Anti-Racist Research in the Social Sciences

WEB Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903 and the oldest volume on this list, was foundational both for anti-racist thought and sociology itself. (Photo: Cornelius Marion)

In an attempt to uncover and highlight anti-racist research in the social sciences, SAGE Publishing (the parent of Social Science Space) sent out a survey last month asking social scientists to share what they believed to be the most impactful anti-racist research in their field. The results have been diverse and illuminating. In a series of posts, we will share the results here on Social Science Space and organizing them by discipline.

Looking over the results, however, we noticed that a number of answers were pointing out the lack of sufficient research around how racism could be combatted in particular fields. We found that quite a few respondents had relied on more general texts on structural racism. Those are the ones we are going to be highlighting in this post. Even though these texts are not specialized, they provide an excellent foundational understanding of racial difference and discrimination and provide a good starting point for understanding and discussing anti-racist research in the future.

Here is what your peers have been reading. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these choices and know what additional works should be on our accompanying resources list. Comment right here or email lina.ashour@sagepub.co.uk.

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins | Collins explores the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals and activists, and “provides the first synthetic overview of Black feminist thought.”

Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century by Francisco Bethencourt | In this comprehensive history of racism, “Bethencourt shows that racism preceded any theories of race and must be viewed within the prism and context of social hierarchies and local conditions.”

Racism: A Short History by George M. Fredrickson | This “work is the first to treat racism across such a sweep of history and geography. It is distinguished by its original comparison of modern racism’s two most significant varieties―white supremacy and antisemitism.”

Race Matters by Cornel West | In this book, Westaddresses a range of issues, from the crisis in black leadership and the myths surrounding black sexuality to affirmative action, the new black conservatism, and the strained relations between Jews and African Americans.”

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi | “Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism.”

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo | “Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. […] In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.”

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander | An “account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.”

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson | “Linking historical flashpoints – from the post-Civil War Black Codes and Jim Crow to expressions of white rage after the election of America’s first black president – Carol Anderson renders visible the long lineage of white rage and the different names under which it hides.”

Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva | “documents how, beneath our contemporary conversation about race, there lies a full-blown arsenal of arguments, phrases, and stories that whites use to account for—and ultimately justify—racial inequalities.”

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois | “a 1903 work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois. […] Outside of its notable relevance in African-American historyThe Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works in the field of sociology.”

Can the Subaltern Speak by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak | “A critical analysis of Spivak’s classic 1988 postcolonial studies essay, in which [editor Rosalind Morris] argues that a core problem for the poorest and most marginalized in society (the subalterns) is that they have no platform to express their concerns and no voice to affect policy debates or demand a fairer share of society’s goods.” And here is the full text of the original essay from Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader.

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon | “Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of post-independence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other.”

The Racial Contract by Charles W. Mills | “Charles W. Mills demonstrates how this peculiar and unacknowledged “contract” has shaped a system of global European domination: how it brings into existence “whites” and “non-whites,” full persons and sub-persons, how it influences white moral theory and moral psychology; and how this system is imposed on non-whites through ideological conditioning and violence.” 

What Is Race? Four Philosophical Views by Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, Chike Jeffers, and Quayshawn Spencer | “Presents competing views on race from four prominent philosophers and race theorists and cutting-edge theories that draw on and engage philosophy, the social and biological sciences, and race theory.”

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Lina Ashour

Lina Ashour is an Egyptian writer, poet and community organiser. Her studies have included political science, journalism and mass communication, and gender studies.

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