Race Critical and Decolonial Sociology
The syllabus below comes from a graduate course offered by Alana Lentin during her Hans Speier Visiting Professorship at The New School in New York (Spring 2017). The syllabus and subsequent blog posts are republished with the permission of the author from her blog, alanalentin.net.
Race, critical, and decolonial sociology is premised on the idea that to understand politics in western modernity requires placing race and coloniality central to analyses. The course will therefore be grounded in political sociological, theoretical and historical sociological readings of race, racism, imperialism, colonialism, slavery, genocide, and immigration and borders and opposition to them. Particular attention will be given to black and decolonial thinking as a means, not only of challenging the persistence of racisms, but of more truthfully representing the breadth of scholarship in general. It will interest students committed to a furthering of their understanding of the social and political theory of modernity, as well as those with a specific interest in themes related to race such as migration, (post)colonialism and coloniality, multiculturalism, human rights, “terrorism”, multiculturalism, diversity and identity politics, antiracist resistance, Indigenous sovereignty, and more.
During weeks 1-4 we will be discussing the themes of the course in more general terms. The rest of the course will be focused around more recent works in race critical/decolonial scholarship.
Section I: Concepts, debates
Week 1 (January 24): Introductions
Although I will not be assigning much of my own work, this week I would like you to read a recent paper I wrote for the Sage Handbook of Political Sociology for you to get a sense of my general approach to race and the scholars whose work I draw on.
Week 2 (January 31): Black Study, Black Struggle
In March 2017, the sociologist Robin D.G. Kelley wrote an article in The Boston Review. The tagline was,
“The university is not an engine of social transformation. Activism is.”
But Kelley discusses the ways in which the university can be put to the service of social transformation. Many of the ideas in his article, as well as the responses to it by those such as Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor, Michael Dyson and raise ideas that what this might look like in practice. These are pertinent questions for those of us struggling with the question of whether the university can (anymore) be a site for social struggle.
Please read Kelley’s article and three responses of your choice:
I will introduce the theme and talk about how Black thought has been central in my recent work on the critique of ‘racism studies’.
Week 3 (February 7): Decolonising sociology
While key voices in the humanities, particularly emerging from the Latin American decolonial school, have challenged the Eurocentric academy and its ‘white curriculum’ for some time, sociology has been slow to decolonise. This may in part be due to the widely different emphases within sociology, particularly between the US and the European ‘traditions’. More recently, key sociological thinkers have been thinking about what a decolonial sociology would look like. They are inspired by decolonial scholars in related fields such as Enrique Dussel, Maria Lugones, Ramon Grosfoguel or Walter Mignolo (to name but a few). We will read a few key articles on the ‘decolonial option’ with a particular focus on the challenge put to the social sciences and sociology in particular.
Grosfoguel, Ramon. 2013. ‘The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities Epistemic Racism/Sexism and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century,’ Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, XI, Issue 1, Fall 2013, 73-90.
Michael Burawoy. 2016. ‘The Promise of Sociology: Global Challenges for National Disciplines,’ Sociology 50(5).
Week 4 (February 14): Methodologies
To do our work from a perspective that privileges the margins, emphasizing a decolonial, race critical and an account that centers what Barnor Hesse calls ‘black analytics,’ we need to think about how to approach our subjects of research in a way that does not reproduce the oppressions we are trying to unmask. We need also to think seriously about how to privilege the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘being’ of race. This week we will look at some methodological and epistemological discussions.
David T. Goldberg. 2015. ‘Racial Comparisons, Relational racisms: Some thoughts on method’, in Karim Murji and John Solomos (eds.), Theories of Race and Ethnicity: Contemporary Debates and Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 251-262.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tukufu Zuberi. 2008. ‘Introduction: Towards a Definition of White Logic and White Methods’, in White Logic, White Methods. London: Rowman and Littlefield.
Linda Tuhiwai Smith. 2012. ‘Chapter 10: Towards Developing Indigenous Methodologies: Kaupapa Maori Research’, in Decolonizing Methodologies (2nd ed.). London: Zed Books.
Patricia Hill Collins. 2015. ‘No guarantees: Symposium on Black Feminist Thought’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 38, No. 13, 2349–2354.
Accompanying texts (optional):
Nelson Maldonado-Torres. 2010. ‘The time and space of race: reflections on David
Theo Goldberg’s interrelational and comparative methodology’, Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 44, No. 1.
Symposium on ‘Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 38(13), 2015.
Section II: Race critical and decolonial thinkers
During the remainder of the course we will focus on some more recent works in race critical and decolonial sociology (thinking ‘sociology’ in an interdisciplinary sense, as not confined solely to academics working strictly within departments of sociology!).
I will introduce the text and a student presenter(s) will be asked to prepare supplementary readings that they feel help us to better illustrate the points being made by the author(s), critique them or add a dimension that is not fully expanded upon by the book we are looking at. I will also list a few supplementary readings that I feel are useful and that I will draw on in my introduction to the work.
Week 5 (February 21): Unveiling the ‘canon’?
Aldon D. Morris. 2015. The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology. University of California Press.
Introduction and articles by Barnor Hesse, and Les Back and Maggie Tate, in Wulf D. Hund and Alana Lentin, Racism and Sociology. Berlin: Lit Verlag.
Week 6 (February 28): Rethinking interconnections
Lisa Lowe. 2016. The Intimacies of Four Continents. Duke UP.
Weeks 7 (March 7): Centering Black thought
Alexander Weheliye. 2014. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Duke UP.
Week 8 (March 14): Surveillance Culture and anti-Blackness
Simone Browne. 2015. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Duke UP.
Chapters from Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton. 2016. P olicing the Planet: Why the policing crisis led to Black Lives Matter . London: Verso.
Week 9 (March 21) – No class – Spring Break
Week 10 (March 28): Race and class
Satnam Virdee. 2014. Racism, Class and the Racialized Outsider. London: Palgrave.
Week 11 (April 4): Settler colonialism in global context (with guest intervention by Ronit Lentin)
Patrick Wolfe. 2016. Traces of History: Elementary structures of race. London: Verso.
Ronit Lentin. 2016. ‘Palestine/Israel and State Criminality: Exception, settler colonialism and racialization’, State Crime 5.1, Spring 216.
Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. 2014. “Introduction” and “‘Indian Country’” in An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. New York: Beacon Press.
Week 12 (April 11): Whiteness, property, indigeneity
Aileen Moreton-Robsinon. 2015. The White Possessive: Property, power, and indigenous sovereignty. University of Minnesota Press.
Cheryl Harris. 1993. ‘Whiteness as Property’, Harvard Law Review 106(8): 1707-1791.
Week 13 (April 18): Race, gender, sexuality, coloniality, Islam (guest intervention by Yassir Morsi tbc)
Mehammed Amadeus Mack. 2017. Sexagon: Diversity, sexuality, and belonging in contemporary France. Fordham UP.
Chapters from Mayanthi Fernando. 2014. The Republic Unsettled. Duke UP.
Chapter 6 in Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley. 2011. The Crises of Multicultralism: Racism in a neoliberal age. London: Zed Books.
Week 14 (April 25): Bordering
Reece Jones. 2016. Violent Borders: refugees and the Right to Move. London: Verso.
Nicholas de Genova. 2002. ‘Migrant Illegality and Deportability in Everyday Life’, Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 31:419–47.
Week 15 (May 2): Re-thinking the Post-racial today
David Theo Goldberg. 2016. Are We All Postracial Yet?. London: Wiley.
Barnor Hesse. 2011. ‘Self-fulfilling Prophecy. The Postracial Horizon’, in South Atlantic Quarterly 110(1): 155-178.