Karen L. Field

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Washburn University

‘The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy’ by Robert P. Jones

The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy

Robert P. Jones

The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future

Simon and Schuster, 2023

387 pages, notes, bibliography, index, and appendix (“Recommended reading related to the Doctrine of Discovery”)

In August 2019, the New York Times Magazine published the first pieces of “The 1619 Project,” a collaborative work of long-form journalism in which Nikole Hannah-Jones and others argued that structural, or systemic, racism—a social arrangement built upon the subordination of people of color by Whites—was a foundational part of American history starting from the arrival in Jamestown of the first enslaved Africans in 1619. More recently, an important new work by Robert P. Jones pushes the genesis of systemic racism back much further, to 1493, the year that, in response to news of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas, Pope Alexander XI issued a series of Papal bulls that came to be known as the Doctrine of Discovery. That doctrine declared that “European civilization and western Christianity are superior to all other cultures, races and religions” (Jones 2023, 13) and therefore that it was not only proper, but also desirable, for some people to occupy and exploit lands belonging to others, so long as the occupiers were White Christians and those they occupied were non-Christian people of color. 

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‘Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science’ by Patrick L. Schmidt

Editor’s note: This newest addition to HAR Reviews pairs a review essay with a brief author Q&A. Our reviewer, Karen Field, drafted the essay first and then brought some questions to the author. We thank Karen for suggesting this format and Patrick Schmidt for his participation, and we welcome more experiments with HoA writing and conversation.

Patrick L. Schmidt

Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science: The Rise and Fall of the Department of Social Relations

Rowman and Littlefield, 2022

264 pages, notes, bibliography, index

Maya Angelou once said, “you can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” If she was right, then everyone with a stake in the social sciences today should read and reflect upon Harvard’s Quixotic Pursuit of a New Science, a new work by Patrick L. Schmidt that traces the rise and fall of Harvard University’s Department of Social Relations, a department whose founders strove to unite sociology, anthropology, and psychology into a single discipline dedicated to the understanding of human behavior. 

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