An ugly word : rethinking race in Italy and the United States / Ann Morning and Marcello Maneri.

Morning, Ann Juanita, 1968- [Browse]
New York, New York : Russell Sage Foundation, [2022]
xiv, 268 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm


Summary note
"Scholars as well as politicians have often assumed that there is a significant gap between the ways that Americans and Europeans think of race. In the US, the thinking goes, the notion of race is associated with physical characteristics, while in Western Europe it has disappeared and its legacy of racism targets cultural incompatibilities. We gather empirical evidence to test this assumption, interviewing young Italians and Americans broadly about what we call "descent-based groups." Sidestepping the usual language of "ethnicity" and "race," which can be unnecessarily narrow, poorly defined, or simply offensive to some, we cast a wide net in asking our respondents to tell us how they perceive the distinctions between groups as diverse as Chinese, Muslims, whites, or Roma. In response to the claim that there is a significant gap between the ways that Americans and Europeans think of descent-based difference, a clear rebuttal emerges from our data. While ways of speaking about group difference vary considerably across the Atlantic, our interviews with young people in Italy and the United States show that underlying beliefs about it do not. To be sure, they are not identical, and there are many intriguing and meaningful distinctions to which we draw attention-for example, in the ways that race is understood to be "constructed." But the extensive overlap between American and Italian understandings of human difference cannot be ignored. Nor can they be usefully described as pursuing separate, biological versus cultural tracks. These findings lead us to propose a new approach for characterizing concepts of difference that takes into account their multiple dimensions. Specifically, we break down such concepts into six key components: the traits that are believed to define descent-based groups; the range or set of groups that are associated with particular concepts of difference; the presence (or absence) of hierarchy among them; the mechanisms that are believed to give rise to such groups; and the permanence and determinism (or consequences) ascribed to defining group traits. Within this framework, we identify four principal types of concept of descent-based difference in Italy, with counterparts in the U.S.: biological essentialism; psychological (or "temperamental") essentialism; cultural primordialism; and a notion of acquired culture. This method of decomposing concepts of descent-based group difference also helps us pinpoint where such conceptualization varies most between the U.S. and Italy: in the fixity and consequences that are attributed to biological and to cultural traits"-- Provided by publisher.
Bibliographic references
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction. Thinking and talking about difference
  • Debating "race" in Europe and the United States
  • Italian mental maps of difference
  • "Race" talk
  • Difference in play : sport and descent
  • Conclusion. Rethinking race : a new model of descent-based difference.
Other title(s)
Rethinking race in Italy and the United States
  • 9780871546784 (paperback)
  • 0871546787 (paperback)
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