Hybrid Border-Crossers? Towards a Radical Socialisation of ‘Mixed Race’

Hybrid Border-Crossers? Towards a Radical Socialisation of ‘Mixed Race’

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Volume 35, Issue 1 (January 2009)
pages 115 – 132
DOI: 10.1080/13691830802489275

Jin Haritaworn, Assistant Professor in Gender, Race and Environment at the Faculty of Environmental Studies
York University, Canada

The celebration of ‘mixed race’ as the model ‘transgressive’ (post-)identity obfuscates the ambivalence at the root of this construct.  Far from ‘abolishing’ race or throwing it into crisis, ‘mixed-race’ bodies and minds continue to be evaluated as disparate, unwholesome and non-belonging, and appear to invite dissective reading practices such as stares, intrusive questions and comments which are commonly treated as a ‘normal reaction to abnormal bodies’. In this article I examine semi-structured interviews with 22 people of Thai and non-Thai parentage in Britain and Germany.  Drawing on Fanon’s existential phenomenology, I theorise interviewees’ everyday confrontations with intrusive reading practices of their bodies, origins, loyalties and families.  The persistence of pathologising discourses and practices on ‘mixed race’ renders celebratory notions of ‘hybrid border-crossers’ problematic.  Rather than a pre-social property of particular bodies which trigger intrusive labelling attempts, ‘ambiguous phenotype’ is socially produced in biologistic race discourses and violent reading practices. ‘Mixed race’ should be more aptly theorised as a dissective racialising technology which mobilises essentialised forms of knowledge and entitles some to gaze at and define others.   It is constituted in power relations which are socially produced and, hence, also open to contestation and change.

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