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Br J Soc Psychol. 2009 Sep;48(Pt 3):407-26. doi: 10.1348/014466608X360727. Epub 2008 Sep 24.

'I hope we won't have to understand racism one day': researching or reproducing 'race' in social psychological research?

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Institute of Social Psychology, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.


This paper examines the reification and problemization of 'race' in Psychological research in both influential studies in the field and in my empirical work. The main argument is that we need to examine how representations of 'race' are assumed, produced and contested in research practice. This argument is made by (a) showing how research in the area adopts everyday representations of 'race' as essentialized and (b) with an illustration of the construction of 'race' within my study. This study explores how children in a predominantly white setting accept and contest representations that race. twenty two children from a range of cultural backgrounds volunteered to discuss their views and experiences of 'race' and racism in a naturalistic research activity. The analysis reveals that racialized difference is something that is constructed as both 'real' - in that it can be seen, touched and even caught from 'the other' and simultaneously something that is constructed, imposed and damaging. This highlights the possibilities for racialized others to take up positions as agents and not (only) as objects of the racializing and racist gaze, and so presents the case for thinking, debating and researching beyond reifying representations of 'race'. This has important lessons for social psychology: namely, we cannot continue to take racial categorization as a naturalistic or self-evident aspect of the social worlds that our discipline plays an important role in constructing and defending.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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