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As a result of race being socially constructed, there are culturally specific notions of what members of certain races "look like." The media scandal over the revelation that former Spokane, Washington NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal had been born a white woman and was using tanning and hair styling to successfully present herself as a mixed race black woman is a recent reminder of how dependent upon certain specific, yet often malleable, physical features racial perceptions are. Taking mixed race people as my empirical case, my research examines racial perception in the US and UK. In addition to focusing on the physical features that observers draw upon to racially categorize others and theorizing about what this reveals about the socially constructed nature of race, I also study how others' perception of an individual - as a given race, as ambiguous, as attractive- influences that person's racial identity. My work seeks to incorporate the body into social constructivist discussions of race in a non-biologically essentialized manner and hopes to not only contribute to various scholarly literatures but to educate practitioners in the criminal justice, health care, educational and other social institutions about the nature of racial perceptions and how they impact others.

last updated 10/09/2015