Wilson, Annabel

Annabel Wilson
Start date:
October 2014
Research Topic:
Being ‘mixed race’ across space and time: exploring young people’s journeys through mixedness as they transition into adulthood
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Prof David James and Prof Amanda Coffey
Supervising school:
School of Social Sciences,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

The experiences of ‘mixed race’ young people in Britain are under-researched within the social sciences (Song, 2010) and there continues to be a need for research that adopts an intersectional approach which highlights the unique experiences and challenges faced by different ‘mixed race’ ethnic groups. In hope of addressing these issues my PhD aims to investigate how social structures of ‘race’, class and gender affect the lived experiences of ‘mixed race’ young people – of Black Caribbean and white British descent – as they transition into adulthood. As a researcher, I am dedicated to exposing the relationship between personal troubles and public issues. The public issue I am grappling with in this work is how limited racial categorisations lead to the stigmatisation of ‘mixed race’ people and their families (Banks, 1998; Ifekwunigwe, 2001). In a world that conceives of race in binary terms of ‘Black and white’ (Gines, 2014), racializes class privilege as a ‘white experience’ (Rollock, 2015) and through further racialisation eroticises gender (Crenshaw, 1989), ‘mixed race’ people must form identities whilst navigating limited categorises which attempt to define them and shape how they (and their actions) are interpreted others.  When people look upon ‘mixed race’ people, through their racial gaze, they may become confused – wondering what type of person are they? Are you Black? White? Something other? The numerous possibilities of heritage and questions of belonging provoked by and concealed within the ‘mixed race’ body makes it ambiguous (Ifekwunigwe, 2001). This is a vulnerable position to occupy as it is one that constantly shifts across time and space. This shift does not occur – at least not in the first instance – in the mind of the individual, but in the minds of others. Despite this, it is the person of mixed heritage that must respond and develop their sense of self in relation to every changing perceptions others hold of them. This process – known as racialisation – is a public issue. This, alongside other processes of classification determine, in part, the social position – of ‘mixed race’ people. Through exploring the personal (private) biographies of my participants, their families and friends I investigate how the role of the social position occupied by these ‘mixed race’ young people impacts upon their life experiences. I am interested in these individual’s respondes to the process of racialisation they have been exposed to, how their responses have changed across space and time and the extent to which the different reactions/strategies they adopt are shaped by family, upbringing, time in education & social networks.