Against race : imagining political culture beyond the color line by Paul Gilroy (Cambridge MA : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001)


Against race : imagining political culture beyond the color line by Paul Gilroy (Cambridge MA : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001)


Against race : imagining political culture beyond the color line by Paul Gilroy (Cambridge MA : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001). 416 p.

After all the “progress” made since World War II in matters pertaining to race, why are we still conspiring to divide humanity into different identity groups based on skin color? Did all the good done by the Civil Rights Movement and the decolonization of the Third World have such little lasting effect?

In this provocative book, Paul Gilroy contends that race-thinking has distorted the finest promises of modern democracy. He compels us to see that fascism was the principal political innovation of the twentieth century—and that its power to seduce did not die in a bunker in Berlin. Aren’t we in fact using the same devices the Nazis used in their movies and advertisements when we make spectacles of our identities and differences? Gilroy examines the ways in which media and commodity culture have become preeminent in our lives in the years since the 1960s and especially in the 1980s with the rise of hip-hop and other militancies. With this trend, he contends, much that was wonderful about black culture has been sacrificed in the service of corporate interests and new forms of cultural expression tied to visual technologies. He argues that the triumph of the image spells death to politics and reduces people to mere symbols.

At its heart, Against Race is a utopian project calling for the renunciation of race. Gilroy champions a new humanism, global and cosmopolitan, and he offers a new political language and a new moral vision for what was once called “anti-racism.”

Book Reviews (from the Publisher's website)

Paul Gilroy, whose Black Atlantic broke through the nation-specific context of race politics, has written a powerful, albeit minoritarian defense of the position that racial thinking—not just racism—is a key obstacle to human freedom (an aspiration, he sadly notes, that has virtually disappeared from political discourse). In his analysis of the origins and uses of racial thinking Gilroy spares from his critique neither black pride nor black separatism, let alone racism’s most virulent forms, fascism and colonialism… The result is that he has offered one of the most impressive refutations of race as an anthropological concept since the publication of Ashley Montagu’s Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race more than fifty years ago… Gilroy’s reach is dazzling, his analysis acute and insightful, but in the end he recognizes that, lacking a political constituency for his planetary humanism, his ideas remain not a program but a utopian hope… At the end of the day, Against Race remains the brilliant jeremiad of an out-of-step intellectual whose main weapon is criticism. There are few who do it better.—Stanley Aronowitz, The Nation

Guides readers through the complex, interwoven incarnations of race-thinking from inception in the modern period through overt climax in the Colonial Era and the rise of Nazism in Europe to a lingering presence in today’s vernacular cultures and ever more globalized corporate consumer landscape… [Gilroy] clearly outlines the complex connections between ‘race’ and ‘place’ in the development of Colonial Era nation-state identities and the systematic fascism that followed… Gilroy provides useful, historically fascinating accounts of black experiences in Europe during the first half of the twentieth century… Anyone interested in the history of racial politics and, in particular, the history of fascism will benefit from…the perspectives Gilroy derives from the voices of the Atlantic diaspora. Gilroy’s examples are wide-ranging; he clearly is as comfortable discussing Nazi racial hygiene theories as he is discussing current genetic research, and is as fluent in critiquing jazz scholars as he is analyzing Snoop and other rappers.—Jody M. Roy, Rhetoric and Public Affairs

Readers used to Paul Gilroy’s incisive political and cultural analysis will be highly impressed with Against Race. Those not familiar with his previous writings will be so impressed that they are bound to look for them. Gilroy is an erudite scholar and this is an imperative reading not only for those coming to grips with political culture beyond the color line but for any serious scholar interested in ‘cosmopolitan cultures,’ or in questions of identity.—Nuruddin Farah, author of Yesterday, Tomorrow: Voices from the Somali Diaspora

As with his past work, Paul Gilroy continues to disturb settled ways of thinking in a fundamentally creative way. Here, he challenges us to explore the dangers of race-thinking, whether ‘race’ be an imposed or an insurgent identity.—Mahmood Mamdani, author of Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism

  • Introduction
  • I. Racial Observance, Nationalism, and Humanism
    • 1. The Crisis of “Race” and Raciology
    • 2. Modernity and Infrahumanity
    • 3. Identity, Belonging, and the Critique of Pure Sameness
  • II. Fascism, Embodiment, and Revolutionary Conservatism
    • 4. Hitler Wore Khakis: Icons, Propaganda, and Aesthetic Politics
    • 5. “After the Love Has Gone”: Biopolitics and the Decay of the Black Public Sphere
    • 6. The Tyrannies of Unanimism
  • III. Black to the Future
    • 7. “All about the Benjamins”: Multicultural Blackness—Corporate, Commercial, and Oppositional
    • 8. “Race,” Cosmopolitanism, and Catastrophe
    • 9. “Third Stone from the Sun”: Planetary Humanism and Strategic Universalism
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index





Paul Gilroy, “Against race : imagining political culture beyond the color line by Paul Gilroy (Cambridge MA : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001),” Antiracism Digital Library, accessed June 25, 2024,