Racecraft-max_221

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

  • The Verso Undergraduate Reading List



    BACK TO UNIVERSITY/SCHOOL! 50% OFF EVERYTHING FOR ONE WEEK ONLY!

    Feeling underwhelmed by your orthodox assigned readings? Expand your knowledge of left theory, give your political arguments some bite, and spark a love for revolutionary writers with this updated list of essential Verso books for undergraduates.

    Whether you're a student of history, sociology, political science, or geography, look no further for key radical texts and indispensable primers on today's top thinkers. 

    The list is divided into Politics, Philosophy, Feminism, Postcolonial Studies, History and Geography - see below for our recommended reading in these areas.

    All of these books will be discounted by 50%, with free shipping and bundled ebook, when you buy through our website until midnight on Tuesday September 16th! Not all books are available in all regions (apologies!) and - of course - only whilst stocks last.

    Continue Reading

  • Racists and anti-racists by Etienne Balibar

    Xenophobia Blog Series. This is the second instalment of a series of pieces published on our blog by leading voices on the current and alarming force of Xenophobia - the fear of "strange and foreign" identities. 



    Racists and anti-racists by Etienne Balibar

    Where, when and how was the concept of racism formed? It seems to have its origins in a book that appeared in 1933-1934, in which Magnus Hirschfeld described the 'racial theory' underlying Hitler's conception of race war. So the word was born in Germany, by way of contact with its first 'object': the racism of the Nazi state elaborated in the name of the Aryan myth, principally directed against Jews, but also against other 'untermensch' peoples and populations.

    Continue Reading

  • 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.

    Continue Reading