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How Americans Make Race
Stories, Institutions, Spaces

$29.99 (G)

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  • Date Published: October 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107619586

$ 29.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • How do people produce and reproduce identities? In How Americans Make Race, Clarissa Rile Hayward challenges what is sometimes called the “narrative identity thesis”: the idea that people produce and reproduce identities as stories. Identities have greater staying power than one would expect them to have if they were purely and simply narrative constructions, she argues, because people institutionalize identity-stories, building them into laws, rules, and other institutions that give social actors incentives to perform their identities well, and because they objectify identity-stories, building them into material forms that actors experience with their bodies. Drawing on in-depth historical analyses of the development of racialized identities and spaces in the twentieth-century United States, and also on life-narratives collected from people who live in racialized urban and suburban spaces, Hayward shows how the institutionalization and objectification of racial identity-stories enables their practical reproduction, lending them resilience in the face of challenge and critique.

    • Challenges and revises the widely endorsed 'narrative identity thesis': the idea that identities are produced and reproduced as stories
    • Brings a new understanding to the processes through which identities are constructed and maintained
    • Offers a sophisticated account of the process of racial identity construction in the United States
    Read more


    • Co-Winner, 2014 Best Book Award, Urban Politics Section, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    “For some unknown reason, social scientists focus almost obsessively on the construction of and borders between identities. They pay much less attention to the question of "so what?" – why identities matter in the public realm and in the exercise of political power. Clarissa Hayward is an expert in the ways that power is manifested and used in everyday activities, and she brings that expertise to bear in How Americans Make Race. Identities matter because they are embedded in institutions that matter, and everything from the course of American history to the course of an individual's life chances is shaped by the ways in which "who we are" becomes elided with "what we can do." This is a subtle, moving, important book.” – Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, Harvard University

    "In her characteristically trenchant prose, Clarissa Hayward demonstrates how the racialized narrative of Americans as a home-owning people is institutionalized and reproduced through material forms. From the Great Migration of Southern blacks to Northern and Midwestern cities to the contemporary moment, she traces the myriad ways that state actors have supported private, profit-oriented residential development to the benefit of the already well-off. A must-read for any student of race, power, and democracy." – Sarah Song, Professor of Law, University of California at Berkeley

    “In this extraordinary and subtle book, full of moving, vivid, and unsettling detail, Clarissa Hayward argues that Americans learn the common sense of race – "racial stories" – by acting and interacting in racialized space. She shows us how to change those spaces so we can live better stories: by targeting exclusionary zoning, regional tax, and local housing policy. This is a compelling position.” – Danielle Allen, UPS Foundation Professor, Institute for Advanced Study

    “Through historical analysis and in-depth interviews, Hayward develops a compelling theory of how dominant narratives, institutionalized practices, and material structures combine to reproduce racial identities and racial inequality. Through clever thought experiments, she highlights the tragic implications of these race-making processes for social justice. The result is a highly original, sophisticated, and insightful account of racial dynamics by one of our leading theorists of social power.” – Tommie Shelby, author of We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity and Professor of African American Studies and Philosophy, Harvard University

    "In How Americans Make Race, Clarissa Hayward incisively illuminates how and why Americans have constructed grotesquely segregated metropolitan areas that foster vile fables of racial differences and harsh realities of racial inequalities. A riveting and all-too-persuasive analysis." –Rogers M. Smith, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107619586
    • length: 226 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.29kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. Comme il faut
    1. Identities and stories
    2. Black places
    3. Ordinary stories
    4. Home, sweet home
    5. White fences
    Conclusion: stories, institutions, and spaces
    Appendix. Interview respondents and interview schedule.

  • Author

    Clarissa Rile Hayward, Washington University, St Louis
    Clarissa Rile Hayward teaches political theory at Washington University, St Louis. The author of De-Facing Power (Cambridge, 2000) and of many articles in journals and edited volumes, she writes broadly on the themes of power and identity in the contemporary United States.


    • Co-Winner, 2014 Best Book Award, Urban Politics Section, American Political Science Association

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