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Interracial intimacy : how mixed couples negotiate and narrate their identity and experience Sirari, Tanvi


The rising number of interracial couples in Canada has often been interpreted as a success of multicultural inclusion. This dissertation questions this assumption by examining the experiences of interracial couples and how they identify themselves and their relationships. Through 87 in-depth interviews with 29 interracial couples in Vancouver, I investigated how couples narrate their stories of intimacy in relation to larger national narratives of Canada as a multicultural nation. My research led to four key findings. First, most of the couples in my study were affectively invested in dominant discourses of multiculturalism. While many viewed it as reflecting their values and aspirations, others were critical of how this national narrative muted certain aspects of their identity and experiences while deflecting attention from racism in Canadian society. For example, couples with Black partners faced greater hostility due to their interracial status and were more critical of racial inequalities in Canada. This can be understood in the context of anti-Black racism in Vancouver and Canada. People of colour said that their white partners had a legitimation effect on them and made them more acceptable in social spaces dominated by whiteness. Second, Québécois and Anglo-Canadian couples in my study expressed a desire to be considered ‘mixed’ in the Canadian context, given the historical relations of colonialism, power and domination between the two groups. Their reflections offer new possibilities for understanding whiteness in Canada. Third, for some of the couples I interviewed, interracial relationships offered opportunities for white partners to cultivate racial literacy by learning from their partners' experiences of racialization and empathetic identification. However, most male white partners in my study refused to recognize their own racial privilege and diminished their partners’ experiences of racialization. Cultivation of racial literacy required people of colour to perform the emotional labour of sharing their experiences of racialization with their partner. Finally, LGBTQ interracial couples experienced the double burden of defying the norms of monoraciality and heteronormativity and felt a need to ‘legitimize’ their relationships through symbolic means. Interracial relationships can be sites of power and contestation, but they cannot resolve the problem of racism in Canada.

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