Boundaries of LoveInterracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race

Boundaries of LoveInterracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race

Chinyere K. Osuji

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9781479878611

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

How do interracial couples negotiate ethnoracial boundaries? Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage from the United States to Brazil takes a novel approach to answering this question by examining how contemporary black-white couples make sense of ethnoracial boundaries in their lives. Based on over 100 qualitative interviews with husbands and wives in black-white couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro, Boundaries of Love unpacks the cultural repertoires of race-mixing in these two post-Atlantic slavery societies and shows how different approaches to race mixture - celebrated in Brazil versus illegal for much of U.S. history - influence the meanings that contemporary interracial couples give to their lives and social interactions. Employing an innovative “critical constructivist” approach to race and ethnicity, Boundaries of Love compares the experiences of couples involving black men and white women with those of black women with white men in these two diverse, multicultural settings. It reveals the influence of ethnoracial boundaries on: dating preferences throughout the life course in their “romantic career;” comparisons between their own racial identity and how their spouse sees their blackness or whiteness; how parents identify their children and its implications for affirmative action eligibility; how white families handle the introduction of a black in-law; and the compromises couples make spending time together in public. Through its fresh qualitative comparative approach, Boundaries of Love provides a unique perspective on racial dynamics in the United States and Brazil and clearly illuminates the familiar adage that race is a social construction.