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Tackling the myth of a post-racial society

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 20th-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.


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. Du Bois 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 *
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 *
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 *
Racecraft forces a quite profound reconsideration of familiar categories, by navigating between what is real and what is made-up, and by deeply probing how economic inequality gets reproduced. It is impossible to read this rich book without being challenged and enlightened. -- Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time
I love the simple elegance with which they hammer home that race is a montrous fiction, racism is a monstrous crime. -- Junot Diaz, author of This is How You Lose Her
This is a very thoughtful book, a very urgent book. * The Academic & The Artist Cloudcast *
Barbara and Karen Fields show that racism creates race, not the other way around. So correct. So on point. -- Ta-Nehisi Coates
[Racecraft] should be more widely read than it is-no matter its current reach. In it, the authors achieve an intelligence and agility that is rare in discussions of identity, racism, and inequality. -- Matthew McKnight * Nation *
Liberal mores against overt racism are crumbling in the face of Trump. We must build them better...The Fields sisters dive through sociology, history, and science to reach the material truth: races is a product of racism, not the other way around. -- Charlie Heller * Paste Magazine *
Fundamentally challenged some of my oldest and laziest ideas about race. -- Zadie Smith
Ostensibly 'antiracist' politics that treat racial categories as if they were real...perpetuate what they purport to resist. As this form of counterproductive antiracism becomes hegemonic in our culture, the Fieldses' insights are increasingly salient. -- Blake Smith * Washington Examiner *

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