Race is a Relationship, And Not a Thing (Central Issues)
Journal of Social History 2003, Fall, 37, 1
Journal of Social History
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To those who have not recently pored with religious fervor over the "Preface" to The Making of the English Working Class, the title above may require some explanation: no mere homage to one of social history's most influential practitioners, it invokes the continuing validity of his method. (1) Evaluating the durable achievements of what was once the "new" social history in light of challenges and lessons from the linguistic and cultural "turns," we must consider what might be lost if we omit the lessons of class analysis from our inquiries into racial processes. The term "racial processes" itself encompasses an array of discrete but intertwined histories, including those of racial formation, racism, racial conflict, and the multiple histories of the disparate people and groups racialized and stigmatized in the course of human history. (2) Historians are only beginning to unravel their complex relatedness. It is ironic to be called upon to defend the salience of class in this endeavor, as for many the goal was once the converse. In the past, we have struggled first to apply the powerful and persuasive tools of class analysis to historicize race and gender, and in turn to persuade other scholars that class analyses failing to account for racial and gender formation remained impoverished and inadequate. These struggles to integrate analyses of race, gender, and other social dynamics into historical and theoretical accounts of class formation have deepened our understanding that all social formations have been fissured on multiple axes of power and the resources power commands. We can no longer assume that social groups--classes, races, nations, sisterhoods, will be homogeneous and consensual: we look instead for evidence of power, resistance, coercion and consent. As historians, we do look for evidence.
- Category: History
- Published: 22 September 2003
- Publisher: Journal of Social History
- Print Length: 12 Pages
- Language: English