Introduction: Haunted Origins
DOI link for Introduction: Haunted Origins
Introduction: Haunted Origins book
As I write this book on people of part-Thai parentage in Britain and Germany, the subject of mixing is having a comeback. After Channel 4’s Is it Better to be Mixed Race? science documentary in 2009, the BBC followed suit in 2011 with a ‘mixed race season’. At its heart was the three-part Mixed Britannia, whose ‘week by week, interview by interview’ methodology uncannily mirrored my own, even if we came to rather different conclusions. The ‘mixed race’ debate had reached its first peak a decade earlier, in the early 2000s, just after I began research for this book. The first UK Census to include a ‘Mixed’ box coincided with the ‘war on terror’ and the ‘crisis in multiculturalism’, a conjuncture that provided fertile ground for a wave of highly ambivalent but celebratory representations. Now, in the wake of this devastating decade, hyper-racism and celebratory claims that we live in a post-racial society which, in the words of Mixed Britannia presenter George Alagiah, we can be ‘proud of’, coexist with little contradiction. If multiculturalism has been declared dead many times, some of its privileged symbols nevertheless survive and have experienced a strange revitalization. The Biopolitics of Mixing is about one such symbol and figure. What I call the multiracialized subject has been appointed an ideal candidate to usher in the post-race future, simply by virtue of hir ‘mixed’ parentage.1 The book is about lives that are promised inclusion under this symbol even if they are rarely able to claim straightforward identity with it. In the interviews that I did with twenty-two people of Thai and non-Thai parentage in Britain and Germany between 2000 and 2003, celebratory figures such as the beautiful Eurasian, the love that knows no colour, the multikulti Berliner or mixedrace Londoner, and the genetically enriched, especially ‘healthy, beautiful and
intelligent’ hybrid competed against pathologizing ones such as the marginal man, the Thai prostitute, the maladjusted youth and other figures of degeneracy. Through a broad archive of texts, including interviews, popular culture, race-based science, statistics on the ‘integration’ of racialized populations in Britain and Germany, and activist and policy debates on racism, multiculturalism and ‘mixed’ recognition, I trace a context where the realms of value and pathology, social life and social death are radically reshuffled.