Not Passing — Shapeshifting: Reflections on Racial Plasticity
Wednesday 20 July 2016 4:15–5:30pm
School of History Seminar Series
Speaker: Paul Spickard, University of California, Santa Barbara
McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU
The Aylmer Twins.
We are accustomed to thinking of identities — racial, ethnic, national, gendered, religious — as if they were permanent, essential, unalterable features of individuals and groups. A is Black, B is Jewish, C is Chinese, and so are all of the members of their respective families and kin groups. Over the last couple of decades, however, we have begun to see such identities as at least sometimes fluid, ambiguous, contingent, multiple, and malleable. The people whose lives are the subject of this paper are shape shifters. At different times in their lives, or over generations in their families, as they have moved from one social context to another, or as new social contexts have been imposed on them, their identities have changed from one group to another. This is not racial, ethnic, or religious imposture. It is simply the way that people's lives have unfolded in fluid social circumstances. This paper draws on historical, literary, and interview research into the social, psychological, and political situations of people whose racial identities shifted over the course of their lives.
Paul Spickard is Professor of History, Black Studies, and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is author or editor of nineteen books and seventy-odd articles on race, migration, and related topics in the United States, the Pacific, Northeast Asia, and Europe, and winner of the Loving Prize from the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and many other awards. Among his recent books are Multiple Identities: Migrants, Ethnicity, and Membership (2013), Global Mixed Race (2014), Race in Mind: Critical Essays (2015), and Red and Yellow, Black and Brown: Decentering Whiteness in Mixed Race Studies (in press). His current projects are Growing Up Ethnic in Germany and Shape Shifters: Journeys across Terrains of Race and Identity.