America's new racial heroes : mixed race Americans and ideas of novelty, progress, and utopia
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My dissertation, "America's New Racial Heroes," is the first full-length intellectual history examining the fascination with mixed race people that has been concurrent with the stereotypes that pathologize them. Through five moments in United States history, this project asks what the idea of racially mixed people does for America, uncovering a set of vanguards who suggested that, rather than fear racial mixing, we should embrace it as a means to live up to ideals of equality and inclusion, thus benefiting the nation as a whole. Whether the subject is abolitionist Wendell Phillips's defense of racial amalgamation, the popularity of the Melting Pot trope, Time Magazine's 1993 New Face of America issue, or the promises of a "Multiracial" category on the 2000 census, similar notions regarding novelty, progress, and utopia repeat themselves. Rounding out "America's New Racial Heroes" is an examination of contemporary praise of ambiguity at the same time Americans wish for quantifiable racial makeup. Overall, this project warns against the giddy hope that racially mixed people alone can solve America's racial problems. I have several models in bringing together these five cases, including George M. Fredrickson's The Black Image in the White Mind, Philip J. Deloria's Playing Indian, and Robert Lee's Orientals. Each of these shows how discourses of science, nationality, and popular culture shape the identities of dominant and minority groups concurrently. Like these works, my project brings together archival research, cultural studies readings, and theories of racial formation to examine how pro-mixing advocates situate themselves within their own contexts and resonate through time. This work on mixed race identity has many intersections with both fields, accentuating the richness that can result from comparative, ethnic studies work across disciplinary boundaries.