Racecraft

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life

Tackling the myth of a post-racial society.

Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics, and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft itself goes unnoticed.

That the promised post-racial age has not dawned, the authors argue, reflects the failure of Americans to develop a legitimate language for thinking about and discussing inequality. That failure should worry everyone who cares about democratic institutions.

Reviews

  • “A most impressive work, tackling a demanding and important topic—the myth that we now live in a postracial society—in a novel, urgent, and compelling way. The authors dispel this myth by squarely addressing the paradox that racism is scientifically discredited but, like witchcraft before it, retains a social rationale in societies that remain highly unequal and averse to sufficiently critical engagement with their own history and traditions.”
  • “With examples ranging from the profound to the absurd—including, for instance, an imaginary interview with W.E.B. Du Bois and Emile Durkheim, as well as personal porch chats with the authors’ grandmother—the Fields delve into ‘racecraft’s’ profound effect on American political, social and economic life.”
  • “Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields have undertaken a great untangling of how the chimerical concepts of race are pervasively and continuously reinvented and reemployed in this country.”
  • “The neologism ‘racecraft’ is modelled on ‘witchcraft’ … It isn’t that the Fieldses regard the commitment to race as a category as an irrational superstition. On the contrary, they are interested precisely in exploring its rationality—the role that beliefs about race play in structuring American society—while at the same time reminding us that those beliefs may be rational but they’re not true.”
  • “It’s not just a challenge to racists, it’s a challenge to people like me, it’s a challenge to African-Americans who have accepted the fact of race and define themselves by the concept of race.”
  • “Demanding and intelligent.”
  • “Racecraft forces a quite profound reconsideration of familiar categories, by navigating between what is real and what is made-up, and by deeply probing how economic inequality gets reproduced. It is impossible to read this rich book without being challenged and enlightened.”
  • “I love the simple elegance with which they hammer home that race is a montrous fiction, racism is a monstrous crime.”
  • “This is a very thoughtful book, a very urgent book.”

Blog

  • 12 Years a Slave: Verso’s essential reading list on slavery and race relations



    This month sees the UK cinema release of Steve McQueen’s brilliant and brutal new film, 12 Years a Slave. McQueen has been vocal in condemning cinema’s wariness in confronting the subjects of slavery and race, and his film has galvanized a new interest in the unspeakably ugly period in American history. 

    Based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 documentary, 12 Years a Slave takes an unflinching look at the story of a free black man from New York who is abducted and sold into slavery.

    Verso has long held a commitment to telling similar stories, and we now present a selection of books as the essential starting point for those looking to learn more about the roots, events and legacies of slavery and racial tensions in America and the world.

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  • Ninth installment of Racecraft podcast with Dr. Karen E. Fields

    The ninth installment of Intelatin producer Sergio Muñoz's discussion series with Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life co-author Karen Fields is now available online. Featuring guest Dr. Asia Leeds, professor of African Diaspora Studies at Spelman College, and led by K-Beach radio host Miz, this installation take the Fields' work out of the continental US and applies it to the entire Western hemisphere.

    Over the course of the last several months, Karen E. Fields's work has acted as the cornerstone for the series’s discussions on “race-crafting,” or the construction of racial myths in American society.

    In this installment, Dr. Leeds takes the methodology of Racecraft to Costa Rica, and speaks to the racial dimensions of the word “American” once people leave the continental US.

    Visit the podcast archive at the Intelatin Cloudcast to download or listen to the shows in full.

  • Seventh installment of Racecraft podcast with Karen Fields

    http://s3.amazonaws.com/auteurs_production/images/film/paul-robeson-tribute-to-an-artist/w448/paul-robeson-tribute-to-an-artist.jpg?1289428062

    The latest installment of the Racecraft dialogue series for the Academic & the Artist radio show features journalist and critic Maria Bustillos, along with author Karen E. Fields and host Sergio C. Muñoz. Karen E. Fields is the author of Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. This dialogue series touches upon different facets of "race" in America, a concept which Fields points out is often oversimplified and subsequently under-explored.

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