Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America

1st Edition

Edited by Mark Ledwidge, Kevern Verney, Inderjeet Parmar


240 pages

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The 2008 presidential election was celebrated around the world as a seminal moment in U.S. political and racial history. White liberals and other progressives framed the election through the prism of change, while previously acknowledged demographic changes were hastily heralded as the dawn of a "post-racial" America. However, by 2011, much of the post-election idealism had dissipated in the wake of an on-going economic and financial crisis, escalating wars in Afghanistan and Libya, and the rise of the right-wing Tea Party movement.

By placing Obama in the historical context of U.S. race relations, this volume interrogates the idealized and progressive view of American society advanced by much of the mainstream literature on Obama. Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America takes a careful look at the historical, cultural and political dimensions of race in the United States, using an interdisciplinary analysis that incorporates approaches from history, political science, and sociology. Each chapter addresses controversial issues such as whether Obama can be considered an African-American president, whether his presidency actually delivered the kind of deep-rooted changes that were initially prophesised, and whether Obama has abandoned his core African-American constituency in favour of projecting a race-neutral approach designed to maintain centrist support.

Through cutting edge, critically informed, and cross-disciplinary analyses, this collection directly addresses the dimensions of race in American society through the lens of Obama’s election and presidency.


"In this important, timely work, Mark Ledwidge, Kevern Verney, and Inderjeet Parmar have pulled together a remarkable collection of essays that examine various aspects of the ways that race continues to matter even after the re-election of the United States’ first black president. Despite insistence by many that Obama’s election ushered in a post-racial society, the essays in this book persuasively document that important work remains to be done in order for the US to reach its goals of liberty and justice for all." —Adia Harvey Wingfield, Georgia State University

"This timely and innovative collection of essays offers trenchant analysis of Obama’s election and presidency from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. With issues of race, politics, economics, and foreign policy to the fore, the volume’s sharp and at times provocative assessments of Obama’s place in US history and political culture reminds us that the domestic and global significance of his election victories and evaluations of his performance in office will be the subject of fierce debate for many years to come. Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America is an excellent introduction to that analytical and ideological battleground." —Brian Ward, Northumbria University

"Arising from a powerful collaborative research network, this book provides us with a sobering perspective on the unfolding of the dreams and hopes generated by Obama’s election in 2008. It is rich in interdisciplinary perspectives that bring together diverse issues into the most coherent and comprehensive analysis yet of the Obama story so far." —Stephen Burman, University of Sussex

'The book is firmly anchored in "identity politics" analyses and uses race and its implications for a changing electorate in the US as a framework for analysis… Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels." —L. T. Grover, Southern University and A&M College, CHOICE

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Dream Deferred?; Kevern J. Verney. 1. Barack Obama, First African American President: Continuity or Change; Mark Ledwidge 2. The Obama Dilemma: Confronting Race in the 21st Century; Carl Pedersen 3. Republican Mavericks: The Anti-Obama Impulse in the 2008 Election; Robert Busby 4. Obama in the Northeast: Race and Electoral Politics in America’s Bluest Region; Kevin J. McMahon 5. Backlash: Racism and the Presidency of Barack Obama; Heidi Beirich and Evelyn Schlatter 6.Barack Obama and the Future of American Racial Politics; Rogers M. Smith and Desmond S. King 7. 'The Final Frontier': Barack Obama and the Vision of a Post-Racial America; Kevern J. Verney 8. Still Mariachi Politics: Latinos and the Obama Administration; Lisa Garcia Bedolla 9. You Say Obama, I say Osama, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off: Race and U.S. Foreign Policy; Lee Marsden 10. The Color of Obama’s World: Race and Democracy during the Barack Obama Administration; Michael L. Krenn. Postscript: The 2012 Elections: President Obama’s Establishment; Inderjeet Parmar. The Im/possibility of Barack Hussain Obama; Nirmal Puwar and Sanjay Sharma. Mormonism and the 2012 Presidential Election; Lee Marsden

About the Editors

Mark Ledwidge, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and American Studies, has been appointed Vacation Visiting Research Fellow at the prestigious Rothermere American Institute (RAI), University of Oxford. Dr Ledwidge, who is also a founding member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Network on the Presidency of Barack Obama, researches the relationship and impact of African-Americans on U.S. foreign policy. It provides a unique insight into the effect race and ethnicity has had upon U.S. foreign policy, as well as highlighting how race has been relatively excluded from mainstream theories in international relations.

Kevern Verney is a Professor in American History and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom. Together with Professor Inderjeet Parmar and Dr Mark Ledwidge he is currently a co-organizer of the Barack Obama Research Network funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Other Network partners include the University of Warwick and the University of Middleburg in the Netherlands.

Inderjeet Parmar currently teaches in the Department of International Politics at City University London, having for the previous 21 years taught at the University of Manchester. His latest book, Foundations of the American Century: Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power was published in 2012 by Columbia University Press. He is President of the British International Studies Association and Chair of the Obama Research Network.

About the Series

Routledge Series on Identity Politics

Group identities have been an important part of political life in America since the founding of the republic. For most of this long history, the central challenge for activists, politicians, and scholars concerned with the quality of U.S. democracy was the struggle to bring the treatment of ethnic and racial minorities and women in line with the creedal values spelled out in the nation’s charters of freedom. We are now several decades from the key moments of the twentieth century when social movements fractured America’s system of ascriptive hierarchy. The gains from these movements have been substantial. Women now move freely in all realms of civil society, hold high elective offices, and constitute more than 50 percent of the workforce. Most African-Americans have now attained middle class status, work in integrated job sites, and live in suburbs. Finally, people of color from nations in Latin America, Asia, and the Caribbean now constitute the majority of America’s immigration pool.

In the midst of all of these positive changes, however, glaring inequalities between groups persist. Indeed, ethnic and racial minorities remain far more likely to be undereducated, unemployed, and incarcerated than their counterparts who identify as white. Similarly, both violence and work place discrimination against women remain rampant in U.S. society. The Routledge series on identity politics features works that seek to understand the tension between the great strides our society has made in promoting equality between groups and the residual effects of the ascriptive hierarchies in which the old order was rooted.

Some of the core questions that the series will address are: how meaningful are the traditional ethnic, gender, racial, and sexual identities to our understanding of inequality in the present historical moment? Do these identities remain important bases for group mobilization in American politics? To what extent can we expect the state to continue to work for a more level playing field among groups?

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Leadership
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Executive Branch
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Discrimination & Race Relations