chapter  3
Mixed race across time and place: Contrasting Australia with the UK
Pages 13

The issue of racial mixing has been debated in the academic literature and in the political domain for centuries. Over the vast majority of this period the arguments against racial mixing have been put forward by conservatives, who have argued that mixing of races and cultures is ‘unnatural’, ‘morally wrong’, damaging to the individuals concerned and undermining of society as a whole. Progressives have historically tended to argue that racial mixing is a natural part of the human condition and that it should be encouraged because it demonstrates a tolerance for diversity and racial harmony. However in the UK during the 1980s the debate changed, and for the first time it was progressives who were arguing against mixing and (relatively conservative) liberals who argued in favour of racial and cultural mixing. This new configuration has now become the dominant discourse although the debate is no longer as polarised as it was at that time, and some accommodation has taken place between the two viewpoints. Although the arguments on both sides of the debate tend to be made in

universalist terms (e.g. that racial mixing will always cause identity problems, or conversely racial mixing is a sign of good inter-communal relations and mental health), this chapter will show that in reality these debates are bound by both chronology and geography and that in different times and places even the basic terms ‘race’ and ‘mixing’ have different connotations and implications. The chapter will particularly draw on the situation in Australia to demonstrate the contingent nature of arguments about identity and its role in the wider discourse on race. A key aim of this chapter is to contribute to the question of how the wider social and historical context relates to the day-today experiences of individuals who are racially mixed, and the extent to which mixed-race people and inter-racial families can be seen as reflecting the broader society in which they are living.