Racism and Anti-Racism in Families: Insights from Performativity Theory

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sociology Compass, 2015, 9 (6), pp. 487 - 498
Issue Date:
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© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Possibilities for anti-racism within the spaces of family life have not yet been contemplated in any depth in the extant anti-racism literature. To address this, the first section of this paper demonstrates that families are a potentially critical site for anti-racism, reviewing a large body of evidence demonstrating the key role families play in socialisation processes and in the development of racial attitudes. I also look at what can be gleaned from the literature on interethnic intimacy. The second section turns to the possibilities for anti-racism within families, suggesting that too little is known about how members of families negotiate instances of racism, or the strategies used to restage or subvert racist discourses and practices within the family. The potential for anti-racist performances to challenge expressions of racism in families has largely been overlooked in the international literature. I argue that the framework of performativity has utility for analysing responses to racism in families. Performativity theories conceptualise individual acts/utterances of racism and anti-racism as enacting broader cultural values and structures. Viewing racism in families through theories of performativity directs us to consider how racist speech can be disrupted or strategically rejected and, hence, identify possibilities for anti-racism.
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