Racialization and public policy: Intermediaries between appropriation and contestation of ethnic and racial categories

Special report: Racialization and public policy
By Doris Buu-Sao, Clémence Léobal


How can we highlight the role of state institutions, including republican and colorblind ones, in the production of racial categorizations? How can we account for the creative and even contesting capacities of minoritized people and groups in these processes? In this introduction, we reveal the links between public policy and racialization. We rely on constructivist definitions of the concepts of racialization and institutional racism, which combine the analysis of the discursive structures of racism with that of their constant reformulations, in situation, through the interactions between members of minorities and of majorities. We then propose a literature review of French-language work on the issue of race in the sociology of public policy. Often, these authors use the notion of discrimination and propose a statistical demonstration, but we refer to racialization as a process of categorization that is shaped by, and that in turn shapes, power relations between the majority and minorities. Our approach is supported by ethnographic methodology. Finally, we have chosen to focus on intermediaries between the state and racially minoritized populations. This choice allows us to look at the capacities of minority groups to co-produce, reformulate, or contest the racist social order.


  • racialization
  • racism
  • ethnic and racial categories
  • public policy
  • intermediaries
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