Asian American Studies Chicana/o Studies Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Native American Studies
Name: Stephanie Otani-Sunamoto

Major: CSRE

Thesis Title: Living Out Loud: (De)Constructing the Multiracial Individual

Thesis Abstract

Although mixed race people have existed throughout American history, being mixed race was either stigmatized or an unrecognized identity option until the Multiracial Movement began in the late 1980’s. The past twenty years have brought an unparalleled rise in Mixed Race consciousness. On a political level, advocates successfully campaigned for Census reclassification in the form of a “Mark one or more” option on the Census 2000. Mixed Race scholars, activists, writers and artists were active in creating a new, cosmopolitan “Mixed Race Person.” All the while they proclaimed that they fighting against racism and representing a largely marginalized community. This thesis takes a critical approach to the messages about what it means to be “Mixed Race” that proliferate in the media and in academia: Mixed Race people have “the best of both worlds” and the act of choosing one racial and/or cultural identity forces the multiracial person to deny part of who her or she is. I argue that the academic and popular conceptualizations of Mixed Race actually reinforce the racial/racist ideologies Multiracial activists claimed to be so oppressive. These problematic ideas are a direct result of one of the driving forces for Mixed Race activism and scholarship: the desire to legitimize multiracial families. In doing so, one particular narrative of mixed race identity and authenticity has prevailed. I call for a more nuanced vision of Mixed Race personhood that allows for non-traditional family structures and does not impose any ideals of authenticity upon the mixed race individual. I will then present a literary nonfiction piece, Outside/Inside, based on my own life as a counter-example to the common narratives seen in Mixed Race literature and representations.

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