This thinkpiece outlines and explores approaches and attitudes towards mixedness within the arts in relation to practitioners, audiences and institutions in the arts sector in the United Kingdom
In what ways is mixedness understood within the arts?
What challenges are raised for audiences, arts practitioners and administrators?
And what role can or should institutions take in light of these debates?
These are some of the questions this thinkpiece, Mixedness and The Arts, seeks to outline and explore.
'Mixedness' not only understood in terms of race and ethnicity, but also in terms of how mixedness fits into cultural institutions' racial equality and diversity legislation, policies and practices.
By Runnymede's Director Dr Rob Berkeley
The increasing visibility of mixedness and mixed people has led to a great deal of reflection on the nature of ethnic identities and their significance for society at large. In the light of census data predicting ‘mixed race’ becoming the largest ethnic minority group within two decades, there has been widespread debate about what this means for race and race relations in the 21st century. However debates on this subject rarely engage critically with the complexity that discussions of identity, let alone mixed ethnic identities truly deserve. The statistic above has often been accepted at face value with little thought devoted to teasing out exactly what such a ‘fact’ assumes about the nature of race, and whether these assumptions are ones that a modern, multi-ethnic nation is comfortable with.
In order to address this lack of nuance, Runnymede and the Arts Council have commissioned this thinkpiece by Dr Chamion Caballero. The piece examines some of the assumptions that surround mixed identity in Britain today, and places them in a historical, political and policy context. Taking contributions from practioners in the Arts, many of whom have engaged this issue directly; it lays out the three key topics that arise from reflection on the debates. Dr. Caballero argues that the first such issue is Recognition of Experience and whether the recognition of mixed experience is welcome or even necessary. Following on from this is the Negotiation of Complexity; many of the artists who commented stressed that representation of mixed identity must involve recognising the complex nuances inherent in that identity if it is not to become shallow, reductive, or irrelevant. The final issue, and perhaps the most loaded is the Politics of Ownership; who gets to define ‘mixedness’ and who gets to represent it, are sensitive issues that must be borne in mind, and many of the participants were wary of easy answers to these questions.
The debates identified by this think piece (and hopefully the ones sparked by it) are highly important to our understanding of racial dynamics in British society today. Questions of mixedness open up further questions not just about our concepts of race but of the nature of identity and its construction. Debates rage about the apparent failure of the multicultural project and its policy successors, about biological determinism and the role of genetics, about immigration and nationality, and about the role of art in a society facing economic strictures not seen in a generation. Deeper reflections upon concepts like race and identity, art and culture which underpin so many of these discussions could therefore scarcely be more timely. We publish this paper to encourage, rather than close down debate. We believe that it is important that we reflect on these issues and consider how best to ensure that policy and practice delivers for all if we are to become a successful multi-ethnic society.
Intelligence for a multi-ethnic Britain
Runnymede is the UK’s leading independent thinktank on race equality and race relations.
Through high-quality research and thought leadership, Runnymede:
• Identify barriers to race equality and good race relations;
• Provide evidence to support action for social change;
• Influence policy at all levels.
Runnymede Thinkpieces seek to encourage debate and discussion about issues in race equality. They are designed to be provocative rather than provide the ‘final word’ on any issue and are accompanied by opportunities for readers to share their views and reactions.
Dr Chamion Caballero is a Senior Research Fellow at London South Bank University. Her research interests include issues relating to mixed racial and ethnic people, couples and families, as well as ethnic and racial minority issues more generally.
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