What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

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Updated 21 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

  • Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination

Racial divisions have returned to the forefront of politics in the US and European societies, making it more important than ever to understand race and racism. 

But do we? In this original and provocative book, acclaimed historian Jean-Frédéric Schaub shows that we don’t— and that we need to rethink the widespread assumption that racism is essentially a modern form of discrimination based on skin color and other visible differences.

On the contrary, Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination. Built around notions of identity and otherness, race is above all a political tool that must be understood in the context of its historical origins.

Although scholars agree that races don’t exist, they disagree about when these ideologies emerged. Drawing on historical research from the early modern period to today, Schaub makes the case that the key turning point in the political history of race in the West occurred not with the Atlantic slave trade and American slavery, as many historians have argued, but much earlier, in 15th-century Spain and Portugal, with the racialization of Christians of Jewish and Muslim origin.


What We Are Reading Today: Dark Data by David J. Hand

Updated 21 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Dark Data by David J. Hand

In the era of big data, it is easy to imagine that we have all the information we need to make good decisions. But in fact the data we have are never complete, and may be only the tip of the iceberg. 

Just as much of the universe is composed of dark matter, invisible to us but nonetheless present, the universe of information is full of dark data that we overlook at our peril. 

In Dark Data, data expert David Hand takes us on a fascinating and enlightening journey into the world of the data we don’t see, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Dark Data explores the many ways in which we can be blind to missing data and how that can lead us to conclusions and actions that are mistaken. 

Examining a wealth of real-life examples, from the Challenger shuttle explosion to complex financial frauds, Hand gives us a practical taxonomy of the types of dark data that exist and the situations in which they can arise, so that we can learn to recognize and control them. 

In doing so, he teaches us not only to be alert to the problems presented by the things we don’t know, but also shows how dark data can be used to our advantage, leading to greater understanding and better decisions.