Irish and white-ish mixed “race” identity and the scopic regime of whiteness

Posted in Articles, Europe, Media Archive, Philosophy, Social Science on 2013-10-18 01:02Z by Steven

Irish and white-ish mixed “race” identity and the scopic regime of whiteness

Women’s Studies International Forum
Volume 27, Issue 4, October–November 2004
pages 385-396
DOI: 10.1016/j.wsif.2004.10.007

Angeline D. Morrison
Falmouth College of Arts, Falmouth, Cornwall, United Kingdom

When speaking about the paradoxical “invisibility” of whiteness, I am referring in particular to Richard Dyer’s project to “make whiteness strange”, to hold it up for inspection and to question the tacit association of whiteness with unquestioned normality with the human condition Dyer points out that the unspoken understanding that whiteness is not a “raced” condition has very specific implications for the balance of power. “There is no more powerful position than being ‘just’ human. The claim of power is the claim to speak for the commodity of humanity. Raced people can’t do that—they can only speak for their race. But non-raced people can, for they do not represent the interests of a race” (Dyer, 1997, p. 2). Like blackness, whiteness is not reducible to a matter of simple visual appearance. However, when historical and political circumstances allow the conflation of the so-called “ideals” of whiteness–Enlightenment ideals such as literacy, civilisation, artistic creativity, scientific excellence, power, dignity, assumed superiority and so on—with a particular “race” or skin color (here, “white”), things start getting dangerous. The visual becomes vital, and the optical surface of the “raced” subject is imbued with I hyper-significance that can be very uncomfortable to wear. When this subject is of mixed “race” and thus occupies a range of different possible positions within, without, around and between the binary categories, difficulties can arise.

I use the term “mixed race” mindfully, aware that the term is contested by some, while others warn against its reference to die unscientific non-sense of “race” (Gilroy, 2000). Therefore, for the purposes of this article only, I want to define “mixed race” people as the offspring of one white and one non-white parent. If racialized society relies on the false foundational Logocentric binary “black white”, then it follows that it will taxonomize its subjects accordingly. Sander H. Gilman points out that, “. . .in this view of mankind, the black occupied the antithetical position to the white on the scale of humanity.” (Gilman, 1985, p. 231).

Concentrating on the visual, this article intends to use the figure of the mixed “race” subject to investigate the particular scopic regime of whiteness. I wish to consider some of the things that the dominant scopic regime accords visibility to, and some of those it does not. Clearly, what ends up being seen and the various interpretations the afforded depend largely on cultural registers, power relations, and epistemologies that continually shift the white phenotype of Irish people, for example, was all but “invisible” to the white scopic regime of the 19th Century Britain. The racist caricaturing of the Irish that is now so well documented…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Irish and ‘brown’ – Mixed ‘race’ Irish women’s identity and the problem of belonging

Posted in Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Women on 2011-12-28 02:29Z by Steven

Irish and ‘brown’ – Mixed ‘race’ Irish women’s identity and the problem of belonging

Women’s Movement: Migrant Women Transforming Ireland
Selection of papers from a conference held in
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
2003-03-20 through 2003-03-21
pages 86-90

Angeline Morrison
Falmouth College of Arts

People are beginning to talk about the ‘invisibility’ of Whiteness. I am referring in particular to Richard Dyer’s project to ‘make Whiteness strange’, to hold it up for inspection and to question the tacit association of ‘Whiteness’ with ‘the human condition’ (Dyer 1997) I want to talk about another kind of Whiteness that has almost total invisibility—this is the Whiteness of the Mixed Race subject. I use the term ‘Mixed Race’ mindfully, aware that the term is contested and that some find its reference to the unscientific non-sense of ‘Race’ offensive (Harker 2000). For now, I want to define ‘Mixed Race’ people as the offspring of one White and one non-White parent. Such people have, inscribed on their bodies, evidence of migration somewhere along the line. Such people have, also, traditionally had problems at the tricky task of belonging. Although visually combining a phenotypic mixture of both White and Black features, the Mixed Race subject in a White, racialised society has, overwhelmingly, tended to be read by that society as, simply, ‘Black’. I am interested in also considering the Whiteness of the Mixed Race subject, particularly since this is something that both Black and White racialised societies alike – and by ‘racialised’ I mean operating according to what Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe has referred to as the ‘popular folk concept’ of ‘race’–have tended to deny. (Ifekwunigwe 2001:42).

So, the Mixed Race subject as I define her here, inhabits Blackness and Whiteness equally–but in a racialised society, she inhabits Whiteness invisibly. Her whiteness is like a deep stratum; present and felt, but rendered invisible by society. Whilst scholars have written about the cultural or behavioural Whiteness of Mixed Race subjects, I am so far unaware of any work that specifically foregrounds or makes visible the actual, lived, and (usually) ignored Whiteness that the brown-skinned subject of Mixed Race may claim as a birthright, should she so desire…

Read the paper here.

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Liminal blankness: Mixing Race and Space in Monochrome’s Psychic Surface

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-10-26 03:04Z by Steven

Liminal blankness: Mixing Race and Space in Monochrome’s Psychic Surface

University of Plymouth, Devon, England
320 pages

Angeline Dawn Morrison

A thesis submitted to the University of Plymouth In partial fulfilment for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Research Department Falmouth College of Arts

Blank space in western Art History and visual culture is something that has tended to be either explained away, or ignored. Pictures that do not depict challenge the visual basis of the ego and its others, confronting what I call the ‘Phallic reader’ (who sees according to the logic and rules of the Phallogocentric system he inhabits) and potentially disturbing his sense of the visible. The Phallic reader, the visible and the seeing ego’s sense of how to see, meet in what I call the ‘psychic surface’. Deploying this notion of a ‘psychic surface’ allows for readings which move on from the potentially confining logic of the Phallus. Paradoxically, the psychic structure of monochrome’s liminal blankness is homologous to the indeterminate Mixed Race subject, whose body transgresses not only the foundational historical binarism of `Black/White’, but also Lacanian psychoanalysis. This thesis aims to concentrate on exploring blank spaces, with particular reference to the monochrome within western Art History. Building on the considerable work since at least the 1960s that critiques the binary logocentrism of Eurocentric, Hegelian-originated Art History, this thesis aims to explore the specific ways monochrome evades, undermines and tricks commonly accepted ‘groundrules’ of Art History. The Phallic reader is severely restricted in understanding that which falls outside of the signifying logic of a particular system of Art History that follows a binary, teleological and Phallogocentric course. Both monochrome and the Mixed Race subject fall outside of this logic, as both contain the structure of the trick. In each case, the trick is activated in the tension between the psychic and the opticalsurfaces. I suggest that monochrome’s psychic space is pre-Phallic, a space of eternal deferral of meaning, a space that playfully makes a nonsense of binary structures. Psychoanalysis is largely used here as an analytic tool, but also appears as an object of critique. Art History provides an anchor for the optical surfaces under discussion. Theories of `radical superficiality’ both contradict and complement these ways of theorising the psychic surface. The trick/ster is a significant/signifiant means of deploying interdisciplinary methodologies to negotiate this difficult terrain between Black, White and monochrome. An interdisciplinary approach also enacts the psychic structure of indeterminacy of my objects of study. I hope that by proposing a potential transgressive power for those indeterminate things that continue to confound the binary systems that aim to contextualise and confine them, I will contribute to the areas of Visual Culture and ‘Race’ Theory.


    • 1:0 Introduction
    • 1:1 The Square, The Rectangle and the Nemesis of Mimesis
    • 1:2 French Connections: Blank Satire vs. Blank Virtuosity
    • 1:3 Monochrome: Art or Object?
    • 1:4 The Monochrome World of Yves Klein
    • 1:5 The Monochrome Sublime: Barnett Newman
    • 1:6 Conclusion
    • 2:0 Introduction: The White Eye of Photography
    • 2:1 The Deathlike in Photography
    • 2:2 Hiroshi Sugimoto & the Returns of Blankness
    • 2:3 John Hilliard & the Specular Monochrome
    • 2:4 The Interstitial Auditory
    • 2:5 Derek Jarman’s Blue: Fantasy of the Maternal Voice?
    • 2:6 Conclusion: Mixed Mediation
    • 3:0 Introduction
    • 3:1 One: Two: Many
    • 3:2 When is a Signifier Not a Signifier? (When It’s a Monkey)
    • 3:3 Diluted Nigger or Dirty Nigger? The ‘Choice’ is Never Yours
    • 3:4 Neither Fish Not Fowl: Indeterminacy & (Ill)legibility
    • 3:5 ‘The New Colored People’
    • 3:6 Conclusion
    • 4:0 Introduction
    • 4:1 Silence, Castrated & Castrating
    • 4:2 Other Kinds of Silence
    • 4:3 Generative Blankness & Deathly Silence
    • 4:4 Kristeva’s Black Sun: Monochrome as Narcissistic Mirror
    • 4:5 Returns of the Repressed
    • 4:6 Conclusion: Mourning the Lost Object of An History?
  • Chapter Five: CONCLUSION?

Read the entire dissertation here.

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