Abstract

This article is motivated by a concern about the increasing embrace of apolitical and ahistorical notions of racial “mixedness” and “impurity.” It draws on recent examples from the United States and South Africa in order to direct attention to the difficulties of identifying logics that, on the face of it, seem to evade conventional claims of racism, but nevertheless, as it will argue, rely on racist notions that must be challenged. These include examples in the United States and South Africa of individuals self-identifying as a stand-alone mixed race category (and furthermore espousing this as a “pure” category of belonging) as well as white Afrikaners in South Africa uncritically appropriating claims to mixed heritage. This article is critical of these phenomena because of what it finds to be a lack of politically and historically situated understandings of the notions of purity and impurity and their relation to racism.

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