Making Mixed Race: Time, Place and Identities in Birmingham

  • Karis Campion

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the identity-making practices of Mixed White and Black Caribbean people by drawing on qualitative interviews with 37 respondents aged between 20 and 56 years old. Much of the current literature on mixed race tends to focus upon individual socio-psychological accounts of mixed race identity. Whilst this thesis does borrow from this approach, it firmly situates individual accounts of mixedness in relation to the broader structural constraints and/or possibilities that continuously frame mixed race experiences. The thesis conceptualises structural contexts in terms of space and time, to unpack the external negotiations that are made by mixed race subjects in place and through different periods. The study takes place in Birmingham, a city that has long been regarded as a raced space. By analysing how the different spaces and layers of the city are utilised in identity making, the thesis contends that ethnicity is not the defining aspect of mixed race identities like is often assumed. It proposes that research on mixed race that treats place as a backdrop fails to recognise how it produces different scales of belonging for mixed race subjects and how place functions as a major point of reference for ethnic identifications. The thesis identifies and accounts for a historical gap in the narrative of mixed race in Britain, by moving away from the common present-tense conceptualisations of mixedness and charting the historical trajectories of mixed race identities throughout post-1945 Britain. By analysing mixed race through an historical lens it does the important work of dislodging it from the current celebratory moment and takes account of how Britain’s social histories and dominant systems of race thinking have consistently impacted upon generations of mixed race subjects. In the coming analysis the personal, individual aspects of mixed race identity and experience in relation to the family, peers and sexual partners are explored only once the structural questions regarding place and social generation are considered. I argue that the micro-politics of mixed race cannot be understood without first tracing the macro-politics which make mixed race as an identity, and as a social category, possible in the first place. The thesis contends that acknowledgment of the spatial and temporal aspects of mixed race identity by broadening the analysis away from the individual emphasises the dialectical nature of mixed race identity, which is critical to the project of theorising mixed race.
Date of Award31 Dec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorBridget Byrne (Supervisor) & Claire Alexander (Supervisor)

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