The Social Experience of Mixed Race [Book Review]

The Social Experience of Mixed Race [Book Review]

Jill Olumide. Raiding the Gene Pool: The Social Construction of Mixed Race. London: Pluto Press, 2002. xii + 212 pp., ISBN 978-0-7453-1764-9; ISBN 978-0-7453-1765-6.

H-Net Online
December 2002

Mohamed Adhikari, Lecturer of Historical Studies
University of Cape Town, South Africa

The author, a medical sociologist at the University of London, defines the “mixed race condition” as encompassing the “patterns and commonality of experience among those who obstruct whatever purpose race is being put to at a particular time” and describes mixed race as “the ideological enemy of pure race as a means of social stratification” (p. 2). The concept as used in this study includes not only people of mixed racial origin but also those who are perceived as mixing race as, for example, in the case of couples involved in inter-racial relationships or people adopting children of a different race.

This book explores the social experience of people who have been designated mixed race. It examines the operation of racialized boundaries and how they are promoted, sustained and constructed through changing ideologies of race and ideas of mixed race. It asserts that the mixed race condition has resulted in similar social experiences across time, place and social class and endeavors to explain why this is the case. As its definition of mixed race above illustrates, this is a strongly anti-racist tract and takes every opportunity of challenging the racial bases of social differentiation, especially the preferential treatment of people whether by officialdom or in the private domain. Olumide expresses dissatisfaction with the current state of mixed race studies and sets out to create “fresh knowledge” on the subject (p. 3). She complains that the term anti-racism “has become a very moth-eaten construct” and insists that for it to regain validity it “must endeavour to be anti-race. Nothing less will do” (emphasis in the original, p. 5). As this example indicates, the writing sometimes verges on the polemical in its anti-racial posture…

 Read the entire review here.