Hardcover ISBN: 9781503631229
An intelligent machine built to study methods of social warfare struggles to understand and communicate the lived experience of race
In a narrative full of social significance and poetically decorated with monks, vampires, and mythical statistics, Race in the Machine presents a world where the stories we use to explain race all simultaneously exist, within and around us, dictating our interactions and innermost beliefs.
The nameless protagonist, an enigmatic social mechanic at Nearbay Institute, living in a population of socially connected intelligent machines, encounters a simple query in the context of an introductory lecture: "What exactly is race? And what is it in the context of the social machine?" This prompt guides the protagonist along a twisting intellectual tale surrounding a series of experiments which explore: How many racists does it take to create systems of inequality? What role do non-racists actors play in upholding them? How is bias learned? How does it spread?
The narrator develops a distinct understanding of race through the figurative bending of time, dreams of a "race code" and by confronting a series of mysterious communications that remain just outside comprehension. Over the course of this journey, the answers to important questions about racial inequality quietly emerge for the protagonist. Scholarly encounters with both antagonistic colleagues and unexpected allies, culminate when the hero is forced to reach a devastating conclusion about themself and the world.
Stirring and luminous, Race in the Machine deftly oscillates between the allegorically simplified and the impossibly complex to weave an utterly unique and nuanced portrait of race in the modern world.
About the author
Quincy Thomas Stewart is Associate Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University. He has published on quantitative methods, mathematical demography, and racial and ethnic inequities. Formerly, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University.