Seeing Race in Modern America

By Matthew Pratt Guterl

248 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 color plates., 97 halftones, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2651-2
    Published: August 2015
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-1069-6
    Published: November 2013

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In this fiercely urgent book, Matthew Pratt Guterl focuses on how and why we come to see race in very particular ways. What does it mean to see someone as a color? As racially mixed or ethnically ambiguous? What history makes such things possible? Drawing creatively from advertisements, YouTube videos, and everything in between, Guterl redirects our understanding of racial sight away from the dominant categories of color--away from brown and yellow and black and white--and instead insists that we confront the visual practices that make those same categories seem so irrefutably important.

Zooming out for the bigger picture, Guterl illuminates the long history of the practice of seeing--and believing in--race, and reveals that our troublesome faith in the details discerned by the discriminating glance is widespread and very popular. In so doing, he upends the possibility of a postracial society by revealing how deeply race is embedded in our culture, with implications that are often matters of life and death.

About the Author

Matthew Pratt Guterl is professor of Africana Studies and American Studies at Brown University and is the author of American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation among other books.
For more information about Matthew Pratt Guterl, visit the Author Page.


"This rigorous and insightful book provides a careful investigation on an often overlooked topic."--Publishers Weekly

“Illustrates how race continues to operate as subtext in the world of ideas, coloring our expectations and, more important, our personal and political decisions.”--Chronicle of Higher Education

"[A] splendid treatment of racialized imagery in popular culture. . . . Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."--Choice

Seeing Race is primarily a modern exposé of race in popular culture.”--North Carolina Historical Review

“The book’s greatest strength: its ability to open up discussion and enliven rather than limit debate.”--Journal of American History

“An engaging read. . . . A general audience would appreciate this engaging and topical book, while U.S. Historians will appreciate Guterl’s take on how race is depicted in popular culture.”--Journal of Southern History

Multimedia & Links

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Follow the author on Twitter @mpg734.