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Nine books on philosophy and race [reading list]

Featuring a selection of new titles from leading voices, and major works from across the discipline, the OUP Philosophy team has selected several of its important books exploring race from different philosophical perspectives.

From David Livingstone Smith’s On Inhumanity, which provides an unflinching guide to the phenomenon of dehumanization, to Naomi Zack’s The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Race, containing a wealth of voices addressing a comprehensive range of key topics, all the books featured here are thoughtful, powerful, and important contributions to thinking, speaking, and acting positively about race.

  1. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self by Linda Martín Alcoff
    Drawing on philosophical sources, as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, the author argues that identities are not like special interests, nor are they doomed to oppositional politics, nor do they inevitably lead to conformism, essentialism, or reductive approaches to judging others.
  2. Unmuted: Conversations on Prejudice, Oppression, and Social Justice by Myisha Cherry
    Focussing on subjects too often omitted from mainstream philosophy, this book presents a collection of interviews the author conducted with a vibrant and diverse group of philosophers her podcast, UnMute. The author and her interviewees cover issues including social protests, Black Lives Matter, climate change, education, integration, LGBTQ issues, and the Me Too movement. This collection of 31 interviews shows what philosophy can contribute in divisive times.
  3. What is Race? Four Philosophical Views by Joshua Glasgow, Sally Haslanger, Chike Jeffers, and Quayshawn Spencer
    Four prominent philosophers and race theorists debate how best to answer a series of difficult questions: Do we know what race is? Is it a social construct or a biological object? Is it a bankrupt holdover from a time before sophisticated scientific understanding and genetics; or, is race real? They apply philosophical tools and the principles of social justice to cutting-edge findings from the biological and social sciences.
  4. The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time by Christopher J. Lebron
    The author argues that it is the duty of political thought to address the moral problems that attend racial inequality and to make those problems salient to a democratic polity. Thus he asks two questions: Given the success of the Civil Rights Act and the sharp decline in overt racist norms, how can we explain the persistence of systemic racial inequality? Once we have settled on an explanation, what might political philosophy have to offer in terms of a solution?
  5. Structural Injustice: Power, Advantage, and Human Rights by Madison Powers and Ruth Faden
    The authors here develop a theory of structural injustice that links human rights norms and fairness norms, explaining how human rights violations and structurally unfair patterns of power and advantage are so often interconnected. The theory they put forth here is informed by and responsive to critical perspectives in social justice movements, including Black Lives Matter and Me Too.
  6. Socially Undocumented: Identity and Immigration Justice by Amy Reed-Sandoval
    What does it really mean to be undocumented? Many define the term “undocumented migrant” legalistically, in terms of lacking legal authorization to live and work in one’s current country of residence. In this book, the author challenges this understanding by arguing that being socially undocumented is to possess a real, visible, and embodied social identity that does not always track one’s legal status.
  7. On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It by David Livingstone Smith
    The Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust, the lynching of African Americans, and the colonial slave trade are horrific episodes of mass violence spawned from racism and hatred. We like to think that we could never see such evils again–that we would stand up and fight. But something deep in the human psyche–deeper than prejudice itself–leads people to persecute the other: dehumanization, or the human propensity to think of others as less than human. The award-winning author takes an unflinching look at the mechanisms of the mind that encourage us to see someone as less than human.
  8. On Race: 34 Conversations in a Time of Crisis by George Yancy
    The need for clarity surrounding the significance of race and racism in the United States is more pressing than ever. In a series of interviews originally conducted for The Stone, the New York Times’s online philosophy series, with such major thinkers as bell hooks, Judith Butler, Cornel West, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Peter Singer, and Noam Chomsky, the author probes the historical origins, social constructions, and lived reality of race along political and economic lines. He interrogates fully race’s expressions, its transcendence of Black/white binaries, and its link to neo-liberalism, its epistemological and ethical implications, and, ultimately, its future.
  9. The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Race edited by Naomi Zack
    The handbook provides up-to-date explanation and analyses by scholars of contemporary issues in African American philosophy and philosophy of race. These original essays encompass the major topics and approaches that supports demographic inclusion and diversity while at the same time strengthening the conceptual arsenal of social and political philosophy.


Feature image from The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Race

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