Racialization: openings and constraints in sociological research
Sociology Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden
The paper emphasizes that a more nuanced evaluation and analysis of the widely-used concept of racialization is possible only when one also takes into account special features of the scientific discourse within which it is used by sociologists.
First I will outline why the concept of racialization has appeared and become popular in sociological theory. I argue that an analysis of the insufficiency of previous notions and the advantages of introducing the concept of racialization will hold the key to solving the problem posed in my paper. In this analysis I draw attention both to internal tendencies in the logic of the development of sociological theory as well as to external circumstances which inevitably affect the logic of its development, but are often left out of consideration.
Second, I will critically examine the Marxist and poststructuralist-influenced postcolonial approach which is predominant among scholars in the study of racialization processes. While arguing that these approaches still provide the most appropriate theoretical frame for interpreting certain aspects of racialization processes, my paper shows the need to broaden the racialization scholar's theoretical foundations. I argue that the concept of racialization is irreplaceable, in particular for scholars of the phenomenon who are adherents of theoretical programs inspired by phenomenology, pragmatism and functionalism.
Depending on the tasks facing the scholar, on the particular characteristics of the society they are studying and the accessibility of material, the scholar may prioritize either institutionally formalized categorization practices in their historical perspective or microinteractionist studies of the informal, "everyday" classification and categorization practices of ordinary people. I argue that the issue of calling groups into being cannot be resolved solely on the discursive macro level, as is stressed by many structure-oriented Foucauldians and Marxists.
Locating the concept within the theoretical context will achieve a more conscious use of it and contribute to a better understanding of the processes of racialization. The main aim of my work is, then, to propose some assumptions that may sensitize a scholar to the kind of factors which are relevant to explaining the racialization process.