VI. Critical Race/Ethnicity Theories

The breakdown of notions of American exceptionalism and class consensus analyzed in Section IV, was driven in large part by social movements of the 1960s. Those movements also set in motion a profound rethinking and rewriting of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality and other modalities of "difference" that further challenged monolithic conceptions of Americanness. This process was fueled by the rise of ethnic and women's studies within and outside AS. And the new scholarly attention paid to previously marginalized subjects of history deeply reshaped theories and methods of study.

This category in particular points up the inadequacies of categorization, especially in interdisciplinary work. Separating race from gender from sexuality from other modalities of difference threatens to re-marginalize them just as they are claiming their centrality to any cultural analysis. Hence I have also placed works reexamining these topics in other sections, cross-referencing some of them here. In addition, while separating racial studies from gender studies from sexuality studies serves to highlight their respective evolutions and achievements, it does so at the cost of obscuring multiple identities and complex interactions. Thus each subsection is structured to move towards points of intersection with the other categories.

Racial and ethnic theory have had a profound impact on all levels and kinds of humanities and social science scholarship. Thus these works should be read as at once substantive contributions to their fields, and as critiques of the inadequate theorization of race and other constructions of cultural difference in traditional AmSt work (as well as in humanities and social science scholarship generally). The sections below are divided into several categories that particularize by US racialized group in order to acknowledge their different histories, and by other categories that offer the equally inportant examples of the best current work which is comparative and being done at the intersections of race with gender, class, nationality, sexuality and empire.

All citations in this bibliography are arranged chrono-topically, not alphabetically, to give a sense of theoretical developments emerging over time.


Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States. Philadelphia, PA: Temple U P, 1986.
Arguably the most influential theorization of race in recent decades, this text historicizes and critiques other major theories (such ethnicity-, class-, and nation-based models of race), then offers a brilliant social constructionist argument for the semi-autonomous power of "racial formations" through an analysis of trends in racial politics in the US since World War II. Extremely influential in the rise of "critical race" theories.
Goldberg, Theo, ed. Anatomy of Racism. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.
Influential collection that brought together the best racial theorizing in the crucial decade of the 1980s when poststurcturalist and postcolonial analyses complicated all aspects of the terrain.
Solomos, John, ed. Theories of Race and Racism : A Reader. NY: Routledge, 2000.
Solid collection of essays by important figures covering historical roots of "race" and racial theory, modern schools from Chicago to critical race theory, connections to anti-semitism and gender oppression, and more.
Goldberg, Theo and Philomena Essed, eds. Race Critical Theories: Text and Context. London: Blackwell, 2001.
Extensive collection of essays, including commentaries by theorists on their own classic work and the works of other theorists. Makes for a rich set of dialogues about the ongoing complexities of race and ethnicity in a globlizing context.
Bonilla-Sivla, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States. NY: Rowan & Littlefield, 2006.
Anatomizes through interviews and empirical datat the recent idoeology of "color blindness" from a critical race perspective.
Winant, Howard. The New Politics of Race: Globalism, Difference, Justice. Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2004.
Extends and adds a more global context to many of the themes of "racial formation" theory, but disappointingly doesn't engage very fully with intersectional analyses.

K. Crenshaw
Crenshaw, Kimberlé, ed. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement. NY: New Press, 1995.
Critical race theories grew from a combination of one general strand -- social construction of race positins -- and one more particular one -- critical legal studies. This volume brings together many of the most useful historical writings that have created critical race theory.
Delgado, Richard. Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge. Philadelphia: Temple U P, 1995.
Complements the Crenshaw anthology by adding then emerging work that has largely defined subsequent theoretical development in the field.
Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefanic. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. New York: NYU Press, 2001.
An excellent, brief but comprehensive introductory text by two of the leading figures in the field.

African American Focused Theories

DuBois, W.E.B. Souls of Blackfolks [1903].
DuBois is the foremost theorist of race in the early 20th century, and one of the towering intellectual figures of his era. Of his more than 30 books, Souls is the most widely read and remains as good as any entry point into his extensive, brilliant body of work.
Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Freedom, CA: Cross Press, 1981.
Most lucid early formulation of "intersectionality," decades before it had a name.
Hull, Gloria T., et. al., eds. But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1982.
Pathbreaking collection of essays and bibliographies tracing the intersections of women's studies, black studies, and AS.
Wall, Cheryl, ed. Changing Our Own Words. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers U P, 1989.
A collection including some of the leading black feminist critics employing Bakhtin, post-structuralism and other critical theories to analyze writing by and about black women.
Carby, Hazel. Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist. NY: Oxford U P, 1987.
A theoretically innovative re-writing of the genealogy of African-American intellectuals and writers, beginning with slave narratives and ending with the 1920s, that places women in a more central role and complicates the dialectic of rural and urban black experience.
Baker, Jr., Houston. Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984.
Uses neo-marxism, post-structuralism, tropology and other recent critical theory to aid in rewriting the African-American literary tradition as working dialectically through and out of the vernacular (especially the blues) and the economic matrix of slavery.

H.L. Gates, Jr.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis. Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the "Racial" Self. New York, NY: Oxford U P, 1987.
---. The Signifying Monkey. NY: Oxford U P, 1989.
Gates has been one of the most consistently influential American intellectuals of the last two deacades; these two books include much of his finest work, using contemporary literary theory to argue the specificity of African-American literary and theoretical traditions.
Gates, Jr., H.L., ed. Reading Black, Reading Feminist. NY: Meriden Press, 1990.
Along with the Wall collection above, these two anthologies gather together important examples of black feminist literary scholarship from the 1980s, including historical surveys, theoretical readings, and studies of individual texts.
Stepto, Robert. From Behind the Veil. Urbana: U of Illinois P, [1979] 1991.
A landmark study tracing the key themes of "literacy" and "freedom" as they shape an African-American tradition in fictional and non-fictional prose from slave narratives to Invisible Man. This revised version of Stepto's classic includes a new preface and an afterward on the trope of reader distrust in African-American narratives.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, ed. Black Literature and Literary Theory. NY: Methuen, 1984.
Collection of essays employing and critiquing structuralism and post-structuralism as tools for interpreting African and African-American texts. See especially Gates's introduction, and the essays by Benston, Stepto, and Johnson.
Asante, Molefi K. The Afrocentric Idea.Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1987.
The most influential African (American) figure arguing for the ongoing importance of Africanisms on the black diaspora.
hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From the Margins to the Center. Boston: South End Press, 1984.
Key text in the insurgency of women of color from "the margins to the center" of feminist thought and action.
Smith, Barbara. "Towards a Black Feminist Criticism." Elaine Showalter. The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature, Theory. NY: Pantheon, 1985.
A landmark statement of the inadequacy of white feminist theory to treat the different realities of black women in the US, this essay also outlined an agenda of black feminist research much of which remains to be accomplished.
Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.
Landmark book in the development of African American feminist theory, balances theory and practice, experience and reflection in surveying "black feminist thought" in a variety of spaces and places, "high" and "low."
duCille, Ann. Skin Trade Cambridge, MA: Harvard U P, 1996.
Brilliant collection of essays examining and rethinking the rhetorical conventions used to theorize race. as well as the popular discourses that produce profound confusion in the culture around the category.
Singh, Nikhil Pal. Black Is a CountryRace and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2004.
Re-historicizes African American freedom struggles in order to animate a newly global theory of radical democracy based in economic equality taken seriously. Argues that anticolonialism, anti-imperialism, and the politics of wealth redistribution have been at the center of black activism from at least the New Deal era to the 1970s.

Chicano/Latina Focused Theories

A. Paredes
Paredes, Américo. "With His Pistol in His Hand": A Border Ballad and Its Hero. Austin: U of Texas P, 1970.
Paredes -- novelist, historian, folklorist -- created the first serious scholarly efforts in what would become Chicano studies, several decades before the field existed. This study of the corrido/ballad tradition anticipated cultural studies approaches and infuenced many subsequent attempts to theorize Chicano/Latina identities.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Press, 1987.
Brilliant collection of essays and poems asserting and analyzing the decolonial presence of Chicanos/as, while meditating on the status of real and metaphorical "fronteras/borderlands." Her concept of the "borderlands" has become a key term in contemporary theory.
Anzaldua, Gloria, and Cherríe Moraga, eds. This Bridge Called My Back. NY: Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press, 1983.
This the most famous early women of color anthology contributed greatly not only to feminist theory, but to the Chicano/Latina identities at multicultural intersection of gender, sexuality, race and class.
---, ed. Making Face, Making Soul: Hacienda Caras. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lutte Foundation Press, 1990.
Important follow-up collection to This Bridge that contributes immensely to the rethinking of race, class, sexuality, and gender, while continuing to challenge narrow definitions of "theory" by arguing for fiction, poetry, and other forms of writing as theory.
Calderón, Hectór, and José David Saldívar, eds. Criticism in the Borderlands. Durham, NC: Duke U P, 1991.
Collects many of the most influential essays in theory and criticism of Chicano/a literature and culture from neo-Marxist, feminist, and new historicist vantage points. Includes a useful select, annotated bibliography.
Chabram, Angie, and Rosalinda Fregoso, eds. "Chicana/o Cultural Representations." Special issue of Cultural Studies4.3 (1990).
Includes nine essays surveying the past, present and future of Chicano/a cultural studies (including film, literature, theatre, and ethnography), in terms of critical theories as well as institutional forms and practices. Key moment in the linkage of Chicana/o studies and cultural studies.
Saldívar, Ramon. Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference. Madison, WI: U of Wisconsin P, 1990.
Employs neo-marxist and deconstructionist approaches to a survey of narratives from Americo Paredes to Sandra Cisneros.
Rosaldo, Renato. Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis. Boston: Beacon, 1989.
An unusually lucid, jargon-free and politically pragmatic introduction to key questions in "postmodern ethnography" with special reference to Chicano culture(s)
Limon, Jose. Dancing with the Devil: Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican South Texas. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.
Using postmodern, new historicist theory, builds on the Chicano folkloric tradition of Americo Paredes.
Noriega, Chon, ed. The Chicano Studies Reader: An Anthology of Aztlan, 1970-2000. Los Angelas: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 2000.
Gaspar de Alba, Alicia.Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture and Chicana/o Sexualities. NY: Palgrave, 2003.
Excellent study of Chicano/a pop culture as a challenge to mainstream pop, and to sexually limiting dimensions in Chicano/a culture.
Sandoval, Chela. "US Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World." Genders 10 (1991): 1-24.
A brilliant article rethinking feminist and postmodern theory through the multiply positioned subjectivity of women of color. Argues that a "women of color feminism" offers strategic methods for transcending dilemmas created by positing various schools of feminist theory (radical, cultural, socialist, liberal, postmodern, etc.) as mutually exclusive.

Asian/Pacific Islander Focused Theories

Nomura, Gail, et al., eds. Frontiers of Asian American Studies. Pullman, WA: Washington State U P, 1989.
Part Four raises theoretical questions, particularly with regard to the discipline of ethnic studies. The other three sections include state-of-the-art essays on a range of topics from history, literary studies, and the social sciences, treating both specific traditions and relations among Americans of various Asian ancestries. Includes excellent annotated bibliography divided by specific Asian American sub-groups.
Lim, Shirley Geok-Lin, Mayumi Tsutakawa, and Donnellym Margarita, eds. The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women's Anthology. NY: Calyx Books, 1991.
Wong, Diane Yen-Mei, and Emilya Cachapero. eds. Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings by and About Asian American Women. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989.
Kim, Elaine, and Lilia Villaneuva, eds. Making More Waves: New Writing by Asian American Women. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
These three anthologies above provide a good sense of the evolution of Asian American feminist thought from the 1980s to the present.
Hume, Shirley, et al., eds. Asian Americans: Comparative and Global Perspectives. Pullman, WA: Washington State U P, 1991.
Part One in particular raises key theoretical issues. Among the more theoretically interesting topical essays, see those by Marilyn Alquizola and David Leiwei Li.

Lisa Lowe
Lowe, Lisa. Immgrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Durham, NC: Duke U P, 1996.
Brilliant use of postcolonial, marxist, critical race and feminist theory to analyze the complicated interrelations of Asian diasporic, Asian American and dominant communities in the US. Using the example of Asian immigration in its various waves, Lowe exposes the historical construction of dominant notions of US nationhood and citizenship in dialectical relation to those it would exclude or only partially include within those categories.
Cheung, King-Kok, ed. An Interethnic Companion to Asian American Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U P, 1997.
Outstanding collection of essays on the various literatures by Americans of Asian descent. Includes introductions to Chinese-, Japanese-, Korean-, Vietnamese-, Filipino-, and South Asian-American traditions, as well as essays on particular theoretical issues.
Chuh, Kandice. Imagine OtherwiseDurham, NC: Duke U P, 2003.
Chuh offers "an incisive critique of the field of Asian American studies, arguing that the rubric "Asian American" elides crucial differences. She calls for reframing Asian American studies as a study defined not by its subjects and objects, but by its critique.Toward that end, she urges the foregrounding of the constructedness of "Asian American" formations and shows how this understanding of the field provides the basis for continuing to use the term "Asian American" in light of - and in spite of - contemporary critiques about its limitations."

Racial Theories & Indigenous Peoples

Matthews, John Joseph. Wah'Kon-Tah: The Osage and the White Man's Road. Norman: U of Oklahahoma P, 1981 [1932].
Prescient work (written in 1932) articulating through story, auto-enthnography and history an Osage-based epistemology as a necessary part of tribal sovereignty.

Vine Deloria
Deloria, Vine, Jr. et al. eds. Spirit and Reason: A Vine Deloria, Jr. Reader. Fulcrum 1999.
In many respects Deloria is to Native theory and Native studies what DuBois was to African American racial theory -- a brilliant orginating source who covered immense ground across a range of topics. All of his 20+ books are worth reading, beginning perhaps with this selection.
Martin, Calvin ed. The American Indian and the Problem of History. NY: Oxford U P, 1987.
Using Native American history as its focus, this collection of short essays covers a very wide range of historical theory and method, from the most positivistic to the almost deconstructive. It also provides one point of entry into the important field of ethnohistory.
Vizenor, Gerald, ed. Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American Literatures. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1988.
Places contemporary literary and cultural theory (especially Bakhtin) in tension with Native modes of thought while interpreting works by contemporary Native American/American Indian writers.
Krupat, Arnold. The Voice in the Margin. Berkeley: U of California P, 1989.
A series of interlinked essays relating special theoretical issues in the study of native American Indian literatures and cultures (for example, the prominence of the oral) to problems of canonization and representativeness.
Sarris, Greg. Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Wholistic Approach to Native Literature.Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
Stylistically and critically creative set of essays that critique eurocentrisms in approaches to written and oral texts by Native "authors," and puts forth more vitally Native ways of reading and teaching. Son of a Coast Miwok/Pomo father and a Jewish mother, Sarris draws auto-ethnographcially from his own richly cross-cultural life.
Vizenor, Gerald. Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan U P, 1994.
Brilliantly re(de)constructivist collection of essays by a postcolonial, postindian poet, fictionist and critic. Invents an alternative critical language for Native studies.
Warrior, Robert Allen. Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1995.
Uses the work of John Joseph Matthews and Vine Deloria, Jr. to initiate brilliant rethinking of American Indian intellectual traditions that skillfully unites indigenous resources, sovereignty issues and contemporary cultural theory.
Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner, and Other Essays. Madison, WI: U of Wisconsin P, 1996.
Powerful, wide-ranging collection of essays developing an anti-colonialist, pro-sovereignty tribally specific approach to Native studies.
Harjo, Joy, and Gloria Bird, eds. Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native American Women's Writings of North America. NY: W.W. Norton, 1998.
Excellent collection demonstrating a range of approaches to rethinking race and gender from the perspectives of indigenous women.
Mihesuah, Devon. Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism.U of Nebraska P, 2003.
Offers a comprehensive theory of the combined impacts of colonialism and white patriarchy, challenges dominant epistemelogies that distort Native intellectual traditions,and exmamines various contempoary struggles by indigenous women to overcome these intertwined legacies.
Garroute, Eva Marie. Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
Brilliant set of reflections on the varied biological, political and historical forces that make up the complex and varied identities lived and perceived to be indigenous within US borders.
Smith, Andrea. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Boston: South End Press, 2005.
Draws the interconnections among the many violences of colonization: cultural genocide, rape and domestic assault, environmental racism, eugenics, and outright military genocicde.

Racializing Whiteness

Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic, eds. Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror. Philadelphia, PA: Temple U P, 1997.
Frankenberg, Ruth, ed. Displacing Whiteness: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism Durham, NC: Duke U P, 1997.
The racialization of "whiteness" (i.e., the recognition that whiteness has been the "unmarked," largely invisible category in racialized states -- except to its victims) was theorizied with ever greater sophistication in the 1990s and early 21st century. These excellent collections by Delgado/Stefancic and Frankenberg bring together many of the most important works in this endeavor, and offer useful bibliographies for further study. See also Deconstructiong Whiteness: A Select Bibliography.

Multiracial, Post-/De-colonial and Comparative Theories

Anzaldua, Gloria, and Cherríe Moraga, eds. This Bridge Called My Back. NY: Kitchen Table/Women of Color Press, 1983.
While women of color played key roles in feminist movements from the beginning, racism preventing them from being recognized as central figures. This landmark collection of "critical and creative" writings by women of color changed all that, leading to a profound rethinking of race and gender, while also challenging narrow definitions of "theory" by arguing for fiction, poetry, and other forms of writing as theory.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, ed. "Race," Writing, and Difference. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985; 1986.
This collection of essays from Critical Inquiry includes a number of important pieces on race in America, many influenced by poststructuralist critique, as well as key foundational contributions to post- or de-colonial theory. See particularly the essays by Gates, Said, Johnson, Carby and Gilman.
JanMohamed, Abdul, and David Lloyd, eds. The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse. NY: Oxford U P, 1990.
A theoretically informed collection of articles from a two-volume special issue of Cultural Critique examining representational strategies in and strategic contexts for literatures of US domestic and international "Third World" writers. See especially pieces by Kaplan, Mani, Radhakrishnan, Rabasa and Rosaldo.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. NY: Pantheon, 1978.
A very influential study of the racial "othering" of the Middle East by "the West." And one of the founding texts of postcolonial theory.
---. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U P, 1983.
Extremely important and provocative collection of essays on the relation of race, colonialism and literary theory to the wider social world. See especially "Introduction: Secular Criticism," "Reflections on American 'Left' Literary Criticism," and "Traveling Theory."
Trinh, Minh Ha. Woman, Native, Other. Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1989.
A formally innovative text that is at once feminist postcolonial theory and an auto-ethnoccaphic auto-biography of this Vietnamese-American film-maker/scholar.
Spivak, Gayatri. In Other Wor(l)ds. NY: Methuen, 1987.
Collects many of the key essays by one of the foremost "post-colonial" cultural critics who combines elements from deconstruction, feminist theory, and marxism.
---. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in Nelson and Grossberg. Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1988.
Immensely influential piece critiquing and using post-structuralism in the context of a meditation on the voice of the subaltern subject.

Gates, Nathaniel E. The Concept of "Race" in Natural and Social Science. NY: Garland, 1997.

Biology based theories of race have been a key component of white supremacy for centuries, and this text offers a lucid overview of the varied failed attempts to establish a scientific basis to ground the concept of "race."
Sturgeon, Noël. Ecofeminist Natures: Gender, Race, Feminist Theory and Political Action. NY: Routledge, 1997.
Best book yet written on the interrelations among gender, race and nature. Critical of essentialisms within environmental and feminist movements, Sturgeon offers an alternative "direct theory" of social movements that goes beyond the comcept of strategic essentialism to ground a radically democratic theoretical and political practice.
Sandoval, Chela. Methodology of the Oppressed Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000.
This brilliantly wide-ranging text attempts to bring an end to the "apartheid in cultural studies" that has separated feminist, queer, racial, class, and postcolonial theories from each other.

See also, "Section XI: Post- De-colonial and Transnational Theories."