chapter  12
Situating mixed race politics
Pages 15

In 2001, the UK introduced the ‘Mixed’ category to the Census. This move came as a result of consultation with some user groups, and a recognition of the limits of the existing ‘monoracial’ or ‘monoethnic’ categories which had to that point left individuals who claimed some kind of multiple heritage with no option but to tick the box ‘Other’. The resulting data show the young age of this group, and indicate that it is one of the fastest growing ‘ethnic groups’ in the UK. The statistics have generated a great deal of attention within the national context. Interested parties include academics and activists, policy makers and practitioners working in fields such as social care, education, criminal justice and health provision to name but a few. Alongside academic interest in the theoretical and empirical particularities of mixedness and mixing, there have been numerous groups and individuals keen to put mixed race issues and experiences onto the UK’s racial map. While the US has for many years been debating the potentials and pitfalls of a ‘multiracial’ or ‘mixed race’ movement, the term ‘movement’ has not taken off in the UK.1

This chapter will briefly explore the developments of mixed race politics in the US and contrast these with the UK. It will ask what a ‘mixed race politics’ might be, what purpose might it serve, and who it might involve. Such questions inevitably invoke further questions about group and individual identities, modes of affiliation, collective and individual struggles for recognition, and rights to (self) representation. I argue that rather than beginning by assuming that there can and should be a singular form of mixed race politics, we need to be more concerned about the wider, situated politics of mixedness. The most important aspect to these politics should be an awareness of the ongoing problems of racialisation and cultural and ethnic absolutism which are contested within complex social relations of unequal and discriminatory differentiation in any given site. Although the chapter uses the US and UK as examples, it is arguing for a non-site specific set of principles that inform a contingent approach to mixed race politics as a reflexive process of engagement with these issues. Such an approach allows for transnational dialogues rather than the uncritical importation of extra-national thinking.