“What is In My Blood?”: Contemporary Black Scottishness and the Work of Jackie Kay [Book Chapter]

Posted in Books, Chapter, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2010-09-03 04:35Z by Steven

“What is In My Blood?”: Contemporary Black Scottishness and the Work of Jackie Kay [Book Chapter]

Literature and Racial Ambiguity
Rodopi B.V.
328 pages
ISBN-10: 9042014180
ISBN-13: 978-9042014183
pp. 1-25(25)

edited by Teresa Hubal and Neil Brooks

Peter Clandfield, Assistant Professor of English Studies
Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada

The work of the Scottish writer Jackie Kay (b. 1961) not only refutes simplistic definitions of race and racial attributes, but also challenges utopian idea(l)s about racial and cultural hybridity as a condition that, in itself, resolves problems arising from racial differences—that is, from dissimilarities, conflicts, and things in between. In her 1985 poem “So you think I’m a mule?,” Kay, who is of mixed black-white (African-British) biological parentage, voices what sounds like an unequivocal rejection of white attempts to theorise about people of obviously complex racial ancestry:

If you Dare mutter mulatto
hover around hybrid
hobble on half-caste
and intellectualize on the
“Mixed race problem”,
I have to tell you:
take your beady eyes offa my skin;
don’t concern yourself with
the  “dialectics of mixtures”;
don’t pull that strange blood crap
on me Great White Mother.
Say I’m no mating of a she-ass and a stallion
no half of this and half of that
to put it plainly purely
I am black (lines 29-43)

This 66-line poem is given in full as an epigraph to Heidi Safia Mirza’s Introduction to Black British Feminism: A Reader (Routledge, 1997), where it serves as a strong statement about the determination of black British women to set their own agendas. In the context of Kay’s own evolving career, though, the poem’s significance is much more ambiguous. While its speaker states emphatically that she is black and is “not mixed up” (line 50) about race, mixedrace voices in Kay’s more recent works are less certain. Without being “mixed up” in the sense of being confused or incoherent, these works delineate complex emergent forms of racial and cultural identity that undermine fixed concepts not only of Britishness, blackness, or black Britishness but also of hybridity itself…

Read the entire chapter here.

Tags: , ,