A White Side of Black Britain: Interracial intimacy and racial literacy.

Author:Harris, Perlita
Position:Book review

A White Side of Black Britain: Interracial intimacy and racial literacy France Winddance Twine Duke University Press (USA) 2010 265 pages 16.99[pounds sterling]

This important book aims to provide a 'theoretically grounded analysis of the ways that white members of transracial families negotiate race, racism, and racialisation and acquire racial literacy' (p 4) through focusing on white English and Irish women with children of African-Caribbean descent to whom they are biologically related. While privileging the racial experiences of white mothers, Twine analyses how white and black family members think about and experience race and racism, including the largely unrecognised caretaking practices used to counter racism, which she describes as constituting 'a form of racial labour' (p 5).

The book is based on a longitudinal ethnographic study, using data collected between 1995 and 2005 in London and Leicester. From 1997 to 2005, the author conducted research with an economic ally diverse group of white women from Leicester and their black partners, who had formed a transracial family and given birth to their first child between 1959 and 2004. A multi-methodological approach was used with these 42 families, incorporating 'racial consciousness interviews, participant observation, shadowing, archival research, media analysis, and photo-elicitation interviews' (p 22). Twine also inter viewed participants' former husbands, black sisters-in-law, black mothers-in-law and a set of white grandparents, as well as four white fathers and the black women they were married to.

Drawing upon Bourdieu, Twine analyses the ways in which 'whiteness is conceptualised by family members as a contingent form of capital (social, cultural, symbolic and economic) and sometimes a liability' (p 7), and introduces the concept of 'ethnic capital', a resource used by some ethnic minority communities to 'secure their belonging, while also reinforcing their cultural ties in the face of racism' (p 8). She explores how black communities constitute such a resource for white mothers of transracial families, and how white family members who are invested in the transmission of ethnic markers to their children are able to gain respect in their families and communities (strengthening social relationships) through securing their children's cultural belonging. Throughout, vignettes of the research participants' lives bring the theoretical and conceptual issues alive.

Twine argues that...

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