The Reeducation of Race with Sonali Thakkar (JP)


NYU professor Sonali Thakkar’s brilliant first book, The Reeducation of Race: Jewishness and the Politics of Antiracism in Postcolonial Thought (Stanford UP, 2023),begins as a mystery of sorts. When and why did the word “equality” get swapped out of the 1950 UNESCO Statement on Race, to be replaced by “educability, plasticity”? She and John sit down to discuss how that switcheroo allowed for a putative anti-racism that nonetheless preserved a sotto voce concept of race.

They discuss the founding years of UNESCO and how it came to be that Jews were defined as the most plastic of races, and “Blackness” came to be seen as a stubbornly un-plastic category. The discussion ranges to include entwinement and interconnectedness, and Edward Said's notion of the "contrapuntal" analysis of the mutual implication of seemingly unrelated historical developments. Sonali's "Recallable Book" shines a spotlight on Aime Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism--revised in 1955 to reflect ongoing debates about race and plasticity.

Mentioned in the episode:

Recallable books:

Read and Listen to the episode here.

Your Host

Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz

Free-ranging discussion of books from the past that cast a sideways light on today's world. Recall This Book is hosted by Elizabeth Ferry, Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University and John Plotz, Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative.

View Profile