Racism: A Very Short Introduction

Ali Rattansi
Very Short Introductions
  • Takes a frank and objective look at how and why racial prejudices and stereotypes are deeply embedded in Western culture.
  • Guides the reader through the confusion that surrounds the meaning of the word racism, and how it differs from ethnocentrism, nationalism, and xenophobia.
  • Examines how the scientific validity of 'race' has been comprehensively undermined by modern genetic science.
  • Uses important historical examples as well as up-to-date cases, from the British Empire to the American civil rights movement and the Macpherson Report on 'institutional racism' in the London Metropolitan Police.

From subtle discrimination in everyday life and scandals in politics, to incidents like lynchings in the American South, cultural imperialism, and 'ethnic cleansing', racism exists in many different forms, in almost every facet of society. 
But what actually is race? How has racism come to be so firmly established? Why do so few people actually admit to being racist? How are race, ethnicity, and xenophobia related? 
Racism: A Very Short Introduction incorporates the latest research to demystify the subject of racism and explore its history, science, and culture. It sheds light not only on how racism has evolved since its earliest beginnings, but will also explore the numerous embodiments of racism, highlighting the paradox of its survival, despite the scientific discrediting of the notion of 'race' with the latest advances in genetics.


1: Racism and racists: some conundrums
2: Fear of the dark? : blacks, Jews and barbarians
3: Beyond the pale: scientific racism, the nation and the politics of colour
4: Imperialism, eugenics and the Holocaust
5: The case against scientific racism
6: New racisms?
7: Racist identities: ambivalence, contradiction and commitment
8: Beyond institutional racism: 'race', class and gender in the USA and Britain
Conclusions: prospects for a post-racial future
Further Reading


Ali Rattansi is a prolific writer on race, postcolonialism, orientalism, and cultural imperialism. Currently Visiting Professor of Sociology at City University, London, he has spent much of his academic career studying the concept of racism. His publications include Racism, Modernity and Identity: On the Western Front co-edited with S. Westwood (1994); 'Race', Culture and Difference with James Donald (1992); and Racism and Anti-racism: Inequalities, Opportunities and Policies with P. Braham and R. Skellington (1992).