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Mutt, Monster or Melting-Pot? Mixed-Race Metaphor and Obama’s Ambivalent Hybridity.

Version of Record: Rambukkana, Nathan (2015). Mutt, Monster or Melting-Pot? Mixed-Race Metaphor and Obama’s Ambivalent Hybridity. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.6. doi:10.7264/N3513WHG

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Abstract: 

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 3 Barack Obama’s multiply-mixed heritage positions him as a hybrid figure in the public sphere, tapping an ambivalence of charged metaphor and imagery that prehends to hybridity: that of the monstrous chimera, insidious half-breed, or untrustworthy mongrel on the one hand, and of the global-citizen, multiculturalism, bridge, and melting-pot on the other. Further, this dense layering of tropes is discursively implicated with both structural racism, as well as problematic ideologies such as top-down globalization, post-raciality and ‘The American Dream’. Using digital humanities methodologies and discourse analysis, this paper reads the intertextual dermographic narrative inscribed on the surface of Obama’s skin during the 2008 Presidential run, and beyond.’

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Essay

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 ‘ObamaNation raped & killed 1,000 Christians’

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Kenyan citizen Hussein Obama spent $1-million in US campaign funds to massacre 1,000 Christians in British Kenya, after his Communist cousin lost the presidential election. 800 Christian churches were arsoned [sic], with dozens of people cooked alive. Men and women were raped by Obama supporters. To stop the violence, the Kenyan government was extorted by Obama to make his cousin ‘prime minister’, a job that did not exist.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 ~ Anonymous, piratenews.org, October 25, 2008

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 ‘Obama’s Brother in China’

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 If elected, Obama would be the first genuinely 21st-century leader. The China-Indonesia-Kenya-Britain-Hawaii web mirrors a world in flux. In Kenya, his uncle Sayid, a Muslim, told me: ‘My Islam is a hybrid, a mix of elements, including my Christian schooling and even some African ways. Many values have dissolved in me.’

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Obama’s bridge-building instincts come from somewhere. They are rooted and proven. For an expectant and often alienated world, they are of central significance.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 ~ Roger Cohen, New York Times, March 17, 2008 [1]

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 7 The above two textual excerpts from the period between February 10, 2007 when Obama announced he was running for the Democratic nomination, and November 4, 2008 when he was elected president, are metonymic of the polar opposite ways Barack Obama’s particular hybrid identity is framed and reflected on in the digital public sphere. This short paper takes advantage of digital humanities methodologies[2] to collect some of these representations, as well as a broadly Foucauldian genealogical discourse analysis (Foucault 1980) to analyze them, with a view to investigating what these prominent representations of mixed-race and hybrid identities do, situated as they are in such a prominent position: attached to a figure as he contended for and then assumed the most privileged seat of power in the US—arguably even world—context.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 5 Much has been said about Barack Obama’s body. Even preceding his presidency, Obama was often discussed in a metaphorical manner in the public sphere. His mixed-race, mixed-ethnicity and mixed-religious heritage positioned him as a hybrid figure par excellence. Coverage on Obama collects the full range of charged metaphor and imagery that prehends to hybridity: that of the monstrous chimera, insidious half-breed, or untrustworthy mongrel on the one hand, and of the global-citizen, multiculturalism, bridge, and melting-pot America on the other. But this dense layering of tropes cannot be divided into ‘good’ hybridity metaphor and ‘bad’, for in addition to the strong links between the negative tropes and structural racism, the positive tropes that attach to hybridity generally, and modern mixed-race identities specifically, are also discursively implicated with other problematic ideologies such as top-down globalization (Kraidy 2005, 148), the facile ideals of a post-racial or race-blind society, and even colonial narratives such as ‘the American Dream’. Accordingly, both the positive and the negative tropes used to mark his hybridity are fraught with intertextual meaning, legacies of power, and politics of privilege.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 4 Drawing on Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacey’s (2001) concept of dermographia, or skin writing, this paper attempts to read the ways that Obama’s skin, as text, is an effect of the various and overlapping ways it is ‘surfaced’ in discourse. At once a real and material organ that wraps and envelops what is currently the world’s most protected of bodies, Obama’s skin is also ‘dependent on regimes of writing that mark the skin in different ways or that produce the skin as marked’ (Ahmed and Stacey 2001, 15). As such, the skin of the leader of the free world’ is at once a private and storied flesh, and a public text that emerges in the intertextual dermographia of its multiform figurings. Many times a hybrid figure, Obama’s body is fetishized across the political spectrum both as signifying object and as symbol of multiple politics.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 2 As with many hybrids, the figuring of Obama in discourse is profoundly ambivalent. Discourse that frames Obama’s hybrid positionalities as positive and desirable aspects of his bid for political power is as overwhelmingly prevalent in the public sphere as that which paints the opposite picture. As for which is numerically superior, the numbers of possible keyword combinations and literally tens of millions of hits for many search terms make such estimates difficult to gauge––and that is just with respect to English-language discourse. But what we can do is delve into the textuality of supportive and condemnatory metaphor to explore the warp and weave of Obama’s discursive figuring.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 2 In The Location of Culture (1994), Homi Bhabha discusses the role that hybridity can—and, indeed, must—take on with respect to a more positive and constructive mode of postmodern and postcolonial thinking and action. For Bhabha, the hybrid is a bridge between the status quo and something else, a not-yet-articulated futurity separated from the now by a definite boundary, but one that is productive: ‘the place from which something [new] begins its presencing’ (1994, 7). Quoting Heidegger he says: ‘Always and ever differently the bridge escorts the lingering and hastening ways of men [sic] to and fro, so that they may get to other banks…’ (1994, 7). For Bhabha, the hybrid’s role is as translator, and indeed translation, that embodied location where alterities co-exist and form something new, some not-yet-known. They are the border as lived experience, a definition which echoes Gloria Anzaldúa’s notion of borderlands identities—though in her figuring, being sprung between cultures is more fraught and complicated, a mixture of pain and possibility, loss and community, code-switching and survival (2007). Shirley Ann Tate discusses Bhabha’s notion of hybridity as a Third Space with respect to lived Black identities in Britain. For her, that Third Space is one between essentialism on the one hand and fragmentation on the other (Tate 2005, 5), and emerges in talk where actual identities are negotiated, poured over, deconstructed and reconstructed within the space of everyday discussion.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 These more complicated renderings of hybridity as the beginning of something new, as a space that opens the possibility of negotiation and change, can be contrasted to what might be thought of as the essentialized or fetishized hybrid. Hybridity in this rendering is always already a new politics, and it is this figuring that Marwan Kraidy critiques when he discusses hybridity as “the cultural logic of globalization” (2005, 148). Rather than touching future history “on its hither side” (Bhabha 1994, 10), the essentialized hybrid is change embodied, and we can read much of this mode of discursive investment in supportive discussions of Obama’s hybrid positionalities.[3]

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 2 One commentator, for example, refers to Obama’s family and heritage as ‘unusual in the extent of its continent-crossing, religion-melding, color-fusing richness,’ and speaks of how his multi-ethnic family connections ‘[mirror] a world in flux’ (Cohen 2008a). His mixed-race, mixed-cultural and mixed-religious upbringing make him into an ambassador of multiculturalism, a way to heal the rift between Christianity and Islam, and the embodiment of the end of racism. Like Tiger Woods, to whom he is often compared, Obama’s mixed-race identity ‘position[s] [him] across old black-white lines in a new hybrid model of multiracialism’ (Starn 2007) that makes him a stand-in for a hybridized America itself.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 2 It should go without saying that this investment of so much de facto change in the hybrid positionality of a having Black man in the White House[4]—not as an agent of change, but as change embodied—courts tokenism and becomes an alibi for a structural racism that, in this argument, no longer exist with Obama as president. As Arnold Itwaru (a Black Caribbean-Canadian scholar) argued addressing a critical race studies conference in Toronto shortly before Obama’s election, that a Black man could become the head of the most destructive and powerful white supremacist world power in history was hardly a fact to be celebrated (2008); and Achille Mbembe, commenting on the Kenyan reaction of both euphoria and ‘great hope’ to Obama’s lead in the polls, said that, in excess of an understandable racial pride, pinning so much hope on one individual bringing about vast systematic change was ‘irrational, unrealistic and misguided’ (qtd. in Starn 2007).

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 3 Leaving aside complex questions about how to navigate the space between the exotification of difference (e.g., Said 1979) and a sound appraisal of the potential strengths a US leader of non–ethnically-dominant heritage might actually have, it is useful to also explore the negative portrayals of Obama’s hybridity by those who want to use his biracial heritage to discredit him. What does the ‘dark side’ of hybridity discourse add to this intertextual dermographia? How, in particular, does the figure of the ‘monstrous’ and its modern discursive counterparts the alien, terrorist, communist, fag and Muslim play into Obama’s ambivalent discursive rendering?

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 2 Michel Foucault, in his January 22, 1975 lecture about ‘The Abnormals’, calls the monster ‘a principle of intelligibility in spite of its limit position as both the impossible and the forbidden’ (2003, 57). The monster is a conceptual figure deployed precisely to make the unthinkable thinkable. In this way, Obama can be read as hybrid and monster without even considering his multiracial ethnicity. By embodying an unthinkable positionality (a Black man as President of the United States) he represents, to some, something both impossible and forbidden: an abject other who is, beyond reckoning, lodged at the representational centre of the nation’s self-concept. The only way to resolve such an impasse without a radical rethinking of this national self-concept is through the category of the monstrous hybrid. It rationalizes (if not normalizes) the intrusion of the abject as a cancerous invader, an alien growth that needs to be excised from the body politic.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 In fact, this is explicitly the position taken by David Duke, the notorious neo-Nazi and former head of the Ku Klux Klan. Though in his opinion, along with many in the far-right, explicitly–White Supremacist community, this would be a good thing, one that would shake white Americans out of their complacency. In an article titled “A Black Flag for White America” (2008), Duke writes:

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Obama will be a signal, a clear signal for millions of our people. […] Obama is like that new big dark spot on your arm that finally sends you to the doctor for some real medicine. […] Obama is the pain that let’s [sic] your body know that something is dreadfully wrong. Obama will let the American people know that there is a real cancer eating away at the heart of our country…

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 2 Returning to Foucault, the monstrous—the ‘foreign body’, in the medical sense—is used in discourse to heal fractured narratives, to act as a conceptual stop-gap solution. It’s inserted into narratives to make them match up with given world-views. Like ‘terrorist’ for discussing the impossible, forbidden use of violence by non-state actors (and the even more impossible and forbidden use of such violence against the West or in the West); like ‘fag’ for discussing impossible, forbidden desires that slip the mould of the heteronormative,[5] of patriarchal structure, of familiar gendered and sexed kinship; like ‘communist’ for discussing an impossible, forbidden desire to approach any aspect of culture in a non-capitalist mode.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 2 As Puar and Rai discuss in ‘Monster, Terrorist, Fag’ (2002), these abject categories often overlap and reinforce each other in mainstream Western discourse. But more than that, they constitute each other: for example, the figure of a gay Saddam Hussein with a demonic Satan as his lover on South Park (Stone 1999). All of these abjected concepts—alien, monster, terrorist, fag, communist, Muslim—stand in for and constitute each other, and all are breaks from (or intrusions into) larger, more stable, more understood (Western) systems. But in their individual particularity, they are inscrutable, inconceivable. Foucault calls this intelligibility tautological; the concepts are stand-ins and explanations for the terra incognita of culture, but as such the only things they cannot properly conceptualize are themselves (57). But we can turn Foucault’s definition around, not reversing it, but looking at it from its obverse side. Maybe what these concepts do, in discourse, is conceptualize that very categorical instability, perhaps their positive definition is rooted in a structure of feeling (Williams 1977, 128): that of incongruity, ambiguity and abjection, encountered as a non-integratable and presumed-menacing presence.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 3 Obama is framed, alternately, using all of these conceptual short-cuts. He is framed as an alien, for example with the Birthers’ questioning of his US origin (Chancellor 2011); as a communist, for example in relation to his community organizing in Chicago (Wolking 2008) and his stance on universal health care (Stewart 2008); as a terrorist and friend to terrorism, for example as a ‘secret Muslim’ (Rutenberg 2008), as a friend of ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers (Bahnisch 2008; Wolking 2008), as someone with the middle name ‘Hussein’ and the last name ‘Obama’ (piratenews.org 2008); as a monster, for example, in the epithet ‘ObamaNation’ (piratenews.org 2008); and as a ‘fag’—the phrase ‘Obama is a fag’ produced approximately 200,000 Google hits in 2011 and 410,000 hits in 2014, with searches using related terms growing to over 9,720,000 in 2014. Interestingly, at least within the time range I am focusing on, the majority of comments specifically referring to Obama as a monster were linked (in both articles and comments threads) to his pro-choice politics (e.g., MacInnes 2008; Morrissey 2008), further underscoring Foucault’s framing of monstrosity as linked to supposed breaches of moral and judicial law, as well as Puar and Rai’s insight that ‘monsters and abnormals have always also been sexual deviants’ (2002, 119)—here framed as a discursively perverse attitude towards ‘normal’ generative reproduction, one of the pillars of the heteronormative (Berlant and Warner 554).[6]

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 2 The fact that Obama is himself a writer, one not only of political rhetoric but of autobiographical narrations of his own past, present and future, makes him a party to his own discursive construction through text, what Ahmed and Stacey might call the management of his own skinning (2001 2, 15). Alec MacGillis, who traveled with Obama during his campaign tour, remarked that this layered upon him a further form of hybridity, one that placed him between actor and critic, participant and observer (2008). In writing his own narratives, he contributes to the intertext that surfaces in and on his skin—such as when he famously referred to himself as a ‘mutt’ in his first press conference as President-elect (Silverman 2008; Bone 2008; Washington 2008; Rhee 2008).

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 2 One mainstream media source reflects on this seemingly offhand (but no-doubt calculated) use of the term ‘mutt’, drawing on a post by Nina Moon on kimchi mamas, a blog she runs created for and by Korean-American mothers (Rhee 2008). This critical reflection highlights how the dermographic qualities of Obama’s skin are multiply encoded, ambiguously legible, and fraught in their intertextual subtext. Noting Moon’s post is ‘one of the most thought out’ of those ‘offended by his self-deprecating description of himself as a “mutt”,’ he quotes her at length:

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 ‘I’ve heard mixed-race people use that term to describe themselves before, usually in the same ha-ha way Obama did. I’ve also heard it thrown around as an insult, a pejorative, a slur. I’ve felt the slap of that word across my face and it is not a word I can “reclaim,”’ she wrote.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 ‘My fear, however, is that Obama, as the first mixed-race president, will shape the way most Americans view people of mixed race for at least a generation. And will Obama calling himself a “mutt”;—with humor, as if the word is nothing, nothing at all—make it socially acceptable for people to start calling me a mutt? My kids?’

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 1 ‘Because not only does the word have a history as a slur, but there are reasons that that word makes such an easy slur. It allows people to rhetorically reduce us to animals—people “bred” like dogs are bred. For all our “mutts are better!” talk (it is, as Obama knows, better to adopt a dog from a shelter, right? Rejected, but nonetheless in need of love), it still comes from a place where “purebreds” are better.’ (Rhee 2008)

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 6 This ambivalence that marks the hybrid in discourse is a second-order binary, one that calls, perhaps, for a second Third-space, one that acknowledges the essentializing of hybridity and attempts to read the complex intertext woven between its polar appropriations. Obama’s dermographia is also one of rhetorical self-fashioning, an autobiodermographia[7] perhaps, a self-writing and -reading of his skin and its significations, as well as what political work that particular skinning can do for him, his party, his nation. But how can we articulate this skinning, this skin writing, this skin reading (both the autobiographical and third person aspects) with Obama’s subsequent politics: with his slow, rhetorically measured, slide from a troubled and non-supportive stance on same-sex marriage, to gradual acceptance, to enthusiastic support; with his introduction and routine use of drone plane bombings and extrajudicial killings; with his largely status-quo approach to the politics of Israel-Palestine? Dermographic rhetoric works to surface Obama, but so do his actions and policies. From mutt to monster to melting pot, to truly read where Obama’s framing in the public sphere situates him, or to gauge what that situation does (for him as an individual, for the ‘changing face of America’,[8] for the embodiment of the US on the world stage) we need to move beyond skin—not to a facile post-racial fantasy, but to a place where skin and our readings of it are merely one signifying factor among many. For a nation and a world coming to terms with this shift in the somatic representation of elite power in the Western context, such an other ‘other space’ of self-consciously polysemic hybridity might be needed to fully unpack just what these shifts mean with respect to publics, power and privilege.

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References

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Ahmed, Sara and Jackie Stacey. 2001. ‘Dermographies.’ In Thinking Through the Skin, edited by Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacey, 1–17. New York: Routledge.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 Anzaldúa, Gloria. 2007. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 3rd ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Bahnische, Mark. 2008. ‘“The Gloves are Off.”’ Larvatus Prodeo, October 7. Accessed July 21, 2014. http://larvatusprodeo.net/archives/2008/10/the-gloves-are-off/

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Berlant, Lauren. 1997. ‘The Face of America and the State of Emergency.’ In The Queen of America goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, 175–220. Durham: Duke.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 Berlant, Lauren, and Michael Warner. 1998. ‘Sex in Public.’ Critical Inquiry 24(2): 547–566.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Bhabha, Homi. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Bone, James. 2008. ‘Best in Show, with a Pedigree all His Own.’ Times, November 8. Accessed July 21, 2014. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/americas/article1890432.ece

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Chancellor, Alexander. 2011. ‘Will Nothing Deter the US “Birthers” who

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 question Obama’s Origins?’ Guardian, April 29. Accessed July 21, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/apr/29/us-birthers-question-obamas-origins

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Cohen, Roger. 2008a. ‘Obama’s Brother in China.’ New York Times, March 17. Retrieved July 20, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/17/opinion/29cohen.html

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Cohen, Roger. 2008b. ‘Obama’s Indonesian Lessons.’ New York Times, April 14. Accessed June 12, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/14/opinion/14cohen.html?_r=0

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Duke, David. 2008. ‘A Black Flag for White America.’ stormfront.org, June 4. Accessed July 20, 2014. https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t495493/

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 Foucault, Michel, 1980. Power/Knowledge. Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977, edited by Colin Cordon and translated by Colin Gordon, et al. New York: Pantheon.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 ———. 2003. ‘22 January 1975.’ In Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France 1974–1975, edited by Valerio Marchetti and Antonella Salomoni, translated by François Ewald and Alessandro Fontanta, 55–79. London: Verso.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Itwaru, Arnold (with Bonita Lawrence). 2008. ‘Discussion: White Supremacy and the Regulation of Identity.’ Discussion at the 7th Annual New College Conference on Racism & National Consciousness, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, October 25.    

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Kraidy, Marwan. 2005. Hybridity or the Cultural Logic of Globalization. Philadelphia, PA: Temple

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 MacGillis, Alec. 2008. ‘A Year with Obama.’ New Statesman, October 20. Accesses July 21, 2014. http://www.newstatesman.com/north-america/2008/10/voters-obama-clinton-mccain

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 MacInnes, Chad. 2008. ‘Obama is a Monster.’ Thelandofthefree.net, October 9. Accesses 21 July, 2014. http://www.thelandofthefree.net/conservativeopinion/2008/10/09/barak-obama-is-a-monster/

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Moon, Nina. 2008. ‘Mutt Like Me.’ kimchi mamas, November 8. Accessed July 22, 2014. http://kimchimamas.typepad.com/kimchi_mamas/2008/11/mutt-like-me.htm

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 Morrissey, Ed. 2008. ‘Obama’s Support for Infanticide Breaks into Mainstream Media.’ hotair.com, August 20. Accessed July 21, 2014. http://hotair.com/archives/2008/08/20/obamas-support-for-infanticide-breaks-into-mainstream-media/

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Morrow, E. Frederic. 2014. Black Man in the White House: Before Obama… [1963.] Memphis: Default-Graves.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 “ObamaNation Raped & Killed 1,000 Christians.” 2008. piratenews.org,October 25. Retrieved July 20, 2014.http://piratenews-tv.blogspot.ca/2008/10/obamanation-raped-killed-1000_25.html

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 Prosser, Jay. 2001. ‘Skin Memories.’ In Thinking Through the Skin, edited by Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacey, 52–68. New York: Routledge.

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 Puar, Jasbir, and Amit S. Rai. 2002. ‘Monster, Terrorist, Fag: The War on Terrorism and the Production of Docile Patriots.’ Social Text 20(3).

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 Rambukkana, Nathan. In Press. ‘Open Non-Monogamy.’ In The Psychology of Sexuality and Gender, edited by Christina Richards and Meg Barker, n. p. London: Palgrave.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 Rhee, Foon. 2008. ‘Chewing over Obama’s “Mutt” Reference.’ Boston Globe, November 10. Accessed July 22, 2014. http://archive.today/35e

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 Rutenberg, Jim. 2008. ‘The Man Behind the Whispers about Obama.’ New York Times, October 12. Accessed July 26, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/13/us/politics/13martin.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 Said, Edward W. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 Silverman, Stephen M. 2008. ‘President-Elect Obama May Get a Mutt “Like Me”.’ , People, November 7. Accessed July 21, 2014. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20239003,00.html

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 Stewart, David J. (2008). ‘Barack Obama: America’s communist president.’ Jesus-is-Saviour.com, November 5. Accessed July 25, 2014. http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20Government/Communism/barack_obama.htm

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 Stone, Trey (director). 1999. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (film). 1999. Paramount.

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 Starn, Orin. 2007. “How Black and White have Blurred—A Blessing.” News & Observer, March 25. Accessed July 20, 2014. http://www.newsobserver.com/559/story/557211.html

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 Tate, Shirley Ann. 2005. Black Skins, Black Masks: Hybridity, Dialogism, Performativity. Surrey: Ashgate.

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 Washington, Jesse. 2008. ‘Obama’s True Colors: Black, White … or Neither?’ foxnews.com, December 13. Accessed July 21, 2014. http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_wires/2008Dec13/0,4675,ObamaapossNotBlack,00.html

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 Wolking, Matt. 2008. ‘You can put a Flag Lapel Pin on a Terrorist-Schmoozing, Marxist-Mentored, Racist-Taught Chicago Machine Politician …’ Wolking’s World, September 9. Accessed July 22, 2014. https://web.archive.org/web/20090122102310/http://wolkingsworld.com/2008/09/09/obama-lipstick-on-a-pig-is-still-a-pig/

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Endnotes

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 1. This short paper is part of a larger project interrogating how hybridity tropes are mobilized in both theoretical and popular discourses. I would like to acknowledge the support of the Fonds Québéquois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture (FQRSC), whose Bourse de Recherche Postdoctorale funded this work. Special thanks as well to Jennifer Musial for introducing me to the concept of ‘dermographia’ when we were planning a panel on ‘Skin as Text’ that an early version of this paper was first presented at in 2011.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 2. These methodologies included a Factiva database search of digitized newspaper and magazine articles of the period from February 10, 2007 to November 4, 2008; Google searches and counts of relevant keyword combinations (primarily within the same delimited range, but also looking at subsequent events) to locate further articles, blogs and websites; keyword searches within and across texts in this archive; tangential searching of found links amassed through mentions, comment threads and pingbacks; and finally the excavation of now-defunct blogs and websites through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine <https://archive.org/web/>. 

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 3. One can hear echoes of Obama’s campaign slogan ‘Change’ here. In many ways this aspect was the essence of Obama’s nomination and presidential campaigns: after years of misery under Bush Jr. he was promoting his presidency as a bridge to something different.

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 4. Black Man in the White House was also the title of E. Frederic Morrow’s 1963 memoir of his time as a Black man working on Eisenhower’s staff. It was re-released and heavily marketed during Obama’s campaign run, and in 2014 an edition was published with the subtitle ‘Before Obama…’.

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 5. We could define heteronormativity as the normativity of orthodox heterosexuality, including, in its broader sense, normative gender relations, normative sex acts, and normative relationship forms and narratives (Rambukkana in press). For further information, see (Berlant and Warner 1998).

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 6. In one particularly telling quote, he is also likened to Hitler, that trope of monstrous humanity par excellence:

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 He has shown himself by his actions and inactions that he is, in truth and in deed, something absolutely unconscionable to the civilized mind: he is a radical proponent and activist for the cause of infanticide. The harsh reality is that behind the smiles and lofty rhetoric lurks the real Senator Barak Obama, a man who is a monster of Hitlerian proportions. (MacInnes 2008)

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 7. I use this term to mark this process as similar to, but different from, Jay Prosser’s concept of ‘skin autobiographies’, which are more specifically a life-writing of personal encounters with skin disorders (Prosser 2001).

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 8. For a discussion of mixed-race identities being the new or changing face of the US/America, see Berlant (1997).

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Bio

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 Nathan Rambukkana is an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Canada and Chair of the Sexuality Studies Association. His work centres the study of discourse, politics and identities, and his research addresses topics such as intimacy and privilege, hybridity and mixed-race identities, digital intimacies and non/monogamy. His book Fraught Intimacies: Non/Monogamy in the Public Sphere, is forthcoming from UBC Press in 2015. Email: nrambukkana@wlu.ca Blog: complexsingularities.net

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