Reconsidering Race Book uri icon


  • Race is one of the most elusive phenomena of social life. While we generally know it when we see it, it's not an easy concept to define. Social science literature has argued that race is a Western, sociopolitical concept that emerged with the birth of modern imperialism, whether in the sixteenth century (the Age of Discovery) or the eighteenth century (the Age of Enlightenment). This book points out that there is a disjuncture between the way race is conceptualized in the social science and medical literature: some of the modern sciences employ racial and ethnic categories. As such, race has a physical, as opposed to a purely social, dimension. The book argues that in order to more fully understand what we mean by race, social scientists need to engage genetics, medicine, and health. To be sure, the long shadow of eugenics and the Nazi use of scientific racism have cast a pall over the effort to understand this complicated relationship between social science and race. But while the text rejects pseudoscience and hierarchical ways of looking at race, it makes the claim that it is time to reassess the Western-based, social construction paradigm. The chapters in this book consider three fundamental tensions in thinking about race: one between theories that see race as fixed or malleable; a second between the idea that race is a universal but modern Western concept and the idea that it has a deeper and more complicated cultural history; and a third between sociopolitical and biological/biomedical concepts of race. Arguing that race is not merely socially constructed, the chapters offer a collection of views on the way that social scientists must reconsider the idea of race in the age of genomics.

altmetric score

  • 21.7

author list (cited authors)

  • Gates, Jr, H. L.

complete list of authors

  • Gates, Jr, Henry Louis

editor list (cited editors)

  • Suzuki, K., & Von Vacano, D. A.

publication date

  • May 2018