Fluidity amidst structure: multi-racial identity constructions across the life course of Malaysians and Singaporeans

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science on 2018-10-09 03:37Z by Steven

Fluidity amidst structure: multi-racial identity constructions across the life course of Malaysians and Singaporeans

Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture
Published online: 2018-07-18
18 pages
DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2018.1499222

Geetha Reddy
Department of Sociology
University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands

Multi-racial identity construction is understood to be fluid, contextual and dynamic. Yet the dynamics of multi-racial identity construction when racial identities are ascribed and formulated as static by governments is less explored in psychological studies of race. This paper examines the dynamics of racial identity construction among multi-racial Malaysians and Singaporeans in a qualitative study of 31 semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used to identify the different private racial identity constructions of participants who were officially ascribed with single racial identities at birth. Participants reflected on the overwhelming influence of the state and significant Others in limiting their ability to express their multiple racial identities when they were in school, and highlighted their capacity to be agentic in their private racial identity constructions when they were older. This paper shows that across the life course multi-racial individuals possess (1) the ability to adopt different racial identity positions at different times, (2) the ability to hold multiple racial identity constructions at the same time when encounters with Others are dialogical, (3) the reflexivity of past identity positions in the present construction of identities.

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Critical ‘Mixed Race’?

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-07-07 01:07Z by Steven

Critical ‘Mixed Race’?

Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture
Volume 1, Issue 2, 1995
pages 381-395
DOI: 1080/13504630.1995.9959443

Lewis R. Gordon, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought and Director of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies
Temple University

An African-American couple found themselves taking their child, a baby of a few month’s age, to a physician for an ear infection. Since their regular physician was out, an attending physician took their care. Opening the baby girl’s files, he was caught by some vital information. The charts revealed a diagnosis of ‘H level’ alpha thalassemia, a genetic disease that is known to be among two per cent of Northeast Asian populations. He looked at the couple.

The father of the child, noticing the reticence and awkwardness of the physician, instantly spotted a behaviour that he had experienced on many occasions.

‘It’s from me’, he said, ‘She’s got the disease from me’.
‘Now, how could she get the disease from you?’, the physician let out.
‘My grandmother is Chinese’, the father explained.

The physician’s face suddenly shifted to an air of both surprise and relief. Then he made another remark, ‘Whew! I was about to say, ‘But — you’re black’.


Realizing his error, the physician continued. ‘I mean, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, I know Hispanics who are also Asians, so why not African Americans?’

Yeah. Why not?

The expression mixed-race has achieved some vogue in contemporary discussions of racial significations in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is significant that these three countries are marked by the dominance of an Anglo cultural standpoint. In other countries, particularly those marked by Spanish, Portuguese, and French influences, the question of racial mixture has enjoyed a great deal of specificity and simultaneous plurality. For the Anglos, however, the general matrix has been in terms of ‘whites’ and ‘all others’, the consequence of which has been the rigid binary of white and non-whites. It can easily be shown, however, that the specific designations in Latin and Latin-American countries are, for the most part, a dodge and that,…

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Facts of Blackness: Brazil is not Quite the United States… and Racial Politics in Brazil?

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2012-03-28 14:30Z by Steven

Facts of Blackness: Brazil is not Quite the United States… and Racial Politics in Brazil?

Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture
Volume 4, Issue 2, 1998
pages 201-234
DOI: 10.1080/13504639851807

Denise Ferreira Da Silva, Professor in Ethics
Queen Mary University of London

Studies of racial subordination in Brazil usually stress the puzzling co-existence of racial inequality with Brazil’s self-image as a ‘racial democracy’. Frequently, they identify the absence of racial conflict and a clear white-black distinction as explanations for the low level of black political mobilisation. In doing this, these studies (unreflectedly) take the United Sates as a universal model of racial subordination of which Brazilian difference is a mere variation. What seems to escape these analysts is that the Brazilian construction of race was set against the view that ‘racial differences’ identify distinct groups, a view which still prevails in the United States and in sociological constructions of race. Actually, an analysisof writings on Brazilian subjectivity suggests that the texts which write blackness do so by deploying various modern categories of ‘being’ (race, nation, gender, and class) both in the narratives—which have produced blacks as subordinate subjects in modernity and in the texts which aim to foster black emancipation.

October, 1995, After three years living in the United States, during which time I had followed the unfolding of three episodes which placed race at the centre of the political debate (the L.A. riots, O.J. Simpson’s trial and the Million Man March), I was very excited by the timing of my second trip back home. I would have the opportunity to participate in an event which seemed (finally) to place race at the centre of the political debate in Brazil: the 300th anniversary of the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, the last leader of the most lasting (one hundred year) community of runaway slaves in Brazil, Quilombo dos Palmares. Over the past 20 years, the black movement has chosen Zumbi as the symbol of a separate identity and has declared 20 November (the supposed date of his death) as the national day of black consciousness.

In 1995, however, Zumbi was at risk of being captured by the dominant racial discourse, as a national hero—as Palmares reconstructed by academics and politicians as an initial experience of racial democracy in Brazil. Throughout the year, city, state and federal administration promoted several events (conferences, parties, and political activities) to celebrate the third centennial of Zumbi’s death. Black movement organisations, on the other hand, seized the opportunity (once again) to denounce the ‘myth of racial democracy’ and the continuing subordination of blacks in Brazilian society. Excited about the…

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Interrogating the Hyphen-Nation: Canadian Multicultural Policy and ‘Mixed Race’ Identities

Posted in Articles, Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, Women on 2009-09-24 03:39Z by Steven

Interrogating the Hyphen-Nation: Canadian Multicultural Policy and ‘Mixed Race’ Identities

Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture
Volume 8, Number 1, 2002
pages 67-90

Minelle Mahtani, Associate Professor
Department of Geography & Planning
University Toronto

This paper examines the ways ‘mixed race’ women in Canada contemplate their relationship to national identity. Through qualitative, open-ended interviews, the research demonstrates how some women of ‘mixed race’ contest ideas of the nation as constituted through the policy of multiculturalism in Canada. To challenge the tropes of the national narrative, some women of ‘mixed race’ develop nuanced models of cultural citizenship, illustrating that national identities are formed and transformed in relation to representation. Refusing to be positioned outside the nation, they effectively produce their own meanings of identity by working through their own personally identifed ‘mixed race’ bodies to the national body politic, where some of them see their own bodies as intrinsically ‘multicultural’.  The paper ends by addressing the paradoxes of multiculturalism, emphasising through narratives that the policy produces hierarchical spaces against which some ‘mixed race’ women imaginatively negotiate, contest and challenge perceptions of their racialised and gendered selves.

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