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Racism: A Beginner’s Guide

This introduction to race and racism, published in 2008, is a remarkably approachable text. Alana Lentin, maybe one of the most lucid race scholars around at the moment, is able to demystify some very complex ideas and relationships. Of course, clocking in at 150 pages, the book can’t cover absolutely everything, and must sometimes forego some detail and depth, but it provides an excellent entry point into developing racial literacy.

Lentin takes her reader through the emergence of race as a category in the Enlightenment, and its entanglements with nationalism, nation-building and the nation-state. She touches on thinkers regarded as key at the time, like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, making their particular contributions to discourses of race manageable. In-depth discussion of colonialism and the lived experience of racism give her account not only theoretical rigour, but a textured sense of why these questions really matter not as abstract concepts to be philosophised about, but as structures of meaning-making with real-world ramifications. Her accounts of these are buttressed by careful readings of major postcolonial scholars like Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall. With chapters also on antisemitism and immigration policy after the attacks of September 11th, this book offers a wide-ranging view of how its core concepts develop and continue to structure policy-making and political rhetoric.

Whether you are well-versed in some of these issues and looking to refine your understanding, or a complete novice looking for a way in, this beginner’s guide can offer you the language and the tools to develop your literacy in questions of race and racism.