Michael G. Hanchard — 2019 Ralph J. Bunche Award Recipient

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Ralph J. Bunche Award to Dr. Michael Hanchard at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline.  The $1,000 award recognizes the best scholarly work exploring the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism.

Dr. Michael G. Hanchard is a professor in the department of Africana Studies and the director of the Marginalized Populations Project at the University of Pennsylvania.  Among his publications are Party/Politics: Horizons in Black Political Thought. New York (Oxford University Press, 2006); Orpheus and Power: Afro-Brazilian Social Movements in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, 1945-1988 (Princeton University Press, 1994); Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil (Duke University Press, 1999) and most recently The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy (Princeton University Press, May, 2018)He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Macarthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and most recently, was a member of the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 2014-2015.

Here is what the Award Committee had to say about their decision:

Dr. Michael Hanchard’s new book, The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy, is an outstanding contribution to political science scholarship on racial and ethnic domination and hierarchy.  It asks profound questions, is wide-ranging and ambitious in its arguments, and speaks to the most urgent political-ethical dilemmas of our time.  Dr. Hanchard’s particular concern is the intimate relationship between democracy, on the one hand, and social and political inequality, on the other, a relationship he traces to classical Athens, where the first democracy was built upon a foundation of domination and exclusion, as slaves, metics, and women were kept out of the political community.  Inequality was not anomalous in but rather foundational to democracy from the very beginning, Dr. Hanchard points out, and democracies have all been what Robert Dahl calls polyarchic regimes, or relatively but incompletely democratized regimes.  Demonstrating the singular power of comparative analysis, Dr. Hanchard substantiates these claims through a sweeping analysis of nineteenth and twentieth century democratic regimes in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and North America.  Whether it was Gran Columbia or Guyana in the period after gaining independence, or France and Britain during the decolonization era, all of these democracies—with the shining exception of Haiti—depended upon the demarcation of and institutionalization of racial, gendered, religious and ethno-national hierarchies to determine who was allowed to access citizenship and its privileges and who was excluded from these.  With all this in mind, Dr. Hanchard calls upon comparativists within political science to rethink the ethnocentric categories that imagine the West as the ideal standard of democracy to which the rest of the world should aspire.  He calls upon them to engage racial and ethno-national hierarchies more seriously by considering more fully the impact of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism on both the so-called developed and developing nations.  There is a mutual entanglement here that requires deep historical and contextual analysis and that cannot be captured by econometrics, game theory, and mathematical modeling.

The Spectre of Race ends with a postscript about the events in Charlottesville in 2017, reminding us that today’s resurgence of far-right populism, authoritarianism, and white supremacy in the U.S. and elsewhere across the globe is nothing new at all, but a continuation of democracy’s long association with and dependence upon racial and ethno-national hierarchies.  It is a sobering message, but one that helps us to reckon with the moment we find ourselves in.

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