Virtual Issues

Virtual Issues showcase articles on topics of contemporary relevance from the archives of American Anthropologist.

This virtual issue on race, racism, and white supremacy supplements a special section on white supremacy, published in the March 2020 issue of American Anthropologist. Edited by Aisha Beliso-De Jesús and Jemima Pierre, the special section highlights the ideology and practices of white supremacy as a global system of power and privilege.

In the past few decades, American Anthropologist has published research articles focusing on white communities in the United States, such as evangelical Christians and the Rust Belt working class, and on racial caste formation in the Americas. In addition, anthropologists have published reflexive commentaries on race in anthropology. The articles listed here provide a general overview of the important contributions that authors writing in American Anthropologist have made to the study of white communities, whiteness in racial hierarchies, and white supremacy in anthropology. The articles will be free to access through April 30.

However, in searching the journal archives, we have found relatively less academic research demystifying the work of white supremacy as a system of power and privilege operating around the world. Such absences point to useful directions for future study. In light of this, the special section in this month’s issue of American Anthropologist seeks to shed light on the global transcendence of white supremacy today.


Hsu, Francis. 1973. “Prejudice and Its Intellectual Effects in American Anthropology: An Ethnographic Report.”
This article deals with some deep forms of prejudice in American anthropology in terms of its dominant ideas and its products. In spite of its cross‐cultural protestations, American anthropology will become white American anthropology unless our fraternity consciously takes a more open‐minded approach to other competing assumptions—rooted in other cultures—about humans and what makes them run. There is a world of difference between a truly cross‐cultural science of human and a white-centered science with cross‐cultural decorations.

Hartigan, John. 1997. “Establishing the Fact of Whiteness.”
Surveying academic discussions of whiteness and the way it operates, this article argues that, as an analytical object, whiteness is being established as a powerful means of critiquing the reproduction and maintenance of systems of racial inequality. Studies of whiteness are demonstrating that whites benefit from a host of social arrangements and institutional operations that seem, to whites, to have no racial basis.

Hill, Jane H. 1998. “Language, Race, and White Public Space.”
White public space is constructed through: (1) intense monitoring of the speech of racialized populations such as Chicanos and Latinos and African Americans for signs of linguistic disorder, and (2) the invisibility of almost identical signs in the speech of whites, where language mixing, required for the expression of a highly valued type of colloquial persona, takes several forms. This article compares one such form, mock Spanish, to white “crossover” uses of African American English, and then briefly explores the question of the potential for such usages to be reshaped to subvert the order of racial practices in discourse.

Bell, Alison. 2005. “White Ethnogenesis and Gradual Capitalism: Perspectives from Colonial Archaeological Sites in the Chesapeake.”
The piecemeal development of capitalist socioeconomic systems in the colonial Chesapeake was deeply intertwined with projects of white ethnogenesis. This article shows how colonists’ deployment of diverse social strategies reflects a complex calculus assessing the benefits of economic autonomy against the benefits of ethnic (“white”) solidarity; these dynamics are illustrated through an eighteenth‐century archaeological site at Flowerdew Hundred in the Chesapeake.

Voss, Barbara. 2005. “From Casta to Californio: Social Identity and the Archaeology of Culture Contact.”
Through the archaeology of material culture, foodways, and architecture, this article examines changing ethnic, racial, and gendered identities among colonists at El Presidio de San Francisco, a Spanish colonial military settlement. Archaeological data suggest that military settlers were engaged in a double material strategy to consolidate a shared colonial identity, one that minimized differences among colonists and simultaneously heightened distinctions between colonists and local Indigenous peoples.

Durrenberger, E. Paul, and Dimitra Doukas. 2008. “Gospel of Wealth, Gospel of Work: Counterhegemony in the U.S. Working Class.”
This article uses qualitative ethnographic and archival research in white central New York and eastern Pennsylvania to suggest that the frugal, work‐centered ideology of historical US working classes—the “gospel of work”—persists as counterhegemonic in today’s “gospel of wealth” consumerism; quantitative testing for “gospel of work” orientations finds confirmation among predominantly white central Pennsylvanian labor unionists. Ultimately, the authors conclude that “gospel of work” values are widely held despite a century‐long corporate‐sponsored campaign to promote consumerism and caution against assuming consumerist hegemony in the United States.

Kowal, Emma. 2008. “The Politics of the Gap: Indigenous Australians, Liberal Multiculturalism, and the End of the Self-Determination Era.”
Since the 1970s, “self-determination” has been the dominant trope for expressing national aspirations for Indigenous Australians; this article draws on an ethnographic study of white antiracists working in Indigenous health in northern Australia to analyze the brand of liberal rationality that dominated the discourse of the self-determination era. By engaging with a “tribe” of white people who identify with the aims of the self-determination era, we can decipher the logic of self-determination as an instrument of the liberal state and better understand the internal contradictions and ambiguities that have led to its recent demise.

Smedley, Audrey. 2008. “‘Race’ and the Construction of Human Identity.”
This article explores the history of race as a mechanism of social stratification and as a form of human identity—and as distinct from biology. It also explores how race became part of US culture and consciousness.

Harrison, Faye V. 2008. “Introduction: Expanding the Discourse on Race.”
This introductory essay for the American Anthropologist’s “Contemporary Issues Forum” on “Race and Racism” offers an overview of a resurgence of race-focused scholarship in anthropology. It addresses the discipline’s long legacy of race-centered debate and research and argues for deploying this legacy in the fight against contemporary racism.

Mukhopadhyay, Carol C. and Yolanda T. Moses. 2008. “Reestablishing ‘Race’ in Anthropological Discourse.”
This essay addresses the general lack of contemporary scholarly and public discussions of race in anthropology despite the discipline’s role in both creating and attempting to dismantle a racial worldview. The authors suggest that cultural and physical anthropologists must jointly develop and publicly disseminate a unified anthropological perspective on race.

Orser, Charles E. 2008. “The Challenge of Race to American Historical Archaeology.”
This essay argues that historical archaeologists should be leaders in examining the archaeological dimensions of race and racism in the United States. With few exceptions, though, this has not been the case, as most archaeologists have conflated race and ethnicity. American historical archaeologists have a great opportunity to provide new insights to the anthropological investigation of race and racism if they choose to take this course of action.

Visweswaran, Kamala. 2008. “Race and the Culture of Anthropology.”
Many anthropologists believe that the discipline has been in the vanguard of debates on racism and multiculturalism, that it stands for precisely those issues raised in the “culture wars”: the equal valuation of all cultures. Yet this is not the case. Multiculturalism and cultural studies have emerged as counter-disciplinary formations which radically foreground race and racial identity precisely because anthropology cannot do so.

Linke, Uli. 2008. “Gendered Difference, Violent Imagination Blood, Race, Nation.”
With a focus on German public culture, this essay emphasizes the interplay of gender and race against the background of medical models, documenting how fears of natural disasters (women, Jews, refugees) and medical pathologies such as dirt and infection (bodily infestations) are continuously recycled to reinforce a racialist postmodern culture.

Shanklin, Eugenia. 2008. “The Profession of the Color Blind: Sociocultural Anthropology and Racism in the 21st Century.”
This essay suggests that American sociocultural anthropology has been a “color blind” profession for nearly a half century and that, as a discipline, it needs to restore and refine its color perceptions in order to fight the supposedly fixed opposition in American society between “black” and “white” and deal with the racist consequences of this folk opposition.

Brodkin, Karen, Sandra Morgen, and Janis Hutchinson. 2011. “Anthropology as White Public Space?”
In this article, the authors analyze an online survey of anthropology graduate students and faculty of color, finding that, despite some progress, institutional and attitudinal barriers to racial inclusivity remain. They argue that such practices make many anthropology departments feel like white‐owned social and intellectual spaces, and they conclude by suggesting steps for anthropology departments to create more inclusive social spaces that are owned equally by scholars of color and their white peers.

Kent, Michael, Ricardo Ventura Santos, and Peter Wade. 2014. “Negotiating Imagined Genetic Communities: Unity and Diversity in Brazilian Science and Society.”
In this article, the authors explore the ways in which genetic research reconfigures historically rooted debates on race and national identity by analyzing the intense debates that have taken place in the past decade in Brazil around the genetic profile of the nation’s population. A central underlying tension in these debates is that between unity and diversity—between views that consider the Brazilian population as a single unit that cannot be differentiated except at the individual level and alternative interpretations that emphasize the multiplicity of its populations in terms of race, region, and genetic ancestry.

Takezawa, Yasuko. 2017. “Antiracist Knowledge Production: Bridging Subdisciplines and Regions.”
With the current global swing to the right, issues surrounding race and racism are becoming ever more pressing. Japan is no exception to this. While it is true that Japan does not share some of the urgent issues currently facing the United States, including deadly violence at the hands of the police and a discriminatory immigration ban based on religion and nationality, parallel patterns between incidents of racism in Japan and those in many other parts of the world can be observed. Racism also threatens many people in the arena of everyday life, through discrimination in employment and marriage, unequal access to resources like education and health care, and a lack of self‐esteem among many minority children.

Wirtz, Kristina. 2017. “Mobilizations of Race, Place, and History in Santiago de Cuba’s Carnivalesque.”
In Santiago de Cuba’s carnival, neighborhood‐based conga societies participate in official competitive displays and a grassroots “Invasion” evoking Cuba’s wars for independence. This author examines the Invasion as a performed diagram of “routes of Blackness” mapped onto a reenactment of Cuba’s national “roots” to argue that it mobilizes the racialization of bodies, cultural forms, and neighborhoods; the article shows how Blackness and whiteness are constituted in the relation between race as embodied experience and object of discourse.

Bjork-James, Sophie. 2018. “Training the Porous Body: Evangelicals and the Ex‐Gay Movement.”
Drawing on sixteen months of fieldwork, this article examines how US evangelical opposition to LGBT rights stems from a unique understanding of sexuality and the person; in contrast to a dominant idea that sexual orientations shape individual identities, sexuality within this religious world instead facilitates the movement of moral forces across individual bodies and geographic scales. Claiming an LGBT identity is thus seen as making one a distinct kind of person incommensurate with evangelical porosity.

Dominguez, Virginia R., and Emily Metzner. 2019. “Special Section on Nativism, Nationalism, and Xenophobia: What Anthropologists Do and Have Done.”
The World Anthropologies section in this issue consists of essays written fairly quickly by anthropologists in various places in the world who responded to our request in early December 2016 for short- to medium-length essays. Poland, Greece, India, Brazil, Argentina, the Netherlands, and Japan feature quite visibly, but so does most of Europe, the United States, and many other contemporary societies and countries around the world.

Ho, Karen, Jillian R. Cavanaugh, Carol J. Greenhouse, Michael Partis, Carolyn Moxley Rouse, Sherry B. Ortner, Hilary Parsons Dick, Adam Hodges, Susana Narotzky, Alexander S. Dent, Karen-Sue Taussig, and Erin Debenport. 2019. “Vital Topics Forum: What Happened to Social Facts?
This collection offers a multifaceted exploration, attentive to inequality and power, of the nature and politics of social facts that does not turn its back on the very situated knowledge productions that have long helped us to diagnose clashing conceptualizations of time, space, values, and ideologies, and to clarify what might be at stake in these divergent conceptualizations, given uneven fields of power and influence. These contributions to this American Anthropologist Vital Topics Forum think through and problematize notions of truth and facticity from various angles and topics, representing an engaged anthropological effort to show us not only how we got here but also, perhaps, where we are going.


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