Race: Floating Signifier

Topics: Black people, Race and Ethnicity, White people Pages: 4 (1565 words) Published: July 9, 2012
Analysis Response: Biology, Race, and Floating Signifiers
In the video, Race: The Floating Signifier, Stuart Hall counters the thought that race is connected with the biological aspect. Rather than considering race as due to the biological make up of an individual, it is a collection of characteristics brought together that forms one's race. That is how Stuart Hall views race, as a floating signifier, something that is ever changing and not static. This paper will discuss the troubles of using biology/science to categorize a person, talk about a different way of thinking of race, and provide the confused case of race of Alexis Morrision, a physically white woman with the possibility of being considered black. Situational cases will also show that a large contribution to one's race is not their biology, but their actions.

Stuart Hall brings up is that a person's race is not just thought of by what color they are. Thomas C. Holt provides an explanation for how we can define race, not using biological standards, in his article, "Understanding the Problematic of Race Through the Problem of Race-Mixture". Similar to Stuart Hall, he points out that "Physical features were simply markers, standing in for a bundle of social attributions, capabilities, dispositions, and knowledge" (Holt 7). Different attributes of a person are used to determine their race. Their culture, attitudes, history, and actions are looked at and judged, despite what the individual may identify themselves with. This is best shown with the case of Alexis Morrision.

As a run-away, white female slave with blond hair and blue eyes, Alexis Morrision opened up a case stating that she was "white and thus could not be legally held as a slave" (Holt 5). Disregarding her claim that she was visibly white and born to white parents, what really mattered in her hearing was how she, herself, could prove it. Others would accuse her of being black due to suspicions of adultery, being loose, and would link her...

Cited: Gould, Stephen J. "Carrie Buck 's Daughter." Rpt. in The Flamingo 's Smile. 306-18. Web. 05 June 2012.
Holt, Thomas C. "Understanding the Problematic of Race Through the Problem of Race- Mixture." (2004). Web. 05 June 2012.
Race, The Floating Signifier. Dir. Sut Jhally. Perf. Stuart Hall. 1997. Web. 04 June 2012.
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