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Conceptualizing Racism

Breaking the Chains of Racially Accommodative Language

Noel A. Cazenave

Conceptualizing Racism is a provocative book that confronts the language we use to discuss and understand racism. Author Noel A. Cazenave argues that American social science has, since its inception, practiced linguistic racial accommodation that blurs our understanding of systemic racism and makes it difficult to effect meaningful change. Conceptualizing Racism highlights how words matter in racism studies. The author traces the history of linguistic racial accommodation through the development of sociology as a discipline and illustrates how it is at play today, not only within the discipline but in public life. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 270Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-5235-6 • Hardback • November 2015 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-4422-5236-3 • eBook • November 2015 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
Noel A. Cazenave is professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, where he also teaches in the Urban and Community Studies program. In addition to many journal articles, book chapters, and other publications, he coauthored Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card against America’s Poor, which won five book awards, and has more recently published Impossible Democracy: The Unlikely Success of the War on PovertyCommunity Action Programs and The Urban Racial State: Managing Race Relations in American Cities.
Prologue: Sociology as Autobiography
Introduction: Racial Accommodation and the Misconceptualization of Racism

  1. Understanding Linguistic Racial Accommodation and Confrontation
  2. Linguistic Racial Accommodation from Slavery to the Civil Rights Movement
  3. Linguistic Racial Accommodation and Confrontation from the Civil Rights Movement to The Declining Significance of Race
  4. Theoretical Fragmentation: The White Backlash and Its Legacy of Failure
  5. Defining Racism: Beyond Mini-Racism and the “Race” as Agency Concept
  6. Confronting Racially Accommodative Language by Conceptualizing Racism as a System of Oppression

Conclusion: Lessons Learned and Challenges Remaining: Toward a More Honest Conceptualization of Racism
Epilogue: Unfinished Business in Confronting Racially Accommodative Language
Cazenave offers a critical reading of the language of racism in sociological thought and US society, providing a searing assessment of how scholars, politicians, journalists, and everyday people understand racism and use language to deny, distance, and evade it. Specifically, he argues that dominant formulations of the concept obscure, evade, and erase the systematic and structural aspects of racial oppression, and instead equivocate and accommodate through appeals to individual beliefs, psychological biases, and universal capacities. Moreover, he asserts, such formulations reinforce racial hierarchies and racist exclusions, making it more difficult to study, understand, and change them. In doing so, Cazenave offers a strongly worded indictment of sociology while advancing discussions of racism today. Key to this is his sensitive reading of the history of theory and method in sociological thought, sharp assessment of shifting racial structures, and a keen eye for deciphering the entanglements of race, power, and language. This is an important text for scholars who study these subjects. Of equal importance is its usefulness in the training of future academics, social analysts, and policy makers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

Noel A. Cazenave is one of the most insightful critics of contemporary social science theories of ‘race’ and racism. A courageous scholar who taught the first sociology course titled ‘White Racism,’ he demonstrates exceptional talent as a critical social scientist working to force deeper understandings of systemic racism’s dynamics—always with an eye toward facilitating antiracism practice and movements.
Joe R. Feagin, Texas A&M University

Powerful and provocative! Noel Cazenave expertly demonstrates that words do matter, and that the misleading definitions of racism that dominate social science analysis have real political and intellectual consequences. Conceptualizing Racism makes an important contribution to the understanding of racism in the United States.
Ashley "Woody" Doane, University of Hartford

Recently, leading race scholars issued a call to address the stagnant waters in the area of sociology of race and ethnicity, particularly in light of new theoretical and empirical understandings of racism. Professor Cazenave’s book, Conceptualizing Racism, is a step in the right direction. Unabashedly and in a no-holds-barred fashion, Cazenave outlines the challenges with current race theories and suggests a new way to think about racial oppression through language. This book is a must-buy and must-read in today’s world of racial accommodation. WORDS MATTER!
David G. Embrick, University of Connecticut

Conceptualizing Racism provides an original and penetrating analysis of the epistemological and political underpinnings of race knowledge in the social sciences. Written with passion and conviction, it challenges the prevailing myopia and obfuscation about the nature of racism, and compels us to confront the systemic racism still embedded in the nation’s major political and economic institutions.
Stephen Steinberg, Queens College and Graduate Center, City University of New York; author of Race Relations: A Critique