Branding Blasians: Mixed Race Black/Asian Americans in the Celebrity Industrial Complex

Branding Blasians: Mixed Race Black/Asian Americans in the Celebrity Industrial Complex

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
May 2012
235 pages

Myra Washington, Assistant Professor of Communication & Journalism
University of New Mexico

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Communications in the Graduate College of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Contemporary multiracial discourses rely on two overarching frames of mixed-race: mixed-race as uniquely new phenomenon and mixed race as resistant to dominant paradigms of race and racism. Both have been necessary for multiracial activists and the mixed race movement, and have served as the foundation for much of the current research in mixed race studies. This dissertation posits that a third frame exists, one that neither sees mixed-race as new or unique, nor as a racial salve to move the United States past the problem of the color line. This third paradigm is pluralistic, fluid in its ambiguity, and allows for the potential of ambivalence and contradictions within mixed-race.

This paradigmatic shifting view of race rearticulates what it means to be Black, Asian, Other, and results in the creation of multiracial/other subjectivities which can become a formidable obstacle to the racial order of the United States. Importantly, this dissertation argues Blasians trouble the logic of existing U.S. racial classifications, without establishing their own. Blasians (mixed-race Black and Asian people) are challenging the hegemony of race constructed around the lives of not just Blacks and Asians, but all members of U.S. society, as we are all embroiled in the illogical (and contradictory) discourses framing our identities.

I do not offer Blasians as a racial salve, as resistant to or prescription for either race or racism through virtue of their mixed-race bodies. Instead, I have used this dissertation to describe the emergence of Blasians, not to add to the research that divides monoracials from multiracials, but to muddle the lines between them. The analyses of these celebrities acknowledge that to understand what is a Blasian, means to first understand, and then complicate, hegemonic notions of race as it applies to both Blacks and Asians. Contextualized against those dominant discourses, Blasians explode the narrow boundaries of authenticity around racialized categories. Blasians, as I discuss them in this dissertation do not escape race, or erase race, but they do force the reconstruction of normative instantiations of identity.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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