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What Is Race?Four Philosophical Views$
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Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, Chike Jeffers, and Quayshawn Spencer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190610173

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190610173.001.0001

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Tracing the Sociopolitical Reality of Race

Tracing the Sociopolitical Reality of Race

Chapter:
(p.4) 1 Tracing the Sociopolitical Reality of Race
Source:
What Is Race?
Author(s):

Sally Haslanger

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190610173.003.0002

The concept of race has a troublesome history. It has been used to divide societies and subordinate groups in unjust ways. It has also been a source of pride and strength for the subordinate (as well as, unfortunately, for the dominant). Historically it has also carried assumptions of naturalness: races are natural kinds that exist independent of human thought and activity. In recent years, however, the naturalness of race has been challenged and replaced with the idea that race is socially constructed. This raises many important philosophical questions: How should one inquire into the concept of race when there is such broad controversy over what race is? What are the relevant phenomena to be considered? How should such an inquiry take into account the social stakes (e.g. the potential impact of maintaining or rejecting the concept of race)? Is it possible for concepts to evolve, or is conceptual replacement the only option? In Chapter 1, the author takes up these methodological questions and positions herself as a critical theorist considering what role the concept of race has in the sociopolitical domain. She argues that there is a meaningful political conception of race that is important in order to address the history of racial injustice. This is compatible with there being different conceptions of race that are valuable in other contexts and for different purposes (e.g., for medical research, cultural empowerment).

Keywords:   race, racism, social construction, critical theory, conceptual amelioration, conceptual engineering, conceptual pragmatism, racial justice

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