Jackie Kay: a poetic imagining of post-racial (be)longing

Jackie Kay: a poetic imagining of post-racial (be)longing

darkmatter: in the ruins of imperial culture
ISSN: 2041-3254
Post-Racial Imaginaries [9.2] (2012-11-29)

Katy Massey

Jackie Kay is a prolific and well-loved writer who, though she has written in many forms, is best-known for her poetry. A mixed-race Scot who lives in the north of England, her work frequently utilises the facts of her own life as a means to ponder wider issues of identity, loss and sexual desire. Her approach challenges some of the key categories of social identification such as race, culture and belonging. Her work also spotlights some of the most cherished concepts of post-colonialism, most notably hybridity, plurality and the condition of the ‘in-between’.

In this article I suggest that, as Kay’s work explores the process of racial mixing, a ‘mixed’ reading is required in order to fully expose the subtleties within it. Such a reading is innovative in that it exposes two previously unarticulated ideas. First, the idea that mixedness can form a site of creative production as it is a condition which demands new identifications are continually brought into being. Second, that this process serves as a site of political resistance because it has a destabilising influence on fixed notions of ‘race’ and the operation of racialised thinking. It is exactly such a reading of Kay’s first autobiographical collection, The Adoption Papers, that this article attempts.

In suggesting the existence of a politically-resistant ‘mixed’ perspective, this article utilises ideas around racial mixing which have been developed in the field of in social science and cultural studies but have rarely been applied in literary criticism. For example, in the title of her book Mixed-race, Post-race: Gender, New Ethnicities and Cultural Practices Suki Ali boldly positions the state of mixedness as ‘post-race’. By positioning ‘mixed’ status as sitting outside fixed racial identifiers, and in this sense ‘post’ or beyond established discourses around race, she opens a space for thinking about ‘race’ which leaves room for uncertainty, for a ‘betweeness’ which remains undefined because perpetually in a state of re-creation…

Read the entire article here.

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