Call for Paper Proposals – Studying Race Relationally

We invite paper proposals for an edited volume tentatively entitled Studying Race Relationallywhich will examine the relational nature of racial formations in the US, including both theoretical and empirically grounded work that moves beyond an analysis of how individual groups are formed in relation to whiteness to consider how they are formed in relation to one another. Authors of accepted proposals will be invited to participate in a conference at the University of Chicago on May 12-13, 2016 at which they will present, discuss, and further develop their papers for publication. Professor Claire Jean Kim will be our keynote speaker at the conference. 

Background:  Scholars across the humanities, social and natural sciences today commonly recognize and conceptualize race as a social construction shaped in specific historical, social and cultural contexts. Much of the scholarship in this field has focused on sustained analysis of individual racialized groups, shedding light on their particular role and standing within the hierarchy of race in the United States.

An emerging body of work has also begun to consider the relational nature of racializations moving beyond the analysis of how individual groups are formed in relation to whiteness to consider how they are formed in relation to each other. Relational studies of race posit that racialization happens dynamically; group-based racial constructions are formed not only in relation to whiteness, but also in relation to other devalued and marginalized groups (e.g. African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Asian Pacific Islanders), whose own racialization is itself constantly in play. By studying race relationally, scholars are able to make visible the connections among racialized groups and the logic that underpins the particular forms of inclusion and subordination they face. This process crosses both time and space. Even when groups do not directly interact they may be shaped by the same factors and phenomena that affect other racialized groups.

Working within this framework, for example, scholars have considered the interdependent racialization of African Americans and Chinese Americans in the U.S. South under Jim Crow. They have examined particular spheres of urban life–such as public health, law enforcement, housing, employment and cultural production—to understand the ways that racialized groups have interpreted and formed their identities, interests and power in relation to one another. They have come to understand the articulations between claims for tribal sovereignty and authority and Black political responses to vigilante violence and discrimination. 

Such work also bears directly on historic and contemporary policy debates. Relational frameworks can help explain why, for example, major federal initiatives such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the War on Poverty that were conceived of within a black-white paradigm faced a particular set of challenges when applied to immigrant or refugee populations. They can help us understand how a contemporary debate about birthright citizenship and “anchor babies”—now imagined as a Mexican immigration issue—in fact operated in nearly identical terms one hundred years ago, but subjected Asian immigrants to the assault of this racial script. They permit us to imagine the way that immigrant groups’ experiences in the United States are shaped by the institutions and cultural understandings of race that immigrant and native-born groups before them faced.

We seek paper proposals around the following three themes as well as any others themes and topic appropriate to this project.

(1) Theories of Studying Race Relationally: What paradigms and frameworks are most productive to study race relationally? What is generative about studying race relationally? How do prevailing theories of racial formation, intersectionality, and social construction help to explain this process?

(2) Historical case studiesHow do historically grounded case studies demonstrate the theories of studying race relationally? How might it be productive, for example, to study Japanese internment and the Bracero Program together? Possible topics might include studies of race and space in multi-ethnic and racial areas, race and citizenship, or policies that affect racialized groups differently.

(3) Contemporary IssuesHow can scholarship within law, sociology, anthropology and other social sciences illuminate the relational dimensions of race? How can a relational approach light on the legal status and claims of Native American groups that have large numbers of Afro-descended members? How might it explain the dynamics of political conflict and cooperation in many US cities between long-standing Black and Latino/a communities?

Submissions: We welcome proposals from scholars of all ranks to contribute critical and innovative scholarship for consideration for the public conference and proposed publication. Selected participants will meet at the University of Chicago on May 12-13, 2016 to present their pre-circulated papers in a public forum. Travel, meals and housing will be provided for accepted participants. First drafts of papers are due one month before the conference, or on April 12, 2016. Participants will then be expected to revise their papers for publication, based on conference comments and feedback. 

Paper proposals should consist of a 500-800 word essay describing your project, the research thus far undertaken, and its connection to the conference and volume themes, along with a two-page CV.  These materials should be sent to each of the following conference organizers: Natalia Molina (, Ramón Gutiérrez (, Dan Martinez HoSang (, and Niels Hooper ( with the subject line “Studying Race Relationally.” Submissions must be received by January 8, 2016.