Saturday, January 15, 2005

Book Proposal for "½"

½ : A Visual Negotiation of Race in America

Mission Statement

The book “½” fills a gap in the investigation of race in America. There is a disparity between the way that race is discussed in academics and the way that people actually deal with issues of race because most discussions of race are textual while most racial identifiers are visual. In order for the role of race to be reconsidered, racial identifiers need to be seen and rethought in a critical visual medium. “½” seeks to fill this gap by providing a visual point of critique and discussion for racial issues.


Contemporary America’s obsession with racial labeling needs to be reexamined and one crucial part of this reexamination for all Americans is multiracial studies. Interracial unions have always existed as part of the human experience, but until recently, multiracial people have existed on the margin of American society. Now, with the easing of social disapproval and the final disappearance of all anti-miscegenation laws in the 1960’s, the multiracial population is booming. The 2000 U.S. census (the first to allow for multiracial categorization) recorded 6.8 million people who self-identified as multiracial . Growing with this population is an acknowledgment that the use of race and racial identifiers within our society is changing. How can the categories of race continue to exist unchallenged when there is a rising population that defies categorization? Multiracial status highlights the arbitrary nature of racial signifiers, as multiracial individuals are by definition empowered to self-identify. Identities like “half-Asian”, “half-Black”, “quarter-White”, are identities claimed or not claimed by the individual and are therefore clearly cultural constructions and not objective qualities. There is no gene for race and the growing number of multiracial individuals is forcing society to reexamine the role that race plays.

“½” exists to show two sides of how multiracial people are negotiating race in America. “½” will be 100 pages long with two chapters and an introduction. Chapter 1 is the book version of an ongoing project produced collaboratively with artists Steven Aishman and Benjamin Sloat called “The Half Asian Portrait Studio”. The Studio serves as a face book of the growing ½ Asian community while also sharing some of the experiences ½ Asian people have in negotiating race as a community. Chapter 2 is the book version of a project produced by Steven Aishman called “Selling ½ Japanese” that focuses on a personal rather than communal perspective on commodifying race. Both chapters contain elements of seriousness and elements of ironic humor in order to discuss racial issues in a thought-provoking, yet approachable manner.

There is a huge desire for discussion of racial issues in America and “½” seeks to fill a crucial gap in visual understanding. America needs to reassess how it actually sees race and “½” will provide a reference for challenging the way America sees.