Introduction: Situating the present

Murji, Karim and Solomos, John (2015). Introduction: Situating the present. In: Murji, Karim and Solomos, John eds. Theories of Race and Ethnicity: Contemporary Debates and Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–22.



When we started a conversation about putting together an edited collection on Theories of Race and Ethnicity, we had in mind the need for a more up-to-date overview of the field of race and ethnic studies than the one provided in John Rex and David Mason's (1986) Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations. That volume had come out in the mid 1980s, after a period of passionate, and often conflictual, debate about the changing boundaries of the study of race and ethnicity. Rex's opening statement to his chapter provided a sense of the contestation. He wrote, "The study of race relations, in common with other politically charged areas in the social sciences, seem beset with feuds and conflicts of a quite theological intensity" (Rex 1986:64). The book set out to provide an overview of key theoretical lines of analysis in the field and to engage with some new and emergent perspectives. It contained 14 chapters covering the disciplines of sociology, social anthropology and social psychology as well as sociobiology. There were macro-level approaches to race and ethnicity drawing on class analysis, the study of plural societies and Weberian and Marxist perspectives, alongside micro-level approaches such as rational choice theory and symbolic interactionism. In other words, it combined and crossed over from traditional sociological perspectives to views from related social science disciplines; it ranged across biology and sociology, and it considered ethnicity and race in a variety of settings.

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