Toward a Political Philosophy of Race [Book Review]

African Studies Quarterly 11:4 (2010)
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Toward a Political Philosophy of Race, by Falguni Sheth, SUNY Press, 2009. Events involving the persecution of African‑Americans and other racial groups are normally thought to involve a pre-existing minority being singled out out for persecution. In Toward a Political Philosophy of Race, Falguni Sheth argues that this understanding gets the causal story backwards. In reality, a group that is perceived to pose a political threat has a racial identity imposed upon it by the state during episodes of oppression. On Sheth's account, racial identity is the product of anxiety and panic on the part of the wider society. As she puts it, 'I distinguish between racial markers - skin type, phenotype, physical differences, and signifiers such as 'unruly' behaviors.' The former, in my argument, are not the ground of race, but the marks ascribed to a group that has already become (or is in on the way to becoming) outcasted." This review critically assesses Sheth's argument for her position and her accompanying critique of liberalism.



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Andy Lamey
University of California, San Diego

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