Sunday, October 26, 2008

Visual Hybridity

Apparently not everyone gets or agrees with the social construction of race. There are still people who are shocked when they find out that there's no biological basis for our racial categories whatsoever. These interesting photographs illustrate how we construct the race of people of blended heritage. All via Sociological Images.

First, the image on the right is of little Barack Obama with his grandfather (Stanley Dunham) who looks remarkably like the picture on the left of the adult Obama (although the picture looks slightly stretched to me).
Obama, to my eye, is the spitting image of his grandfather. Yet, we see Obama and Dunham as separate races, members of two categories we see as diametrically opposed, even biologically distinct. <rest>

Then this photo project makes us question how we assign racial or ethnic categories by providing faces that are difficult to categorize.
This project consists of a series of 16 color portraits of people of mixed ethnic origin in front of primary color backgrounds. The images challenge the concept of race by highlighting the disparity between the stark natural boundaries between the primary colors, and the ambiguous and artificial, yet commonly accepted boundaries between the different races. This project asks the viewer to question the existence of race in nature.

The aim of the portraits is to strip our idea of race down to its elements. It is in this nakedness that the viewer watches the races literally dissolve in front of their face like so many moth-eaten clothes. The tone is neither confrontational nor ironic, but rather unassuming in its directness

Finally, this story of fraternal twins - one "white" and one "black". Well, actually both are of mixed race, as are their parents. Over at SI, she uses this example "to illustrate how skin color (which is real) is translated into categorical racial categories (which are not)."


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

this one has been around for a while:

that's why canadian indigenous people refer to ourselves as 'first nations' has nothing to do with race , we are all one blood....we just happended to be here first.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Really interesting post. Love the photos of the President and his grandfather!

Your comments about racism reminded me of an article I read in graduate school. It detailed an experiment called "blue eyes, brown eyes." Perhaps you've heard of it. There's a thought-provoking piece at that discusses one woman's view of an attempt to replicate the experiment which had mixed results.