This article explores the impossibility and necessity of belonging to gender, race, and place. It does so against the background of Ivan Sen's Australian film Beneath Clouds (2001), with the specificities of Australian landscape and the rural/urban divide that it captures, and of race politics in contemporary Australia. In the context of the film, the question “Where' your people from, girl?” implies the recognition of the addressee's indigenous heritage at a time when she has been passing as white. Such a question could be viewed as sexist or racist, as a call to identify oneself in terms of fixed, hierarchical, and discriminatory categories of gender, race, and family. But given who asks the question and where, this article argues that the question is an offer of community, though not community understood as shared group identity based on mutual recognition and understanding. Rather, the idea of community developed in this article is of an open sense of belonging together to race, gender, and place, a sensibility of belonging that expresses one's indeterminate difference, that opens one toward a future and a past, that must be continually renewed through relations with others, and that is essential to one's life. The paper also argues that this belonging is corporeal, lived, and that it engenders and transforms sociopolitical meaning. On the basis of this model of community, the harm of racism and sexism lies not in the effects of categorization and objectification, but in the impact of any political denial of the uniqueness and openness of belonging and in the disabling of the capacity for community that accompanies this denial. These ideas are explored with reference to the philosophies of Merleau-Ponty and Nancy and contemporary theorists of race and gender including Alcoff, Haslanger, Langton, and Ziarek.
Rosalyn Diprose; “Where' Your People From, Girl?”: Belonging to Race, Gender, and Place Beneath Clouds. differences 1 December 2008; 19 (3): 28–58. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2008-009
Download citation file: