Real Bodies pp 46-63 | Cite as

Racialized Bodies

  • Sara Ahmed


What does it mean to describe bodies as ‘racialized’? The term ‘racialized bodies’ invites us to think of the multiple processes whereby bodies come to be seen as ‘having’ a racial identity. One’s ‘racial identity’ is not simply determined, for example, by the ‘fact’ of one’s skin colour. Racialization is a process that takes place in time and space: ‘race’ is an effect of this process, rather than its origin or cause. So, in the case of skin colour, racialization involves a process of investing skin colour with meaning, such that ‘black’ and ‘white’ come to function, not as descriptions of skin colour, but as racial identities. The term ‘racialized bodies’ has another implication, of course. It suggests that that we cannot understand the production of race without reference to embodiment: if racialization involves multiple processes, then these processes involve the marking out of bodies as the site of racialization itself.


Black Woman Black Body Racial Identity Social Space Bodily Space 
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Further reading

  1. Ahmed, Sara, Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (London: Routledge, 2000).Google Scholar
  2. This book uses feminist and post-colonial theory to argue that the racialization of bodies takes place through differentiating between bodily others on the grounds of familiarity and strangeness.Google Scholar
  3. Fanon, Frantz, Black Shin, White Masks (London: Pluto Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  4. A classic psychoanalytical account of how racism operates through fixing the Black body as an object of the gaze.Google Scholar
  5. McClintock, Anne, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Context (London: Routledge, 1995).Google Scholar
  6. Using both Marxist and psychoanalytic approaches, this is an excellent historical account of the way in which the gendering and sexualizing of white and black bodies was crucial to the colonial project.Google Scholar
  7. Mohanram, Radhika, Black Body: Women, Colonialism, Space (St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 1999).Google Scholar
  8. A clear and introductory account of racial embodiment, which both theorizes Black embodiment in relationship to landscape and space, and offers close readings of particular texts from Australia and New Zealand.Google Scholar
  9. Roberts, Diane, The Myth of Aunt Jemina: Representations of Race and Religion (London: Routledge, 1994).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. This book specifically examines the relationship between white and black embodiment in an American context, using Bakhtin’s distinction between the classical and grotesque body.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sara Ahmed 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Ahmed

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