Howard Winant’s Race and Theory publication focuses on racial formation throughout history. Winant defines race as “the concept that signifies and symbolizes sociopolitical conflicts and interests in reference to different human bodies.” The use of this definition contributes significantly to the ideology that race stems from shifts in political power, cultural change, and demographic shifts seen in history. Winant also proposes that the sociological study of race has been shaped primarily by large scale political processes. It can also be said that sociological perspectives on race develop and change based on political processes referenced in Winant’s proposal. Race as a concept, has been based on physical characteristics of humans rather than who they are. This concept is dated back to the nineteenth century according to Winant.
Race is not a clear distinction, this is expressed numerous times though out Winant’s publication. The concept of race and what race is conversely changes throughout time. Changes primarily take place when political powers shift, when minority groups push for equal rights, and in post war time periods. As one might assume there are many conflicting views of race, to improve racial relations projects are created. Often times projects add to tension and have problems because there are different ideas of what constitutes as race.
The idea of race is complex because it is based on individual interpretation, global differences, and it is not just institutional. Different regions set different parameters on what can and cannot constitute as race.
Reading Race and Theory by Winant has challenged my beliefs as an individual, that race has been, and will continue to be a part of sociological and historical processes. In this context, race is described to be normal, similar to evolution ideology in science. Race then seems cyclic, there will always be fight for power, change, and reformation in society.
It is primitive to humans that we gauge physical appearances regardless if it is intentional or not. We are taught early on in society how to think, how to feel, what we should or shouldn’t believe. We then are able to develop preconceived opinions about what others should look like and believe in based on ourselves. This is how racial stratification and ethnocentrism happen. These are concepts that are new to me, I have always thought of the progress we have made as a society in terms of race, minorities, and racism. Now I’m beginning to believe that there will never be enough progress, which is awfully pessimistic.
In current society there is persistence of racially based distinctions. In context of my own previously stated opinions; if the sociological view of race is cyclic, then the racial formation theory will be subject to reform and change many times throughout history. Though race may never transcend, racial stratification may be diminished. Winant draws a parallel that “like religion and language, race can also be accepted.” Race and Theory has indefinitely strengthened my knowledge of current sociological ideologies and problematic differences in race. What does or does not constitute as race is indifferent, if we want to prosper and survive we must accept race as we continue to progress into a new era.
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