Metisse Narratives

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2009-09-24 03:14Z by Steven

Metisse Narratives

Soundings: A journal of politics and culture
Issue 5, Spring 1997

Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe, Visiting Associate Professor of African and African American Studies
Duke University

Jayne Ifekwunigwe discusses the testimonies of women of ‘mixed race’ parentage in the English-African diaspora.

Rather than representing a portrait of metisse (‘mixed race’) girls as unruly, at age six Sandra and Aneya have exposed the major problematic of ‘race’.  Their discussion highlights the cultural paradoxes of ‘race’ and colour which multiple generations of women, men and children in England silently negotiate in their everyday lives.  These individuals descend from lineages which cut across so-called different ‘black and white’ ‘races’, ethnicities, cultures, and classes. Their roots are both endogenous and exogenous.

In varied cultural and historical contexts, countless terms are employed to name such individuals – mixed ‘race’, mixed heritage, mixed parentage, mestizo, mestiza, mulatto, mulatta, Creole, coloured, mixed racial descent, etc. I deploy the terms metisse (f), metis (m), metissage which more appropriately describe generations of individuals who by virtue of birth and lineage do not fit neatly into preordained sociological and anthropological categories.  In England, at the moment, there are a multitude of terms in circulation which describe individuals who straddle racial borders.  More often than not, received terminology either privileges presumed ‘racial’ differences (‘mixed race’) or obscures the complex ways in which being metis (se) involves both the negotiation of constructed ‘black’/’white’ racial categories and the celebration of converging cultures, continuities of generations and over-lapping historical traditions.  The lack of consensus as to which term to use, as well as the limitations of this discursive privileging of ‘race’ at the expense of generational, ethnic, and cultural concerns, led me to metis(se) and metissage…

…Gettin’ into me late teens, I didn’t think much about meself because of all these conflicts that were startin’ to come up from the past. Also new ones that were comin’ in from other communities – black communities – that were really shockin’ me. I mean there were times when I wouldn’t show me legs. I’d go through the summer wearing tights and socks. Cause I thought they were too light and too white-lookin’. There was a lot of pressure. I remember one day I was leanin’ up somewhere and this guy said to me, ‘Boy, aren’t your legs white.’ I just looked in horror, and felt really sick and wanted to just run away. I was thinkin’, God why didn’t you make me a bit darker? Why did you make me so light? It took me years to reconcile that…

Read the entire article here.

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Posted in Definitions on 2009-08-21 16:42Z by Steven

From Wikipedia: A métis is a person born to parents who belong to different groups defined by visible physical differences, regarded as racial, or the descendant of such persons. The term is of French origin, and also is a cognate of mestizo in Spanish, mestiço in Portuguese, and mestee in English.  In the Western Hemisphere, this term usually is used to describe someone born or descended from the union of a European and an Amerindian.  However, the term was used by other groups around the world, mostly in countries which were under French influence, such as Vietnam. It is still commonly used by Francophones today for any multiracial person…

Comments by Steven F. Riley:

Scholar Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe, had used the term métis and/or métisse instead of ‘mixed-race’ in her early works as a way of focusing away from ‘race’ as a form of identity.  Her desire was to create a common non-racist, non-sexist term that ‘mixed-race’ individuals could claim as one of their own.  But later she states in Mixed Race Studes: A Reader

“…Using a French-African term in an English context, even if simply for discursive analyses, could be percieved as potentially exoticizing and further marginalizing ‘mixed-race’ subjectivities…”

She goes on to state…

“…Furthermore, one could argue that partially deflecting the attention away from what I call the popular folk concept of ‘race’ to other forms of identification and stratification diminishes the significant and potent function institutionalized racism plays in the maintenance of privilege and power for some and disadvantage and discrimination for others.  Finally, in attempting to construct a new lexicon, I am perpetuating a fictional history which ignores the ways in which the social processes of ‘racial’ mixing are themselves old.”

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