Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Re-Emerging, Re-Creating and Re-framing

Well Hello! I have been away since April 2010. In that time I turned 40, had a hysterectomy, lost a committee member, gained a committee member, applied for a career job, and have been dragging along this dissertation. I am sure I might have missed a few things in there somewhere. It was a neat experience to come back and read what I had written, and really like it. I came back for the purpose of cutting and pasting the work here into the final draft of my dissertation. I have decided to revive the blog instead. Thank you so much for your patience these last couple years. On ward we go...

I was working on one of my chapters for a conference presentation in October. I was presenting with faculty from the department, all faculty of color, and I had that familiar fear... All black faculty...this isn't going to fly. My fears were unrealized and there were even two classmates from my program there, who are often quite ferocious, that gave loving attention and feedback. I walked away from the experience feeling like a scholar! I also walked away feeling like my work is at a point where it has a shape of its own that is no longer reliant on my own identity. I also feel like I have stepped out of the defensive posture that I went into the dissertation with. The audience was deeply engaged and I was able to handle questions with ease. I really understood the questions this time and I was not startled or upset by the ones I didn't have full answers for.

Two questions stand out the most to me: first, from a woman who appeared to be in her 70's, "well if you are light you white, right?" (Wrong) and the second from a classmate which was something like "what IS mixed race? Aren't we all mixed race in some way or another" (Yes...but). The first question was easy to answer and just validated my own sense of myself as an academic. My response was "this is a contextual and generational understanding of mixed race as being tied to aesthetic and social location rather than identity and lived experience". My research focuses on the millenial generations understanding of race and there are significant differences between how they understand and engage race and identity politics compared to their parents and their grandparents. The second question was more helpful to what I am currently grappling with in my work. If we want to invoke biology, genetics and psuedo-scientific engagements of race then yes, we are all mixed race. But we have seen how this notion has played out, or not, with the "new found" information about genetic sameness between racial groups. Race remains a major performer in social heiarchy and identity formation. What is most important to my work is not this understanding of mixed race as a biological or genetic reality, rather the lived experience and identity formation of mixed race individuals and families that have particular characteristics that are shared with other individuals and families that identify as mixed race. My qualitative research suggests that these similarities occur regardless of which foundational mono-races a mixed race individual or family claim. Often, my research participants report that they "have more in common with her than I do my black cousins, and she's asian, but we experience the same things because we are mixed race."

Up until this conversation I had been talking about mixed race identity in my work as an emerging identity. What I realized was that, at best, mixed race is re-emerging; and that re-emergence is in discourse and political location mainly. What I am suggessting is that mixed race, espeically as a co-mediated socio-racial location, has existed as long as race has. Really, mixed race didn't come along "after" or "because of", it was there at the inception of the hierarchy that is race. There has always been us, them and the mix of the two. That said, what might be emerging, and perhaps better talked about as re-emerging, re-creating, or re-framing, is the political and politics of a mixed race identity. While mixed race people have always existed, I have been able to loosely track the emergence, suppression, and re-emergence of the naming of mixed race people as mixed race. I am trying to be careful to not locate mixed race people or identity as this new thing that I discovered. I don't want my work to be a tool that allows people to ignore the history of mixed race people and identity, and most importantly, families. The mixed race identity I am framing or re-framing, is from the millenial generation's lived experience of mixed race as a relational, familial, and intimate choices.

More soon....

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