Human beings are shaped by their experiences of difference and inequality, as well as by those of community and solidarity. The Race, Difference, and Power (RDP) concentration is a coalition of faculty and graduate students interested in the ways that race, difference, and power manifest in our relationships, experiences, identity, politics, and agency, and how legacies of domination and solidarity inform both the present and the ways in which we imagine the future.
The RDP concentration foregrounds race when asking questions about the ways that difference and power not only structure lives, but also provide pathways for agency. Given that the discipline of Anthropology was instrumental in shaping conceptions of race that were, and still are, widely used to explain human differences, we take it as our responsibility to critique pseudoscientific race claims, and to explore the myriad ways that “race” is used to privilege some and disempower others. After all, the process of race-making (racialization) involves the creation not only of difference, but also of sameness—that which makes us “us,” as well as that which distinguishes “us” from “them.” By emphasizing difference and power, we signal the salience of both, and acknowledge that many forms of difference and inequality crosscut race.
In addition to addressing racial and ethnic identity and formations, the RDP concentration explores gender, class, sexuality, and other differences that inevitably complicate racialization and the workings of power. Our interests encompass history, political practice, religious experience, expressive culture, environmental concerns, health, social conflict, globalization, and a host of community-level issues. Both meaning and materiality drive our commitment to understanding local narratives and individual experiences of inequality, difference, and power, and to addressing the national and global forces that shape these experiences.
Guided by a critical attention to the conditions of postcoloniality and decolonization, RDP embraces participatory approaches to engaged anthropology. Our current geographic strengths encompass Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the United States (particularly the US South), and the major diasporas (notably African) and migrations implicated in the racialization processes that have formed these regions.
The RDP concentration includes Anthropology’s archaeological, biocultural, linguistic, and sociocultural subdisciplines, and finds its grounding in broad, interdisciplinary engagement. Contributors to the concentration are firmly committed to research, mentorship, and teaching that pursue solutions to today’s pressing concerns. In search of this end, we actively collaborate with a variety of other UNC-CH Departments, Institutes, Centers, and Programs, as well as with communities in North Carolina, throughout the United States, and across several continents.
Race, difference, and the cultural politics of heritage, self-making, and social transformation are key concerns in our wider society. This concentration invites inclusive and creative approaches to addressing these issues, as students, scholars, and a broader public of world citizens.