Interracial Identities: Racework as Boundary Work

Amy C. Steinbugler

in Beyond Loving

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199743551
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199979370 | DOI:
Interracial Identities: Racework as Boundary Work

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This chapter moves the focus from the internal dynamics of the relationship into the realm of identity. It introduces the fourth and final type of racework: boundary work. Boundary work helps individuals reshape the meanings of social identities, especially when these identities are subordinated. The chapter begins by examining the exclusionary and inclusionary boundary work that interracial partners use to separate themselves as individuals from particular interracial stereotypes. It then shifts the analysis to “couple identity” to explore how partners construct interracial intimacy more broadly. It explains how study participants frame the significance of race in their own relationships. Their perspectives range from colorblind to race-conscious, with an intermediate stance that incorporates elements of each. The last section of the chapter considers how sexuality affects interpretations of interracial intimacy. It discusses how heterosexuality functions as a symbolic resource for straight couples, allowing them to deflect stereotypes of deviance and to practice boundary work by blurring distinctions between themselves and same-race couples, whose relationships are generally regarded as positive, healthy, and legitimate. Lesbian and gay Black/White couples, on the other hand, experience sexuality not as a resource, but rather as an identity that intersects with interraciality in multiple, sometimes contradictory, ways.

Keywords: racework; boundary work; exclusionary boundary work; inclusionary boundary work; colorblind; race-conscious; interracial stereotypes

Chapter.  11856 words. 

Subjects: Race and Ethnicity

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