Further defense of the racialization concept: a reply to Uyan

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In my article, Racialization: A Defense of the Concept, I argue that 'race' fails as an analytic category and that we should think in terms of 'racialization' and 'racialized groups' instead. I define these concepts and defend them against a range of criticisms. In Rethinking Racialization: The Analytical Limits of Racialization, Deniz Uyan critiques my theory of racialization. However, I do not defend a theory of racialization; I defend the concept of racialization. I argue that racialization is a useful idea, but I do not advance a theory to explain or predict the phenomena it describes. While Uyan's critique therefore misses its mark, it raises important questions about the explanatory scope of the racialization concept. Ironically, I may be even more skeptical of the prospects of any general theory of racialization than Uyan. I argue that while we ought to develop theories to explain particular instances of racialization, we should not develop a general theory of racialization, because it is simply too varied in its agents and their intents, the mechanisms through which it operates, and the outcomes it produces. While hope for any general theory of racialisation should be abandoned, I argue that the racialisation concept is still extremely useful. It offers a necessary alternative to race realist concepts, allowing us to point to the wide-ranging effects of belief in race without falsely implying that race itself is real. Uyan does not focus on my arguments against racial realism. However, the theoretical failures and normative risks of racial realism motivate my defense of the racialization concept. In this paper, I reiterate my arguments against racial realism and offer further defense of the concepts of 'racialization' and 'racialized group'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-48
Number of pages18
JournalDu Bois Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Race
  • Racial formation
  • Racialization
  • Racialized groups
  • Racism


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