What is racial domination?

Matthew Desmond, Mustafa Emirbayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


When students of race and racism seek direction, they can find no single comprehensive source that provides them with basic analytical guidance or that offers insights into the elementary forms of racial classification and domination. We believe the field would benefit greatly from such a source, and we attempt to offer one here. Synchronizing and building upon recent theoretical innovations in the area of race, we lend some conceptual clarification to the nature and dynamics of race and racial domination so that students of the subjects—especially those seeking a general (if economical) introduction to the vast field of race studies—can gain basic insight into how race works as well as effective (and fallacious) ways to think about racial domination. Focusing primarily on the American context, we begin by defining race and unpacking our definition. We then describe how our conception of race must be informed by those of ethnicity and nationhood. Next, we identify five fallacies to avoid when thinking about racism. Finally, we discuss the resilience of racial domination, concentrating on how all actors in a society gripped by racism reproduce the conditions of racial domination, as well as on the benefits and drawbacks of approaches that emphasize intersectionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-355
Number of pages21
JournalDu Bois Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Inequality
  • Intersectionality
  • Race
  • Race Theory
  • Racial Domination


Dive into the research topics of 'What is racial domination?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this