Using real-life examples, this book asks readers to reflect on how we—as an academic community—think and talk about race and racial identity in twenty-first century America. One of these examples, Rachel Doležal, provides a springboard for an examination of the state of our discourse around changeable racial identity and the potential for “transracialism.” An analysis of how we are theorizing transracial identity (as opposed to an argument for/against it), this study detects some omissions and problems that are becoming evident as (...) we establish transracial theory and suggests ways to further develop our thinking and avoid missteps. Intended for academics and thinkers familiar with conversations about identity and/or race, Rethinking Rachel Doležal and Transracial Theory helps shape the theorization of “transracialism” in its formative stages. -/- Part I: The Current State of (Trans)racial Discourse The first half begins with five puzzle cases, all based on specific historical figures. Each case poses the problem of someone not being readily “black” or “white” (or “mixed”). The chapter asks readers to think about their assumptions and how/why they might classify any of the puzzle cases racially. Then, with those assumptions and classification processes in mind, Part I outlines particular challenges we face—conceptually, linguistically, politically, and theoretically—as we try to adapt the messy practice of race in the U.S. to a new effort to theorize potential transracial identity. The concerns this half addresses include: how Doležal’s case might be understood alongside the identities of other racial nonconformists; what we think “black identity” consists of and how our language and concepts for race need to be clarified; whether ancestry and phenotype should continue to dominate our discourse; the relevance of political orientation and action to racial identity; and the implications of motive and intention for racial identity. Ultimately, Part I argues that we need to improve the way we are thinking and talking about transraciality in the Doležal era. -/- Part II: Pathways for Further Developing (Trans)racial Discourse Where Part I uses the case of Rachel Doležal and other real-life examples to critique the strains of our existing scholarly discourse on the topic of transraciality, Part II offers broader discussion about some of the ideas that are at play and/or need to be more adequately addressed going forward. Part II outlines some of the problems that I anticipate will trip up the discourse going forward and argues that there are particular ways we (as academics) might navigate them responsibly. My intention here is to identify and explore some of the areas we could strengthen or pay more attention to in an effort to help steer our critical exploration of transraciality in productive directions as the conversation progresses in the future. The concerns raised in Part II include: the linguistic and conceptual problems of “passing”; the very real dangers of conservatism dominating our theorization of transracial identity; the complexities of identity in terms of individual and collective identity and how the process of self-identification affects them; the sensitive and controversial issue of transgender theory (as it relates to transracial theory); and the neglected area of ideal/non-ideal philosophy. Ultimately, Part II argues that we need to avoid significant and harmful mistakes as we decide how to go about theorizing transracial identity and articulates responsible ways we can move forward. (shrink)
Cyborg and prosthetic technologies frame prominent posthumanist approaches to understanding the nature of race. But these frameworks struggle to accommodate the phenomena of racial passing and racial travel, and their posthumanist orientation blurs useful distinctions between racialized humans and their social contexts. We advocate, instead, a humanist approach to race, understanding racial hierarchy as an industrial technology. Our approach accommodates racial passing and travel. It integrates a wide array of research across disciplines. It also helpfully distinguishes among grounds of racialization (...) and conditions facilitating impacts of such racialization. (shrink)
This book explores the experiences and philosophical work product of mixed race philosophers, as well as possible links between the two. Some books address mixed-race identity, and some anthologies focus on mixed-race identity, but this is the first anthology on the philosophy of mixed-race, and the first anthology by mixed-race philosophers.
"Why are there 'transsexuals' but not 'transracials'?" "Why is there an accepted way to change sex, but not to change race?" I have repeatedly heard these questions from theorists puzzled by the phenomenon of transsexuality. Feminist thinkers, in particular, often seem taken aback that in the case of category switching the possibilities appear to be so different. Behind the question is sometimes an implicit concern: Does not the (hypothetical or real) example of individual “transracialism” seem politically troubling? And, if it (...) is, does not the case of transsexuality merit equivalent critique? Or, conversely, if one accepts transsexuals as people with legitimate demands (e.g., on medical resources or single-sex spaces), then would one not also be committed to accepting the putative transracial in analogous ways? Understanding the ontological constraints and possibilities with regard to transforming one’s identity is, I suggest, a project that should accompany ethical evaluation of those transformations. Under what circumstances is it (un)ethical to leave behind a gender or racial group with which one has once been affiliated? This question is, again, especially pressing for radical thinkers who endorse the claims that race and gender taxonomies are internally hierarchical and constituted through relations of oppression, domination, and normalization. Changing one’s identity under these circumstances will surely always be linked, however tenuously, to consideration of the larger political and cultural milieu in which such changes are advantageous or disadvantageous, complicit with oppressive norms and/or resistant to them. To illuminate these larger questions, in this paper, I first provide three examples of the analogy thesis in feminist thinking about race and sex change, each of which draws ethical conclusions about individual motivation, political strategy, or public policy, premised on the assumption that race and sex change are equivalent phenomena. None of these accounts consider the genealogy of each category as significant to contemporary possibilities. I next offer a descriptive analysis that highlights different norms at play in contemporary North American understandings: Sex–gender, I argue, is essentialized as a property of the individual’s body, while race is essentialized with reference to both the body and ancestry. This analysis, I conclude, shows politically significant disanalogies between the categories, and reveals the importance of genealogical accounts of race and sex in thinking ethically about changing ourselves. (shrink)
Among race theorists, the view that race is a social construction is widespread. While the term ‘ social construction’ is sometimes intended to mean merely that race does not constitute a robust, biological natural kind, it often labels the stronger position that race is real, but not a biological kind. For example, Charles Mills writes that, ‘‘the task of those working on race is to put race in quotes, ‘race’, while still insisting that nevertheless, it exists ’’. It is to (...) ‘‘make a plausible social ontology neither essentialist, innate, nor transhistorical, but real enough for all that’’. Racial constructionism, thus conceived, is a metaphysical position that contrasts both with the view that race is an important biological kind and with the more recent claim that race does not exist. The desire for a constructionist metaphysics of race emerges against the background of a cluster of normative disputes, including. (shrink)
According to Ron Mallon (2004), any adequate account of race must meet three constraints: passing, no-traveling, and reality. "Passing" describes the fact that persons who are treated by others as belonging to one race, may "actually" belong to a different race. "No traveling" refers to the fact that racial concepts such as "white" may pick out different sets of persons in different cultures. "Reality" refers to the fact that racial designations enter into explanations of how people's lives go. However, Mallon (...) argues that no account can simultaneously satisfy all three constraints. I argue that an account of race as an institutional fact, based on Searle's theory of constitutive rules, can satisfy all three constraints. Furthermore, the institutional account provides an enlightening explanation of these three features of race. (shrink)