The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture (CSRPC) at the University of Chicago is an interdisciplinary program dedicated to promoting engaged scholarship and debate around the topics of race and ethnicity. We are especially interested in how these ideas and their structural manifestations impact and shape people’s daily lives. Researchers affiliated with the Center recognize the significance of the black/white paradigm in the United States, however, we are committed to expanding the study of race and ethnicity beyond the black/white paradigm. Broadly, our research program encourages the study of race and processes of racialization in comparative and transnational frameworks. Thus, the work of faculty affiliates ranges from an examination of processes of racialization among dominant groups to the study of racialized minorities within the United States and black and/or indigenous populations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Asian Pacific, and Europe.
Central to our work is the acknowledgement that race and ethnicity intersect with other primary identities such as gender, class, sexuality and nationality, necessitating the exploration of social and identity cleavages within racialized communities. Being an interdisciplinary program, scholars affiliated with the Center utilize a range of methods to investigate the material condition, the expressive culture and the meaning making of racialized groups. Fundamentally, we are committed to producing engaged scholarship that rejects the false dichotomy between rigorous intellectual work and community activism. We seek, instead, to contribute intellectually challenging and innovative scholarship that can help people transform their thinking and their lives.
We believe that there are a number of reasons why the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture is well positioned to be at the forefront of institutions committed to studying race and ethnicity in the 21st century. First, the University of Chicago has a long and distinct tradition involving the study of race. Indeed, this tradition has played a role in attracting the group of noted scholars currently affiliated with the Center. Some of the most recognized faculty of color and important texts in the field of race and ethnicity were associated with or came directly from the University of Chicago’s Department of Sociology and its school of investigation.
Second, the historical, geographical and social contexts of the University provide a wonderful intellectual environment where academic work can be used by mobilized community groups. The University of Chicago is located in Southside Chicago, a community with tremendous historical and contemporary significance in America’s racial landscape. The historical legacy of the Great Migration, the contemporary questions raised by Asian and Latino immigrant communities, the decades of social scientific investigation in Southside neighborhoods, the importance of Southside communities to U.S. politics and economics, the stunning racial inequalities in those neighborhoods, and the shifting complexion of contemporary Southside inhabitants are but a few of the reasons that a premier institution of racial study in America at the University of Chicago could have an impact far beyond the confines of the campus.
Third, the United States is facing a political and economic environment in which the social cleavages of marginalized racial communities will be central to policy debates at the local, state, and federal level. Issues such as affordable housing, incarceration, immigration, HIV and AIDS, and economic development in poor communities are all part of the political agenda confronting governing officials and communities of color in Chicago. A critical mass of universities and colleges in the area with programs and departments committed to the investigation of such issues and communities now exists. Programs like those at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, DePaul University, and Chicago State University offer opportunities for intellectual partnerships with the CSRPC. Similarly, Chicago has historically been an important site for some of the most successful community organizing and policy advocacy on the part of marginalized communities. We are committed to not only working in communities, but also in partnership with community groups and activists to produce research that is empirically and theoretically innovative but also useful and empowering to the communities under examination. We believe that these variable forms of partnership with both colleges and universities and community groups in the Chicago area could allow all of us to develop a regional and national advantage in the study of race and ethnicity.
The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture has begun to carve out a unique niche in the study of race, one that will build on the University of Chicago’s comparative strengths of location and personnel and offer a new model of a research institute, committed to principled partnerships with other institutions in the academy and in our communities. The Center is already uniquely positioned in the field, pursuing a research agenda committed to a comparative race analysis that pushes beyond the black/white paradigm; utilizing a theoretical framework of intersectionality, highlighting the ways race and ethnicity intersect with gender, class and sexuality; and committed to the production of engaged scholarship meant to transform people’s lives.
To fulfill our mission we have instituted the following programs: