Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities

Rogers Brubaker author

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Published: 29th May '18



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How the transgender experience opens up new possibilities for thinking about gender and race

In the summer of 2015, shortly after Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, the NAACP official and political activist Rachel Dolezal was "outed" by her parents as white, touching off a heated debate in the media about the fluidity of gender and race. If Jenner could legitimately identify as a woman, could Dolezal legitimately identify as black?

Taking the controversial pairing of “transgender” and “transracial” as his starting point, Rogers Brubaker shows how gender and race, long understood as stable, inborn, and unambiguous, have in the past few decades opened up—in different ways and to different degrees—to the forces of change and choice. Transgender identities have moved from the margins to the mainstream with dizzying speed, and ethnoracial boundaries have blurred. Paradoxically, while sex has a much deeper biological basis than race, choosing or changing one's sex or gender is more widely accepted than choosing or changing one’s race. Yet while few accepted Dolezal’s claim to be black, racial identities are becoming more fluid as ancestry—increasingly understood as mixed—loses its authority over identity, and as race and ethnicity, like gender, come to be understood as something we do, not just something we have. By rethinking race and ethnicity through the multifaceted lens of the transgender experience—encompassing not just a movement from one category to another but positions between and beyond existing categories—Brubaker underscores the malleability, contingency, and arbitrariness of racial categories.

At a critical time when gender and race are being reimagined and reconstructed, Trans explores fruitful new paths for thinking about identity.

"Pacy and stimulating."---Marina Benjamin, New Statesman
"The value in [Trans] is not in readjudicating old internet battles, but in laying out current conflicts of identity in a public, accessible way."---Emma Green, The Atlantic
"Lucid, sophisticated, and judicious,Transis an important and timely exploration of the increasingly uncertain and unsettled boundaries of identity."---Glenn Altschuler, Florida Courier
"While the first part of Trans compares Dolezal and Jenner, the second leverages the concept of transgender to examine transracial differences. Ultimately, Brubaker would like us to recognize transracial identities in the same way we accept transgender ones. In his analysis, transracial identities generate uneasy resonances with not only the dark histories of racial passing, but also the contemporary realities of racial oppression. Still, he prods us to reflect on the new kinds of racial identities being created through interracial relations, multiracial movements and generational change. While the mainstream recognizes transgender, it remains wary of transracial. The controversy over trans identities is far from settled." * Macleans *
"Brubaker maintains that we are living in ‘an age of unsettled identities.' Of that, he convinces me. This book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the categories of identity and how they are being invoked or subverted."---Leonard Curry, Christian Century
"This short book packs a wallop. . . . [Brubaker] offers up a much-needed, fresh perspective."---Arlene Stein, Public Books
"[A] clear-eyed, eye-opening book to see ways in which transracialism may and may not be considered as legitimate as transgenderism in the modern push for fluidity of identity categories."---A. Loudermilk, PopMatters
"“Brubaker . . . one of our finest analysts of the politics of difference, provides a clear and concise guide for the perplexed. He carefully lays out a taxonomy of both older and emerging classifications of ‘trans,' ordering both the many meanings of transgender and the less well known and more contested ideas about transracial. . . . What is clear from this excellent book is that the cultural logic of autonomy/choice that is working itself out in our age of unsettled identities is not of itself self-limiting. Wherever it takes us as a society, it seems, we will be forced to go.""---Joseph E. Davis, Society
"Important reading for any psychologist interested in how people construe and label their own and others' identities, especially those having to do with gender and race."---Marianne LaFrance, PsycCritiques
"Provocative. . . . [This book] offers a (new) theory of race likely to generate serious, heated discussions."---Iván Szelélnyi, Contexts
"A rousing intellectual incitement and a splendid piece to think with."---Joss Greene, British Journal of Sociology

ISBN: 9780691181189

Dimensions: unknown

Weight: unknown

256 pages