been a significant sociological theme, from the found- ing of the field and the formulation of classical theoretical statements to the present. Since the nineteenth century, sociological perspectives on race have developed and changed, always reflecting shifts in large-scale political processes. In the classical pe- riod, colonialism and biologistic racism held sway. As the twentieth century dawned, sociology came to be dominated by US-based figures. DuBois and the Chicago School presented the first notable challenges to the field’s racist assumptions. In the aftermath of World War II, with the destruction of European colonialism, the rise of the civil rights movement, and the surge in migration on a world scale, the sociology of race became a central topic. The field moved toward a more critical, more egalitarian aware- ness of race, focused particularly on the overcoming of prejudice and discrimination. Although the recognition of these problems increased and political reforms made some headway in combatting them, racial injustice and inequality were not surmounted. As the global and domestic politics of race entered a new period of crisis and uncertainty, so too has the field of sociology. To tackle the themes of race and racism once again in the new millennium, sociology must develop more effective racial theory. Racial formation approaches can offer a starting point here. The key tasks will be the formu- lation of a more adequate comparative historical sociology of race, the development of a deeper understanding of the micro-macro linkages that shape racial issues, and the recognition of the pervasiveness of racial politics in contemporary society. This is a challenging but also exciting agenda. The field must not shrink from addressing it. INTRODUCTION As the world lurches forward into the twenty-first century, widespread confusion and anxiety exist about the political significance and even the meaning, of race. This uncertain situation extends into the field of sociology, which has since its founding devoted great attention to racial themes. The extent of the literature on the race concept alone, not to mention the moun- tains of empirical studies that focus on racial issues, presents difficulties for any attempt at theoretical overview and synthesis. A wide range of concepts from both the classical and modern traditions can readily be applied to racial matters. 0360-0572/00/0815-0169$14.00 169 Annu. Rev. Sociol. 2000.26:169-185. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org by University of California - Berkeley on 10/15/10. For personal use only.
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170 WINANT Variations among national and cultural understandings of the meaning of race cry out for comparative appproaches. World history has, arguably, been racialized at
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