This chapter has two interrelated objectives. The first, in light of the problems identified in the previous two chapters, is to reconsider the definition of the concept of racism. This will involve a clarification of the relationship between the concept of racism and a number of related concepts, principally ‘race’, ethnicity, racialisation, ethnicisation and institutional racism. Second, it is instructive to reflect on these related concepts themselves - although we emphasise the problematic nature of the concept of ‘race’, it is not the only problematic concept in this field of study.
These objectives will be realised by reflecting theoretically on the nature of the social process by which meanings are attributed to real or imagined human characteristics. Thus, a concept of racism will be derived analytically rather than inductively from consideration of a single empirical instance. This theoretical work will produce no more than a concept of racism, and it makes a concession to (the entirely respectable philosophical doctrine of) essentialism by identifying what many different instances of racism have in common qua racism. On the specificity of each instance, the variety of representational content and context, and ‘grounded’ discussions of the nature and definition of racism, these are matters for historically and ethnographically specific analysis, examples of which are discussed in Chapters 5 and 6.