Race & Ethnicity

{142e67a9-cd27-4f44-9bd2-10fecd2a71bc}Img400Baker, L. 1998. From Savage to Negro: anthropology and the construction of race, 1896-1954. London: University of California Press.

Great overview on anthropological takes on race in the US; especially interesting for a focus on race theorists like Boas and Du Bois, as well as a really in-depth look at how anthropology and public policy shape and feed off each other.  Excellently written, in a historical framework tracing the sociopolitical context of the development of anthropology, framed by two of the most important Supreme Court decisions segregating and then de-segregating public space in the US.


boydBoyd, S. 2011. Black Men Worshipping: Intersecting Anxieties of Race, Gender, and Christian Embodiment. Palgrave MacMillan.

To be honest, I read this book by accident because it looked interesting, but it is a fantastic intersectional work combining in-depth analysis of entertainment with ethnography. The most memorable part is the chapter analyzing representations of black men in The Green Mile, but all worth a read.


duboisDu Bois, W. E. B. 2004 [1903]. The Souls of Black Folk. London: Paradigm.

Start with one of the best. It’s frustrating in a way how relevant DuBois still is—if Souls of Black Folk were written in 2015, it would still sound like it was referring to current events. A reminder also that beautiful writing is powerful in its own right.


fieldsandfieldsFields, B. and Fields, K. 2012.  Racecraft: the Soul of Inequality in American Life. Verso. 

Written as a collection of thoughts, spanning quite a few different inspirations, from the nature of teaching to an examination of Evans-Pritchard’s famous account of Azande witchcraft.  A fascinating and absolutely essential read for understanding how when we talk about race, we are actually talking about racism.


tatumTatum, B. 2003. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And other conversations about race.  New York: Basic Books.

One of the biggest books that educators in the US reference when talking about race and institutional diversity.  Great focus on race realities in an academic institution like Oxford, such as the social support frameworks necessary for non-ethnic majority students and how those are viewed and undermined by majority administration–especially important in looking at Oxford’s collegiate system and its potential for isolation.  A bit slow in places, but worth staying with it.


Wilkerson-WarmthOtherSuns-CWilkerson, I. 2010. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

A bit of a doorstop, but engaging and enjoyable. In an examination of the growth and development of ethnic-minority ‘ghettoes’ in the US, Wilkerson follows several people who moved North to escape the Jim Crow South and the struggles they faced, as well as how they have seen their communities change—and in the process, provides a fantastic explanation of the mechanics of institutional racism.


Update, 24/6/14:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist at The Atlantic, recently published a feature story called ‘The Case for Reparations’.  This is fascinating, and well, WELL worth a read.  More to our purposes, though, he is also publishing an intellectual genealogy of the piece through the books that moved him in that direction.  The books that follow are from his list, with descriptions either from his article or from amazon.com.  Do check out the original feature article and his descriptions of why these books are so important (and why he agrees or disagrees with them) here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations-a-narrative-bibliography/372000/


drakeDrake, St. C. 1987. Black Folk Here and There: an essay in history and anthropology. University of California, Center for Afro-American Studies.

“’Black Folk Here and There’ was part of a larger project that the author began entitled ‘Coping and Co-optation.’ The purpose of the project was to conduct an ‘analysis of the values and symbols that have emerged within Black communities in the Diaspora and to relate them to the ‘coping’ process at various periods in history and in diverse places where ecological and economic contexts present quite different options… This book is a result. Crucial in the African American’s coping process has been their identification, over a time span of more than two centuries, with ancient Egypt and Ethiopia as symbols of black initiative and success long before their enslavement on the plantations of the New World. Great myths are always part of group-coping strategies. The book begins with an examination of Nile Valley civilizations, after a brief discussion of ‘The Ambivalent Exiles’ from Africa who found themselves evolving as part of North American societies.”


6919721Painter, N.I. 2011. The History of White People. W. W. Norton and Co.

“Telling perhaps the most important forgotten story in American history, eminent historian Nell Irvin Painter guides us through more than two thousand years of Western civilization, illuminating not only the invention of race but also the frequent praise of “whiteness” for economic, scientific, and political ends. A story filled with towering historical figures, The History of White People closes a huge gap in literature that has long focused on the non-white and forcefully reminds us that the concept of “race” is an all-too-human invention whose meaning, importance, and reality have changed as it has been driven by a long and rich history of events.”

morganMorgan, B. 2003.
 American Slavery, American Freedom. W. W. Norton and Co.

In the American Revolution, Virginians were the most eloquent spokesmen for freedom and quality. George Washington led the Americans in battle against British oppression. Thomas Jefferson led them in declaring independence. Virginians drafted not only the Declaration but also the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; they were elected to the presidency of the United States under that Constitution for thirty-two of the first thirty-six years of its existence. They were all slaveholders. In the new preface Edmund S. Morgan writes: “Human relations among us still suffer from the former enslavement of a large portion of our predecessors. The freedom of the free, the growth of freedom experienced in the American Revolution depended more than we like to admit on the enslavement of more than 20 percent of us at that time. How republican freedom came to be supported, at least in large part, by its opposite, slavery, is the subject of this book. American Slavery, American Freedom is a study of the tragic contradiction at the core of America. Morgan finds the keys to this central paradox, “the marriage of slavery and freedom,” in the people and the politics of the state that was both the birthplace of the Revolution and the largest slaveholding state in the country.


jordanJordan, W.B. 1968. White Over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, 1550-1812.University of North Carolina Press.

“In 1968, Winthrop D. Jordan set out in encyclopedic detail the evolution of white Englishmen’s and Anglo-Americans’ perceptions of blacks, perceptions of difference used to justify race-based slavery, and liberty and justice for whites only. This second edition, with new forewords by historians Christopher Leslie Brown and Peter H. Wood, reminds us that Jordan’s text is still the definitive work on the history of race in America in the colonial era. Every book published to this day on slavery and racism builds upon his work; all are judged in comparison to it; none has surpassed it.”


Baldwin, J. 1984. ‘On Being White… and other lies.’ Essence.  http://engl101-rothman.wikispaces.umb.edu/file/view/On+Being+White+and+Other+Lies.pdf

Ta-Nehisi Coates: ‘No one is better on the idea of “race,” and particularly whiteness, and its import than Baldwin: “No one was white before he/she came to America. It took generations and a vast amount of coercion …”’


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