The Biopolitics of Mixing: Thai Multiracialities and Haunted Ascendancies
The Biopolitics of Mixing: Thai Multiracialities and Haunted Ascendancies.
By JINTHANA HARITAWORN. Ashgate, 2012. $99.95
Reviewed by Aedan Hoar
The Biopolitics of Mixing builds upon Thai histories that were collected during Haritaworn’s qualitative research on experiences of Thai multiraciality in Britain and Germany. The narrative reaches back over a decade and maps out the connections and conclusions of Haritaworn’s journey with race and the question: “What are you?” or “Where do you come from?” By giving voice to the themes that emerged from Haritaworn’s research and interviews, this book maps a social environment that is created through the politics of mixed-raciality and its effect on our interpretations of mixed-race bodies.
The book explores the celebratory nature of post-race politics which seeks to erase the history of colonization, replacing memories of oppression with a vision of a new age in which empire was simply a necessary stepping stone towards a future beyond race. Haritaworn makes the important argument that narratives of mixed-race and “tolerance” are used to drive campaigns of humanitarian militarism against “intolerant” cultures. In the process, this book exposes unsettling historical connections between the celebration of mixed-raciality as resulting in stronger genetics, and the racist, white-supremacist culture that was the driving force behind eugenics. Haritaworn’s research confronts the hegemonic narratives that effect the way that ability, gender, and race are represented in transnational politics of the body.
Through weaving in histories from their interviews, Haritaworn traces connections in theory and geopolitics that let the reader critically examine the driving forces behind what makes mixed-raced people characterized as beautiful or inferior, celebrated or marginalized. The book draws on an extensive bibliography and historical examples of how mixed-raciality and multiculturalism have been used by racist cultures to re-invent state histories as progressive, inclusive, and liberating. Demonstrating the ways that mixed-race bodies are used to support hegemonic racist and heterosexual norms, this book is an eye-opening exploration of the ways that multiculturalism and “inclusivity” are being used to promote the current geopolitical power structures in neoliberalism.
The Biopolitics of Mixing is wonderfully written and extremely reflexive in tone making it an essential resource for any reader who wants to critically examine the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability. This book spends a great deal of time establishing Haritaworn’s positionality, mapping out the logic behind the research in a very accessible way. One thing that adds a great deal to the book is the use of footnotes, which seem to predict questions that the reader might have, adding yet another layer to the depth of the analysis. Haritaworn achieves an in-depth exploration of the construction of mechanisms used to place individual bodies within categories of race, gender, or sexuality. The Biopolitics of Mixing reveals how systemic racism is normalized in everyday interactions in multicultural society. The book takes readers on a journey where the assumptions we (and the author) take for granted about the intersectionalities of race, gender, poverty, ability, and sexuality are challenged in an effort to give voice to “that which had been left out” of Haritaworn’s original research model. In this way the reader is informed by Haritaworn’s personal journey that walks the book’s conclusions back through connections that were made over more than a decade of research. The Biopolitics of Mixing makes room for important discussions that challenge readers to reflect upon our own conceptualizations of the body and our relationship to geopolitical narratives. This book is a must read for students interested in Thai-histories, multi-raciality and multiculturalism, social-justice research, biopolitics or intersectional analysis.
AEDAN HOAR is a Masters Candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. His work examines colonization, land use planning, and social transformation through a biopolitical lens.
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© the author. Published under a Creative Commons Attribution license.