The creation and intepretation of ‘mixed’ categories in Britain today

The creation and intepretation of ‘mixed’ categories in Britain today

darkmatter: in the ruins of imperial culture
ISSN 2041-3254
Post-Racial Imaginaries [9.1] (2012-07-02)

Miri Song, Professor of Sociology
University of Kent

The growth and recognition of ‘Mixed’ in Britain

It is difficult to imagine a society (such as Britain) in which ethnic and racial categories, and the powerful imagery and ideologies associated with notions of ethnic and racial difference, do not exist. The population of the UK is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, religion, and national identity. While not new, one major demographic development is the significant growth of ‘mixed race’ people in Britain.

Accompanying the growth in mixed relationships and people is the increased social and media attention they have received in recent years. For instance, mixed celebrities are impossible to avoid in various contemporary British (and other) media.Furthermore, the BBC has just shown a whole series of programs called ‘Mixed Britannia’, in which we learn, among other things, that being mixed was by no means a new phenomenon in the earlier parts of the 20th century, whether in Tiger Bay, or in the docks of Liverpool. Various analysts have argued that, in many parts of contemporary, metropolitan Britain, being mixed, and the everyday interactions between disparate groups, is absolutely ordinary.

This growth of mixed people has engendered the creation and institutionalization of new ethnic and racial categories by official bodies, such as the Office of National Statistics (ONS). For the first time, the growth in mixed people was officially recognized by the inclusion of ‘Mixed’ categories in the 2001 England and Wales census, in which about 677,000 people (or about 1.2% of the population) were identified as mixed…

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