SoCA presents: Ann Morning. National Portraits: Racial Conceptualization and the Demographic Imaginary

Friday, April 8, 2016 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Friday, April 8, 2-3:30pm in 402 Barrows

National Portraits: Racial Conceptualization and the Demographic Imaginary

Statistical “facts” about the demographic makeup of the nation often garner considerable public, media and political attention. In the United States, for example, Census Bureau projections that the “white” share of the national population will fall below 50 percent within 30 years have met with popular and intellectual concern, soul-searching, and at times, welcome. Far from objective data, however, these thought-provoking statistics are constructs that reflect prevailing beliefs about who “we”—and “they”—are. In the example above, the expectation that whites will no longer be a majority population in the U.S. depends on the view that Hispanic Americans are not white.

This talk proposes a theoretical model for tracing the complex relationships between our conceptualization of racial or ethnic groups—that is, our notions of what constitutes or demarcates particular groups—and state practices of racial and ethnic classification. Both of these forces shape the resulting images that we construct of the nation’s demography. Drawing on historical observations as well as contemporary classificatory practices, I aim to map out the myriad channels that connect our beliefs about what races and ethnic groups are, how they are categorized, and the sometimes fantastical images we construct about the nation’s present and future complexion.

Ann Morningis an Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University and a faculty affiliate of New York University Abu Dhabi.  Her research interests include race, demography, and the sociology of science, especially as they pertain to census classification worldwide and to individuals’ concepts of racial difference. Her doctoral thesis was a co-recipient of the American Sociological Association’s 2005 Dissertation Award, and was published in 2011 by the University of California Press with the title The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference.  Prof. Morning was the recipient of a 2008-09 Fulbright research award to visit the University of Milan-Bicocca, and was a 2014-15 Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City. She has consulted on racial statistics for the European Commission in Brussels and is a member of the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.  Morning holds her Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University, a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science from Yale University.