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Fitting in: the embodied politics of race in Seattle's desegregated schools

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By considering the performative dimensions of racial identity construction, this paper joins recent calls to more fully incorporate the materiality of the body into geographical treatments of race (McKittrick 2000; Nash 2003; Saldanha 2006). Through an analysis of school desegregation in Seattle, Washington, this analysis investigates the ways in which students of different racial backgrounds negotiated the multiracial environments at their schools. Specifically, I examine how students' racial identities are worked through embodied practices as both conscious and unconscious attempts to fit into particular social realms. Drawing on performativity theory, I show how students actively mobilized their bodies to negotiate belongings that were ostensibly foreclosed by the primacy of phenotype. This paper suggests that by focusing on the active work that the body does in the social construction of race we can better theorize the ways in which racial categories are both reproduced and destabilized through everyday life.

Keywords: body; desegregation; performativity; race

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Political Science, College of Charleston,

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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