Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Introduction: The Labour of Race

Document type Article
Author Park, Augustine S. J.
Journal Canadian Journal of Sociology
Volume 38
Date 2013
ISSN 1710-1123
Pages 453-464


Special Issue Introduction: This special issue interrogates race as a labour. The “labor of race,” writes David Theo Goldberg in his book "The Threat of Race" (2009:4, emphasis in original), “is the work for which the category and its assumptions are employed to effect and rationalize social arrangements of power and exploitation, violence and expropriation.” Race, for Goldberg, is a “foundational code” that has been built by “racial thinkers,” that is “the day-laborers, the brick-layers, of racial foundations” (2009:4). Understanding race as a labour underscores the ontological unreality of race, which is now, of course, the constructivist orthodoxy in critical sociologies of race. In other words, conceptualizing race as a labour asserts race as an accomplishment, however unstable: an historical, social, economic, and cultural achievement that designates a constantly shifting political grammar. At the same time, understanding race as a labour, or the labour of race, demands that we ask to what work race is put. Following Zygmunt Bauman’s (2004) theorization of “wasted lives,” race might be theorized as a method of social ordering.