Marcia Alesan Dawkins
Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity
Baylor University Press 2012
Performance queen RuPaul once famously quipped that “we’re born naked; the rest is drag”–meaning everyone dons identity, performs one’s concept of self within our social networks, e.g., family, community, work. Marcia Alesan Dawkins takes RuPaul’s theory further in her new book, Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity (Baylor University Press, 2012). In it, she discusses (racial) passing as a performance that everyone, even social institutions, at one time or another, enact. In fact, she contends that we understand passing because we all might be required to do it, but also because we participate in rhetoric, ways of communicating and comprehending identity.
Dawkins defines passing as “the phenomenon in which a person gains acceptance as a member of social groups other than his or her own, usually in terms of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, religion, citizenship, or disability status” (xii). She connects this to communication by discussing “passing as a series of rhetorical intersections where tropes and identifications meet texts, personalities, social situations, categories, and hierarchies” (xi). In the course of her theorizing, she distills intellectual concepts into accessible prose that every educated reader can enjoy.