Four Events in the Informal Constitution of the United StatesFred Lee
Extraordinary racial politics rupture out of and reset everyday racial politics. In his cogent book, Fred Lee examines four unusual, episodic, and transformative moments in U.S. history: the 1830s–1840s southeastern Indian removals, the Japanese internment during World War II, the post-war civil rights movement, and the 1960s–1970s racial empowerment movements. Lee helps us connect these extraordinary events to both prior and subsequent everyday conflicts.
Extraordinary Racial Politics brings about an intellectual exchange between ethnic studies, which focuses on quotidian experiences and negotiations, and political theory, which emphasizes historical crises and breaks. In ethnic studies, Lee draws out the extraordinary moments in Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s as well as Charles Mills’s accounts of racial formation. In political theory, Lee considers the strengths and weaknesses of using Carl Schmitt’s and Hannah Arendt’s accounts of public constitution to study racial power.
Lee concludes that extraordinary racial politics represent both the promises of social emancipation and the perils of state power. This promise and peril characterizes our contentious racial present.
“ Drawing on thinkers such as Carl Schmidt, Fred Ho, Hannah Arendt, Michael Omi, and Howard Winant, Fred Lee explores a rich archive of racial struggles ranging from Indian removal to Japanese internment, from the civil rights movement to red power on Alcatraz Island to Asian-American activists at the International Hotel. His book is a timely reminder that even in the most perilous of times, the extraordinary is always latent within ordinary U.S. racial politics.”
—Cristina Beltrán, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University and author of The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity
“ With unusual elegance and perspicacity, Fred Lee’s Extraordinary Racial Politics challenges familiar accounts of racial continuity and change in American politics. Courageously forging new ground between ethnic studies and political theory, Lee challenges readers to reaffirm and remember our capacity for extraordinary politics as integral for revitalizing collective political belonging in the most profound sense of what we can and could be. Extraordinary Racial Politics will be of vital interest to all seeking to come to terms with the compulsive idiosyncrasies of racial politics in our own dark times."
—Edmund Fong, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Political Science at the University of Utah and author of American Exceptionalism and the Remains of Race: Multicultural Exorcisms
“ Lee synthesizes classical political theory with a discussion of race and political formations in fields that tend to neglect each other’s literature. His important and innovative approach considers episodes from the civil rights movement, the internment of Japanese Americans, and Indian removal to show exceptional moments in the history of US race-relations. Extraordinary Racial Politics is an important and unusual book that uses a range of compelling literature to make its remarkable and fastidious arguments.”
—Falguni Sheth, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory College and author of Toward a Political Philosophy of Race
"The goal of Fred Lee in Extraordinary Racial Politics is to explicate a recurring form of political activity that is distinct from either revolutionary politics that convulse the entire polity or normal politics that yield formal laws and institutions.... Historians...may be intrigued by the author’s theoretical tools, which can be used to inform a story that is well told. Lee productively synthesizes work from political theory, sociology, and critical race studies.... Lee’s application of his theory to past events yields several interesting insights."
— Journal of American History
"Extraordinary Racial Politics is an exemplary piece of historically moored interdisciplinary scholarship. This carefully researched book refocuses our gaze from longstanding processes of racial formation that preoccupy much of ethnic studies scholarship—the establishment of Asian 'foreignness,' for instance, or the steadfast criminalization of blackness—and draws our attention to historical moments in which the ordinary dynamics of racial politics are disrupted and transformed.... Lee delivers Extraordinary Racial Politics at a historical moment rife with dual elements of the extraordinary that vie for supremacy."
— Political Theory