Beyond and Back to the Black-White Binary: Muslims and Race-Making in the United States Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Husain, Atiya
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • Scholars tracing the history of the concept of “race” refer briefly to how religion was the primary way of conceiving of difference among peoples in the premodern era. Basic western binaries like Christian/heathen and civilized/savage coalesced into the contemporary black-white binary. Moments like 9/11 and the consequent “racialization of Muslims” have brought this historic relationship between race and religion to the fore. To understand the post-9/11 moment, Muslim racialization literature argues that a new de facto racial group emerged after 9/11, but does not examine how this group fits into the existing black-white binary based US racial structure. Literature on the black-white binary meanwhile offers valuable theory for analysis of racial structures, yet overlooks the role religion has played in building these structures. This study fills these gaps in the literatures on Muslim racialization and the black-white racial binary by situating Muslims in the US relative to the black-white racial order. I conducted an ethnography of a diverse range of Muslims in a metropolitan area on the west coast, including black, white, Arab, South Asian, East Asian, and Latina/o Muslims. I completed 68 in-depth interviews and 12 months of participant observation (August 2014-2015). I argue that blackness and whiteness are not only racial concepts, but also religious concepts. Race has long been studied in terms of black and white in the US, but our understanding of the scope of these concepts has been limited by the absence of religion from such scholarly work. In contrast, this work shows how religion continues to matter in the construction of race. The increased attention on Muslims as a “racialized” group, evoke and bolster longstanding racial structures like the black-white racial binary that have held scholarly attention for decades.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Burton, Linda
  • Tyson, Karolyn
  • Hughey, Matthew
  • Kurzman, Charles
  • Perrin, Andrew J.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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