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Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life Paperback – March 4, 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“It’s not just a challenge to racists, it’s a challenge to people like me, it’s a challenge to African-Americans who have accepted the fact of race and define themselves by the concept of race.”—Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Demanding and intelligent.” —Jennifer Vega, PopMatters

“These essays are extraordinary. I love the forceful elegance with which they hammer home that race is a monstrous fiction, racism is a monstrous crime.”—Junot Díaz

Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields have undertaken a great untangling of how
the chimerical concepts of race are pervasively and continuously reinvented and
reemployed in this country.”—Maria Bustillos, Los Angeles Review of Books

“The neologism ‘racecraft’ is modelled on ‘witchcraft’ … It isn’t that the Fieldses
regard the commitment to race as a category as an irrational superstition. On the
contrary, they are interested precisely in exploring its rationality—the role that
beliefs about race play in structuring American society—while at the same time
reminding us that those beliefs may be rational but they’re not true.”—Walter Benn Michaels, London Review of Books

“A most impressive work, tackling a demanding and important topic—the myth that we now live in a postracial society—in a novel, urgent, and compelling way. The authors dispel this myth by squarely addressing the paradox that racism is scientifically discredited but, like witchcraft before it, retains a social rationale in societies that remain highly unequal and averse to sufficiently critical engagement with their own history and traditions.”—Robin Blackburn

“With examples ranging from the profound to the absurd—including, for instance, an imaginary interview with W E B Dubois and Emile Durkheim, as well as personal porch chats with the authors’ grandmother—the Fields delve into “racecraft’s” profound effect on American political, social and economic life.”—Global Journal

“This is a very thoughtful book, a very urgent book.”—The Academic & The Artist Cloudcast


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Barbara J. Fields is Professor of History at Columbia University, author of Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century and coauthor of Free at Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War.

Karen E. Fields, an independent scholar, holds degrees from Harvard University, Brandeis University, and the Sorbonne. She is the author of many articles and three published books: Revival and Rebellion in Colonial Central Africa, about millennarianism; Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir (with Mamie Garvin Fields), about life in the twentieth-century South; and a retranslation of Emile Durkheim's masterpiece, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. She has two works in progress: Bordeaux's Africa, about the view of slavery from a European port city, and Race Matters in the American Academy.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; Reprint edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781683131
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781683132
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tyrell Stewart on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a pretty big fan of this book. Racecraft has two central arguments. The first argument is that race and understandings of race operate in very similar ways to witchcraft. Meaning that race is used to explain different societal problems and historical events because it seems like a commonsense explanation. Second, the authors argue that race is often used as a stand-in for racism, which is at best a distraction, and at worst, a continuation of systemic racism. Both of these arguments and the "rhetoric" of racism are engaging topics and the authors do a great job of running their arguments through a variety of situations to support their argument. I can easily recommend this book, but suggest that readers take a look at the different chapter titles and read the ones that seem most interesting. The book is a series of new and revised articles, which can be both repetitive and, at times, disjointed. After reading the most interesting parts, it might be a good idea to go back and read skipped sections for additional nuggets of wisdom.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading this book I find that I can no longer use the word "race" without thinking that I am being a bit of a shallow git. Indeed in the graduate course I teach at McMaster I have a session on "Race and Gender". I'm going to have to reword it. So the messages seem important and they stick with me. On the other hand, I wouldn't call the book a really great one, for all the importance of its theme and the strength of the case the Fields make. It is clear that the book engages fundamental issues of racism and inequality in the USA and it interrogates basic terms as most of us have understood them; but the tone of the book is needlessly academic (which may be a cheep shot given that the authors are academics) and at times unnecessarily dense. So I am not quite sure what audience they are aiming at. There are a lot of You-tube videos of one or the other or both Fields chatting with like minded folks and expounding there position which is a good one. In these pieces they are - if somewhat self congratulatory - quite engaging and down to earth, rather informal and chatty. So density is not a necessity in getting at the important issues the book addresses. Also, while the first five chapters and the conclusion are on the whole focused and while convoluted - the second half of the book, particularly chapters six and eight, focus more on the authors' particular scholarly interests (e.g., in their grandmother's memoir and Emile Durkheim) and don't add much to the understanding of the process of "racecraft". Having attempted at one time to turn a bunch of journal articles into a book I know how hard it can be (notice I said I had tried, no book resulted for me). I think this is the basic problem I had, both in reading it and writing about it. Try as I might I just couldn't get myself engaged in a lot of the disparate stuff they provided. The book is important but I suspect because of its flaws will not reach as wide an audience, as it should.
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I've never read anything quite like this. A cross-disciplinary text that really does get to "the soul of inequality." A resolutely egalitarian and inclusive message that will benefit anyone at any time. It's beautifully written, as well. I'd love to see it taught at high school level all over the country.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This will flip your assumed narratives on you. Racism is not the result of race. Race is the result of racism. The Fields will challenge all that you think you know about "race".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Barbara Fields is one of the most illuminated people alive today. Her argument demolishes the very foundations of America's rationalization for the historical and present-day shackles imposed on Americans of African descent.
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If you open your mind to alternative theories of racism and it's enduring legacy in America, Racecraft will open your eyes. Here, Fields and Fields brings to the forefront the realization that everything we are and everything we do is colored by a racial lens. It is a very informative read.
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Format: Paperback
To "the nameless on October 19th" I appreciate your review. I get to that Racecraft could have used a better editor, but I appreciate that this book was written. Not many of us readers are mathematicians or statisticians. So reading about this topic as a narrative by, Karen Fields (and her sister
I believe) is greatly appreciated.
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I was raised to see any individual not by the color of there skin but to see you as a person.
Racecraft is a rough read because the sisters put out so bluntly and gracefully on how this world we live in past and present the inequality in.this world is still so pronounced , but not as open but in the shadows as well as in code words then the times of Martin Luther king Jr times .
Although in reality not rhat much differen. From the.time of ssegregation times.
Although u am.colorblind and never saw color
Reading racecraft and race in the 21st century my eye have been opened to things that I knew existed but never really understood fully until now.. and for I am greatful.
Thank you Amazon for making it affordable and possible for me to attain my reading from you
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