Once More, with Feeling: Reflections on Racial Formation

Omi, Michael; Winant, Howard
Publications of the Modern Language Association of America
Our concept of racial formation was advanced in 1986 as a critique of prevailing notions of race in the social sciences. We challenged approaches that treated race as epiphenomenal to supposedly more fundamental axes of stratification and difference: ethnicity, class, and nation. But we were disappointed—depressed, in fact—by the reception our analysis received. Some years would pass before our approach was seriously taken up by sociologists, political scientists, and other social science scholars. What kept our spirits buoyed during this period was the surprising discovery that our work was resonating with scholars in other disciplines, most notably in history, law, and literary studies. We learned much and greatly profited from these newfound colleagues' engagement with our work, from the ways they creatively extended our concept of racial formation, and from their advancement of new ways to think about the ongoing evolution of racism and its multiple dimensions.