Impure at the origins: The role of mixed-race bodies in colonization, slavery, and racial demarcation

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Critical Philosophy of Race


Although race mixing is often treated as a marginal matter or a transgression against dominant racial logic, this article argues that mixed-race bodies and interracial sexuality are central to the invention of whiteness and the origin of the white settler state in several ways. Race mixing is at the foundation of the modern conception of race; at the material and political origin of the white settler state; and serves as the grounding against which cultural and legal categories of race are articulated. The conceptual history of race looks to mixed-race bodies as the means to define race and delimit races. The colonization and economic success of the white settler state in the United States depended on mixed-race individuals who served as emissaries and interpreters, while interracial sexuality was central to the economy of slavery. Dominant conceptions of whiteness, and of the identity of the white settler state, rely on the scrutiny of mixed bodies as a means of racial demarcation. Mixed race histories and subjects are of central interest to studies of the invention of whiteness and processes of racialization.

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