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Scholarship on Racisms and "Tolkien"
An Ever-Expanding Bibliography
This post is a work (even an experiment!) in progress!
I have been planning to post resources on racisms and Tolkien online for some time, even before I left Facebook and came over to Substack, but have been busy with other projects (including editing an anthology on Racisms and Tolkien).
The impetus for my finally starting to pull this list of resources together is an article by yet another defender of Tolkien (the human being) declaring that any debate about Tolkien’s racism can be completely dismissed forever because 1. Letter to German publisher, and 2. Shallow criticism, etc.
This defense appears in a subscription publication, and I am not naming names at this point (although I cannot promise not to do so in future, depending on what happens).1 As the writer of the first bibliographic essay on “Race and Tolkien,” which is included in the bibliography below, I can say that the arguments this writer thinks will shut down the charge of racism have been made a number of times previously in the scholarship and have had little, if any effect, on those of us who are interested in a more complex question than “is Tolkien racist?”
The questions we are interested in are from a cultural studies perspective and involve the extent to which systemic (or unconscious, or aversive, or color-blind) racisms shape parts of Tolkien’s legendarium (as, arguably, do his anti-racist sentiments) as well as shaping his readership (including the white supremacists that Tolkien studies as an academic field has been trying to ignore for some time now).
Since hard-copy bibliographies are out of date by the time they are published, I decided to build on the sources that I analyzed in my bibliographic essay in a place where I can keep updating it, including sources by sociologists and medievalist of color who are developing their own anti-racist works (Tolkien studies is not limited to but is very much linked to medieval studies), and additional articles/commentary on the topic. As always, guest posts are welcome!
ETA: I am happy to get fan meta and periodical articles as well as scholarly sources. If you know of additional sources (especially online, and fan, sources—I do not get Tumblr at all, or Twitter), please let me know by emailing me or putting them in comments. If you find dead links, or see errors, please let me know to correct them!
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Scholarship on Racisms and “Tolkien”2
This section of the Ever-Expanding Bibliography focuses on secondary sources about various parts of Tolkien’s legendarium and/or the genre of fantasy, using critical theories about constructions of race; postcolonial or neo-colonial theories; antisemitism studies (follow link to see why I use this spelling); and more. There is no widespread agreement on all points.
Baker, Dallas John, "Writing Back to Tolkien: Gender, Sexuality, and Race in High Fantasy." Recovering History Through Fact and Fiction: Forgotten Lives, edited by Dallas John Baker, Donna Lee Brien, and Nike Sulway, Cambridge Scholars' Publishing, 2017, pp. 123-43. Sample PDF.
Battis, Jes. "Gazing Upon Sauron: Hobbits, Elves, and the Queering of the Postcolonial Optic." Modern Fiction Studies 50, no. 4, 2004, pp. 949-79.
Brackmann, Rebecca. "'Dwarves Are Not Heroes': Antisemitism and the Dwarves in J. R. R. Tolkien's Writing." Mythlore 109/110, 28, no. 3-4, 2010, pp. 85-106.
Cecire, Maria Sachiko Cecire. Re-enchanted: The Rise of Children’s Fantasy Literature in the Twentieth Century, U of Minnesota P, 2019.
Chance, Jane, ed. Tolkien the Medievalist. Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture, 3. Routledge, 2003.
Chance, Jane. "Tolkien and the Other: Race and Gender in the Middle Earth," in Chance and Siewers, pp. 171-86.
Chance, Jane, and Alfred K. Siewers, eds. Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages, The New Middle Ages (Nemia), Palgrave, 2005.
Chism, Christine. "Middle-earth, the Middle Ages, and the Aryan Nation," in Chance, 2003, pp. 63-92.
Chism, Christine. "Race and Ethnicity,” in Drout 2007, pp. 555-6.
---. "Racism, Charge of,” in Drout 2007, pp. 558.
Costabile, Giovanni. “‘No Englander May Hinder Me’: Éowyn the Highland Pipe Major and Other Highlights of Tolkien’s Awareness of Sexual, Class and Ethnic Divisions in Wartime.” “Something Has Gone Crack”: New Perspectives on J.R.R. Tolkien in the Great War, eds. Janet Brennan Croft and Annika Röttinger, Walking Tree, 2019, pp. 357–77.
Dawson, Deidre. “Language and Alterity in Tolkien and Lévinas,” in Tolkien and Alterity, eds. Christopher Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor, Palgrave, 2017, pp. 183–203.
Drout, Michael D. C. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge, 2007.
Drout, Michael D. C. and Hilary Wynne, "Tom Shippey's J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century and a Look back at Tolkien Criticism since 1982,'' Envoi 9, no. 2, Fall 2000, pp. 101-167.
Duarte Rufo, Allin. “A Constituição do Corpo Pela Alteridade Bakhtiniana: de O Silmarillion de J. R. R. Tolkien às Mulheres Negras Brasileiras (The constitution of the body by Bakhtinian alterity: from The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien to black Brazilian women).” Letrônica, vol. 14, (sup.), Dec. 2021, pp. 1–11. Link.
Echo-Hawk, Roger. Tolkien in Pawneeland, Create Space Publishing, 2013, Link.
Evans, Jonathan. "The Anthropology of Arda: Creation, Theology, and the Race of Men,” in Chance 2003, pp. 194-224.
Fimi, Dimitra. Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits, Palgrave, 2009.
Fimi, Dimitra. "Revisiting Race in Tolkien's Legendarium: Constructing Cultures and Ideologies in an Imaginary World," Politics of Contemporary Fantasy conference at the University of Wurzburg, Germany, 2012. Link.
Fimi, Dimitra. Review of "Tolkien, Race, and Racism in Middle-earth (2022) by Robert Stuart," Journal of Tolkien Research, vol. 15, iss. 1, article 3.
Firchow, Peter E. "The Politics of Fantasy: The Hobbit and Fascism." Midwest Quarterly, 50, no. 1, Autumn 2008, pp. 15-31.
Fuchs, Cynthia. "'Wicked, Tricksy, False': Race, Myth, and Gollum,” in Mathijs and Pomerance, pp. 249-65.
Gehl, Robert. "Something is Stirring in the East: Racial Identity, Confronting the 'Other,' and Miscegenation in Othello and The Lord of the Rings,” in Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language, ed. Janet Brennan Croft, McFarland, 2007, pp. 251–66.
Hoiem, Elizabeth Massa. "World Creation as Colonization: British Imperialism in 'Aldarion and Erendis.'" Tolkien Studies, 2 , 2005, pp. 75-92.
Jeffers, Chike, and David Miguel Gray. "Introduction to Charles Mills’s 'The Wretched Of Middle- Earth: An Orkish Manifesto.'" The Southern Journal of Philosophy. Sept. 7, 2022. Link.
Jemisin, N. K. "If Tolkien Were . . ." Epiphany 2.0 - N.K. Jemisin [Blog], Nov. 11, 2011. Link.
Kim, Sue. "Beyond Black and White: Race and Postmodernism in The Lord of the Rings Film,” in Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 50, no. 4, 2004, pp. 875-907.
Komornicka, Jolanta N. "The Ugly Elf: Orc Bodies, Perversion and Redemption in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings." The Body in Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on Middle-Earth Corporeality, edited by Christopher Vaccaro, McFarland, 2013, pp. 83-96.
Lavezzo, Kathy. "Whiteness, Medievalism, Immigration: Rethinking Tolkien Through Stuart Hall." postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, vol. 12, 2021, pp. 29–51. Link.
Luling, Virginia. "An Anthropologist in Middle-earth,” in Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, edited by Patricia Reynolds and Glen H. Goodknight, pp. 53–57. Milton Keynes: The Tolkien Society; Altadena: The Mythopoeic Press, 1995.
Martinez, Michael. "What is the Munby Letter?" Middle-earth Blog. Dec. 8, 2011. Link.
Martinez, Michael. "Why is Azog Called the White Orc?" Middle-earth Blog, Dec. 19, 2012. Link.
Mathijs, Ernest and Murray Pomerance, eds. From Hobbits to Hollywood: Essays on Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings," Contemporary Cinema, 3. Rodopi, 2006.
McFadden, Brian. "Fear of Difference, Fear of Death: The Sigelwara, Tolkien's Swertings, and Racial Difference,” in Chance and Siewers, pp. 155-169.
McLarty, Lianne. "Masculinity, Whiteness, and Social Class in The Lord of the Rings,” in Mathijs and Pomerance, pp. 173-88.
Miller, Laura. "If Tolkien Were Black." Salon. November 9, 2011. Link.
Mills, Charles W. "The Wretched of Middle-Earth: An Orkish Manifesto." The Southern Journal of Philosophy. Sept. 8, 2022. Link.
Neidorf, Leonard. “Beowulf as Pre-National Epic: Ethnocentrism in the Poem and Its Criticism.” ELH, vol. 85, no. 4, 2018, pp. 847–75. Link.
Nicklas, Pascal. "The Paradox of Racism in Tolkien." Inklings: Jahrbuch für Literatur und Ästhetik, 21, 2003, pp. 221-235.
Petzold, Dieter. "'Oo, Those Awful Orcs!': Tolkien's Villains as Protagonists in Recent Fantasy Novels." Inklings: Jahrbuch für Literatur und Ästhetik, vol. 28, 2010, pp. 6-95.
Pridmore, Julie. “Andy Duncan’s ‘Senator Bilbo’: Reflections on J. R. R. Tolkien and Matters of Race.” Scrutiny2, vol. 26, no. 1, Jan. 2021, pp. 60–75. Link.
Rearick, Anderson. "Why is the Only Good Orc a Dead Orc: The Dark Face of Racism Examined in Tolkien's World." Modern Fiction Studies 50, no. 4, 2004, pp. 861-874.
Redmond, Sean. "The Whiteness of the Ring,” in The Persistence of Whiteness: Race and Contemporary Hollywood, ed. Daniel Bernardi, Routledge, 2008, pp. 91-101.
Reid, Robin Anne. "J.R.R. Tolkien, Culture Warrior: The Alt-Right's Crusade against the Tolkien Society's 2021 Summer Seminar on "Tolkien and Diversity"," Journal of Tolkien Research, vol. 16, iss. 2, article 4, 2023, Link.
Reid, Robin Anne. "Making or Creating Orcs: How Thorinsmut's Free Orcs AU Writes Back to Tolkien," Journal of Tolkien Research, vol. 11, iss. 2 , article 3. Link.
Reid, Robin Anne. "Race in Tolkien Studies: A Bibliographic Essay.” in Tolkien and Alterity, eds. Christopher Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor. Palgrave, 2017, pp. 33-74.
Reid, Robin Anne. Review of J. R. R. Tolkien Special Issue Mfs: Modern Fiction Studies 50 no. 4. Tolkien Studies 3, 2006, pp. 178-182.
Reid, Robin Anne. "The Wild Unicorn Herd Check-in: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction Fandom." Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction, ed. Isiah Lavender III, UP Mississippi, 2014, pp. 225-240.
Rogers, Hope. "No Triumph without Loss: Problems of Intercultural Marriage in Tolkien's Works." Tolkien Studies 10, 2013, pp. 69-87.
Rosebury, Brian. "Race in Tolkien Film,” in Drout 2007, p. 557.
Sinex, Margaret. "'Monsterized Saracens,' Tolkien's Haradrim, and Other Medieval 'Fantasy Products.'" Tolkien Studies, 7, 2010, pp. 175-96.
Soloveichik, Meir. “The Secret Jews of The Hobbit.” Commentary, vol. 142, no. 2, Sept. 2016, pp. 62–66. Link.
Straubhaar, Sandra Baliff. "Myth, Late Roman History, and Multiculturalism in Tolkien's Middle-earth,” in Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader, ed. Jane Chance, UP of Kentucky, 2004, pp. 101-17.
Stuart, Robert. Tolkien, Race, and Racism in Middle-earth. Palgrave, 2022. Publisher’s Information.
Tally, Robert T., Jr. "Demonizing the Enemy, Literally: Tolkien, Orcs, and the Sense of the World Wars," War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy Issue, Humanities, vol. 8, no. 54, 2019. doi.org/10.3390/h8010054,
Tally, Robert T., Jr. "Let Us Now Praise Famous Orcs: Simple Humanity in Tolkien's Inhuman Creatures." Mythlore, vol. 29, no. 1, article 3, 2010. Link.
Tally, Robert T. Jr. Review of "Tolkien, Race, and Racism in Middle-earth by Robert Stuart," Mythlore, vol. 41, no. 1, 2022, article 16.
Tneh, David. "Orcs and Tolkien's Treatment of Evil." Mallorn, 52, 2011, pp. 37-43. Link.
Tneh, David. "The Human Image and the Interrelationship of the Orcs, Elves and Men." Mallorn, 55, 2014, pp. 35-39. Link.
Tolkien, J. R. R. "Letter 45 to Michael Tolkien." In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter, Houghton Mifflin, 2000, pp. 54-55.
Vink, Renée. "'Jewish' Dwarves: Tolkien and Anti-Semitic Stereotyping." Tolkien Studies, 10, 2013, pp. 123-45.
Vink, Renée. "The Lords of the West. Imperialism and Colonialism in Second Age Middle-earth" in Lembas Extra 2022: Númenor, eds. Jan van Breda and Renée Vink. Dutch Tolkien Society Unquendor, 2022. Link..
Vink, Renée. "Tal Elmar: Tolkien's Unrepresented Natives," in Not the Fellowship: Dragons Welcome, ed. Francesca Barbini, Luna Press 2022, pp. 106-121. Link.
Vogt-William, Christine. “Tolkien’s Green Man: The Racialised Cultural Other Within and Green Spaces in The Lord of the Rings.” Binding Them All: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on J. R. R. Tolkien and His Works, eds. Monika Kirner-Ludwig, Stephan Köser, and Sebastian Streitberger, Walking Tree, 2017, pp. 305–39.
Werber, Niels. "Geo- and Biopolitics of Middle-Earth: A German Reading of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings." New Literary History, 36, no. 2, 2005, pp. 227-46.
Whyte, Alastair. "Many a Tale of Dread: The Dystopian Interface of Totalitarianism and Colonial Imperialism in the Númenor Narratives of J.R.R. Tolkien," Journal of Language, Literature and Culture, 2020, 67, pp. 2-3, 83-96, DOI: 10.1080/20512856.2020.1849943.
Whyte, Alastair. "Spaces Beyond Borders: The Peripheries of Utopia." Philament, 2018, vol. 24, no. 1.
Wiemann, Dirk. "Tolkien's Baits: Agonism, Essentialism and the Visible in The Lord of the Rings," in Politics in Fantasy Media: Essays on Ideology and Gender in Fiction, Film, Television and Games, ed. Gerold Sedlmayer and Nicole Waller, McFarland 2014, pp. 685-749 (e-pub version). Link..
Warmbrunn, Christina. "Dear Tolkien Fans: Black People Exist." Public Medievalist. Sept. 24, 2020. Link.
Young, Helen. "Diversity and Difference: Cosmopolitanism and The Lord of the Rings." Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, vol. 21, no. 3, 2010, pp. 351-65.
Young, Helen. “Freedom to Discriminate.” Medievalism and Discrimination, ed. Karl Fugelso, Boydell & Brewer; D. S. Brewer, 2019, pp. 3–12.
Young, Helen. Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness. Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature. Routledge, 2016.
Young, Helen. "Racial Logics, Franchising, and Video Game Genres: The Lord of the Rings." Games and Culture, 10, no. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 1-22.
Young, Helen. Review of “The Body in Tolkien's Legendarium, (2013) ed. by Christopher Vaccaro.” Journal of Tolkien Research 1, no. 1, 2014.
Medievalists on Racisms (historical & contemporary)
Bartlett, Robert. "Medieval and Modern Concepts of Race and Ethnicity." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31, no. 1, 2001, pp. 39-56. Link to excerpt.
Elliott, Andrew B. R. Medievalism, Politics and Mass Media: Appropriating the Middle Ages in the Twenty-first Century. D. S. Brewer, 2017. Medievalism Vol. X. Review.
Fugelso, Karl, ed. Medievalism and Discrimination, Studies in Medievalism XXVIII: Boydell and Brewer, Link.
Hahn, Thomas. "The Difference the Middle Ages Makes: Color and Race before the Modern World." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31 no.1, Dec. 2001, pp.1-37. Link.
Heng, Geraldine. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge UP, 2018. Link.
Hsy, Jonathan, and Julie Orlemanski. "Race and Medieval studies: a Partial Bibliography." postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, vol. 8, 2017, pp. 500–531. Link.
Hsy, Jonathan. Antiracist Medievalisms: From “Yellow Peril” To Black Lives Matter." Arc Medievalist Series, Arc Humanities, 2021. Link.
In the Middle. A Medieval Studies Group Blog. Link.
Kaufman, Amy S., and Paul B. Sturtevant. The Devil's Historians: How Modern Extremists Abuse the Medieval Past. U of Toronto P, 2020. Authors’ Blog.
Kim, Dorothy. "Antifeminism, Whiteness, and Medieval Studies." In the Middle, Jan. 18, 2016. Link.
Kim, Dorothy. "The Politics of the Medieval Preracial."i Literature Compass, vol. 18, iss. 10, Special Issue: Race Before Race: Premodern Critical Race Studies, 2021. Link.
Kim, Dorothy. "Introduction to Literature Compass Special Cluster: Critical Race and the Middle Ages." Literature Compass, vol. 16, iss 9-10, Special Issue: Critical Race and the Middle Ages, 2019. Link.
Rambaran-Olm, Mary. "History Bites: Resources on the Problematic Term 'Anglo-Saxon' Part 1." Medium, Sept. 7, 2020.
Rambaran-Olm, Mary. "History Bites: Resources on the Problematic Term 'Anglo-Saxon,' Part 2." Medium, Sept. 7, 2020. Link.
Rambaran-Olm, Mary. "History Bites: Resources on the Problematic Term 'Anglo-Saxon,' Part 3." Medium, Sept. 7, 2020. Link.
Rambaran-Olm, Mary. "Sounds About White: Review of Matthew Gabriele & David M. Perry’s “The Bright Ages” (Harper Collins, 2021), Medium, April 27, 2022. Link.
Rambaran-Olm, Mary. "Not Qwhite Right: Part Two of 'Sounds About White.'" Medium, April 30, 2022. Link.
Rambaran-Olm, Mary, M. Breann Leake, and Micah James Goodrich. "Medieval Studies: The Stakes Of the Field," postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, vol. 11, 2020, pp. 356–370. Link.
Rambaran-Olm, and Erik Wade. "Recommended Readings for Early Medieval Studies." Medium, July 18, 2020. Link.
---, and Erik Wade. "What's in a Name? The Past and Present Racism in 'Anglo-Saxon' Studies." The Yearbook of English Studies, Modern Humanities Research Association, vol. 52, 2022, pp. 135-153, Link.
Ramey, Lynn T. Black Legacies: Race and the European Middle Ages. U P of Florida, 2014. Link.
Young, Helen. "How Can We Untangle White Supremacy from Medieval Studies? A Conversation with Australian Scholar Helen Young." David Perry. Pacific Standard. Oct 9, 2017. Link.
Whitaker, Cord. Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking. U of Pennsylvania Press, 2019. The Middle Ages Series. Review.
Wilson, Edmund. "Oo Those Awful Orcs!: A Review of The Fellowship of the Ring." The Nation, April 14, 1956. Link.
Multi-Disciplinary Critical Race Scholarship
Ahmed, Sara. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Duke UP: 2012. Link.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America, 6th ed. Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era. Lynne Riener: 2021. Link.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Various chapters and essays available in full-text through faculty page at Duke University.
Franson, Craig, and Dani Holtz. American ID. Podcast. Link.
Lentin, Alana. Racism & Anti-Racism in Europe. Pluto Press, 2014.
Lentin, Alana. “Revisiting the Racial Contract and white ignorance. Charles W. Mills in memoriam. alanalentin.net Sept. 24, 2001. Link.
Lentin, Alana. Why Race Still Matters. Polity Press, 2020.
Mills, Charles W. "Stuart Hall's Changing Representations of 'Race,’” Stuart Hall, Culture, Politics, Race and the Diaspora: The Thought of Stuart Hall, ed. Brian Meeks, Lawrence & Wishart, 2007.
Mills, Charles W. The Racial Contract. Cornell UP, 1997, 2022.
Neur, Lena. "Understanding Linguistic Discrimination: Consequences and Policy Responses." Policy Perspectives, Jan. 31, 2019. Link.
Spiller, Hortense J. "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book." African American Literary Theory: A Reader, edited by William Napier, New York UP, 2000. pp. 257-79.
Stern, Alexandra Minna. Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right is Warping the American Imagination. Beacon Press, 2019.
Thomas, Ebony Elizabeth. The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games. New York UP, 2019.
Posted: March 9, 2023
Updated: March 11, 2023: 3 sources added to “Scholarship on Racisms and ‘Tolkien’” and “Medievalists on Racisms (historical and contemporary)” section added
Updated: July 28, 2023: multiple sources added to “Racisms and Tolkien,” and to “Medievalists on Racisms,” and a new section, “Multi-Disciplinary Critical Race Scholarship” added.
Updated: September 28, 2023: sources added to “Medievalists on Racisms.”
Updated: October 11, 2023: sources added to all sections plus some minor corrections.
Updated: November 18, 2023: Source added to “Multi-Disciplinary Critical Race Scholarship,” and pin removed (replaced by a pinned post with a number of bibliographic resources listed on it).
Updated: November 25, 2023: Since I have posted more bibliographies (and hope to post even more!), I created a “Map to Tolkien Studies Bibliographies” that will be the Top Post here on my Substack and which will have links to all the bibliographies on WfI as well as to other bibliographic resources online.
Specifically, if this article prompts a racefail, which I define an attack against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and/or anti-racist white people who have pointed out examples of systemic racism in a group, organization, text, culture, etc. The concept of “racefail” comes from my first experience of a major racefail, specifically LiveJournal’s Racefail '09.
A note about my title choices: I use “racisms” rather than the word “race” because too often the assumption is made that “race” is something “natural” as opposed to the racist social construct that it is. I put “Tolkien” in quotation marks to foreground the extent to which the literary studies convention of using authors’ names as shorthand for their literary works tends to result in unresolvable debates over whether “Tolkien” (meaning the human being) is or is not racist as opposed to the question of the extent to which his legendarium reflects the systemic racisms of his life. I define “Tolkien studies” as scholarship (academic or fan) about his legendarium, about the numerous adaptations of his work (whether film, stage, musical, gaming, etc.), and about transformative creations by fans.