Chapter

White Harlem: Toward the Performative Limits of Blackness

in Harlemworld

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780226389981
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226390000 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226390000.003.0006
White Harlem: Toward the Performative Limits of Blackness

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This chapter argues that folk theories posit race as a kind of “achieved” characteristic, claiming that racial authenticity is often achieved through performances and practices—usually, although not exclusively, through class-marked performances and practices. Racial identity takes “work,” and is therefore also achieved or not achieved based on one's actions and how they are interpreted. Folk theories of race discover race in the doing, arrived at through specific actions and not only anchored in one's epidermis and morphology. This performative notion of race creates space for people to challenge arguments about which particular behaviors connect to which discrete races, potentially challenging all forms of “racial realism.” Folk notions of class difference posit its expression in the extra-occupational actions that make up people's everyday lives. Class significances are gleaned from more than just one's location in the economic sphere vis-a-vis production. Rather, class analyses continue to be fastened to careful interpretations of everyday behaviors, behaviors that are used for reframing class-based differences as glimpsed through particular on-the-ground practices in the everyday world.

Keywords: racial identity; racial realism; behaviors; economic sphere; class

Chapter.  13362 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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