Race & Class

Race & Class

A journal on racism, empire and globalisation

Race & Class is a meeting place for ideas, with an active and involved readership. And, in a climate tending to ever subtler restriction of dissenting views, it offers a platform for radical, informed and liberatory scholarship.

The journal’s history

The quarterly journal of the Institute of Race Relations, Race & Class came into being during the early 1970s, at a period of rapid, mass, social and political change; of major liberation struggles and the installation of popular governments in some of the newly independent countries of what was then termed the Third World; of the transformative and exemplary phenomenon of Black Power; of the movement of non-aligned nations. Describing itself then as a journal for Black and Third World Liberation, Race & Class, under its founding editor A. Sivanandan, opened its pages to radical scholars and activists. And, before the journal was five years old, so closely involved were some of its contributors in the liberation movements they wrote of, three of them – Orlando Letelier, Malcolm Caldwell and Walter Rodney – were killed in the front line of struggle.

Journal coverage

Race & Class, then, has analysed, reported and reflected on some of the most significant developments of the last four decades, including:

The journal’s principles

Among the roll-call of Race & Class‘s contributors past and present are (in no particular order) Eqbal Ahmad, Angela Davis, John Berger, Avery Gordon, Edward Said, David Edgar, Noam Chomsky, Tim Brennan, Barbara Harlow, Neil Lazarus, Basil Davidson, Walden Bello, Ilan Pappe, Victoria Brittain, Cedric Robinson, Barbara Ransby, Chris Searle, A. Sivanandan, Liz Fekete, Arun Kundnani, Thomas Hodgkin, Marwan Barghouti and Manning Marable.
What all the writers and articles listed above share is an underlying belief that ‘the function of knowledge is to liberate … to apprehend reality in order to change it’ (from the editorial, April 1974). That has been the guiding principle of Race & Class ever since, one consequence of which is that the journal has always attempted to convey its arguments in language that is clear, jargon-free and precise, and as accessible as possible to its users. It has also meant that Race & Class eschews articles that simply think about thinking, that explore ‘discourse’ or abstract concepts without reading back to lived experience. In the process, what has evolved is a journal that is truly multi-disciplinary. Race & Class crosses boundaries, between, for example, the development of scientific knowledge and the social history of racism, or between the historical and contemporary politics. This type of cross-over has been particularly exemplified in the special issues of the journal, whether devoted to the achievements of one person connected to Race & Class, one theme, or one country. ‘”A world to win”: essays in honour of A.Sivanandan’ was published in July 1999 with contributions from scholars such as Aijaz Ahmad, Timothy Brennan, Neil Lazarus, Jerry Harris, Jan Carew, Bill Rolston, Lee Bidges and others. ‘The gentle revolutionary: essays in honour of Jan Carew’ was published in January 2002, with contributions from scholars in the UK, US and the Caribbean. ‘Cedric Robinson and the philosophy of Black resistance’ was published in October 2005, with contributions from past students and present academics, and looked at black scholarship in general. ‘Chris Searle: the great includer’, which was published in October 2009, with contributions from academics and educationalists across three continents, illuminated not just his career but the whole field of radical pedagogy. Themed issues have included the following: in October 2001, ‘The three faces of British racism’; in July 2002, ‘”Truth” examining truth and reconciliation commissions’; in July 2003, ‘Black history: the present in the past’. Three more recent special issues have concentrated on one region or country: in October 2007, on the bicentenary of British abolition of the slave trade, ‘Caribbean trajectories: 200 years on’; in July 2010, ‘Canada: colonial amnesia and the legacy of empire’, and, in January 2011, ‘Constructions of Palestine’. But, long before, there were special issues on the Middle East in 1976 following the first invasion of Lebanon in 1982; the rise of the authoritarian state in Sri Lanka.
At a celebration to mark Race & Class‘s first thirty years (and look forward to the next thirty), Sivanandan summed up the journal’s basic philosophy and the challenge ahead:

  • ‘We live in such a vortex of change that it is impossible to predict the next thirty days, never mind the next thirty years. But that is precisely why we must try to catch history on the wing if we are to influence its direction. To do that, we need the courage to abandon old orthodoxies which bear us down, the honesty to turn our faces against intellectual fads and fetishes which turn us away from engagement, and the commitment to fight injustice wherever we find it – for that is what brings us all together here … not ideology but a common visceral hatred of injustice.’

Members of the Editorial Working Committee and the IRR Council of Management celebrate thirty years of Race & Class. From left to right, Cedric Robinson. Lord Herman Ouseley, A. Sivanandan, Colin Prescod and Hazel Waters.
Race & Class is published quarterly, in January, April, July and October, by Sage Publications for the Institute of Race Relations. For subscription options, visit the Sage website. To purchase an individual edition, head here.